Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard takes a selfie holding his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

‘Build this man a statue’: Twitter responds to Leonard’s move to Clippers

Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto

Raptors Twitter was ignited Saturday morning following reports that Kawhi Leonard will be signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

But instead of anger or resentment for a player deciding to leave Toronto after just one season, the Twitter outpouring showed a Raptors fan base that was filled with gratitude for a superstar who led them to their first NBA championship in franchise history less than a month ago.

“Retire his jersey and build this man a statue,” tweeted Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who grew up in Toronto while his father played for the Maple Leafs. “No one can ever take away what he has done for this city and this country. What a ride. Thank you Kawhi!”

News of Leonard’s decision broke early Saturday morning, with a person familiar with the negotiations adding that the Clippers will be landing Leonard after they acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a massive trade for players and draft picks.

Leonard was arguably the most coveted prize in this year’s free agent market, and the 28-year-old met with several teams this week including the Lakers and Clippers — both in his hometown of Los Angeles — and the Raptors.

READ MORE: Kawhi Leonard to leave Raptors, sign with L.A. Clippers

Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov, who grew up in nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., tweeted: “Welcome home Kawhi. Thanks for everything.”

The news ended months of speculation and angst for Raptors fans who awaited Leonard’s decision for days after free agency opened last Sunday.

No one seemed to know which way Leonard was leaning. Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto. Rose said on air days ago he was “99 per cent hearing” Leonard would re-sign.

“I was wrong. Dead wrong,” Rose tweeted Saturday. “No one saw this timeline or the Clips also adding PG! Wow!!!”

The top 10 Twitter trends in Toronto were about the move on Saturday morning. Hashtags #ThankYouKawhi and #ThankYouDanny, for Danny Green — who announced he was signing with the Lakers shortly after Leonard’s decision was reported — were both trending.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who frequently wore a black blazer adorned with gold Raptors logos during the post-season and at the championship parade, sent out a message to Leonard in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“Maybe he didn’t like the jacket,” Tory quipped at the start of the video.

“Kawhi, you brought us a championship and that’s important in this city. We haven’t had many of those in recent times and it’s going to get us on a very positive wavelength where we’re going to have more,” Tory continued. “And make no mistake, when you come back here there’s going to be no mercy. We’ll still love you but there’s going to be no mercy when you come back here and play our Raptors because they’re going to be in it and they’re going to win it again.

“We just wish we could do it with you but we wish you all the very best and we say thank you very much for the inspiration and the excitement that you brought to Toronto and for the winner that you helped to bring to Toronto with your Raptor teammates.”

UFC fighter Max Holloway, a Honolulu native and known Raptors supporter, said on Twitter that he was “grateful to be a fan.”

“Don’t have to follow basketball to know Kawhi helped bring a lot more than a championship to Toronto,” Holloway said. “I’m just grateful to be a fan and got to witness it. I’m super happy the champ gets to go home now.”

Canada’s Olympic athletes also showed their support for Leonard via social media, including former kayaker Adam van Koeverden, the gold medallist from the 2004 Athens Games.

“Fun (guy) while it lasted,” van Koeverden said, referencing one of Leonard’s first quotes with the Raptors — which New Balance transformed into an ad campaign during the playoff run. “Onwards and Upwards, #WeStillTheNorth.”

Canadian Olympic track star Aaron Brown tweeted a photoshopped picture of Leonard dunking the Larry O’Brien trophy over Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who the Raptors beat in the Eastern Conference final.

“Kawhi Leonard will Forever be a Raptor Legend,” Brown said.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Qualicum Bay writer Linda Tenney dies after battle with cancer

Celebration of life set for Nov. 2 at Lighthouse Community Centre

Parksville Qualicum Beach legions set to launch Poppy Campaign

Annual fundraiser to run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 11

Bear sightings up significantly in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Fruit trees number one food attractant, says conservation officer

Parksville Qualicum Beach crime report: Thieves pilfer laptops, tools, big-screen TV, cash and more

Oceanside RCMP received 256 complaints between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5.

Pole-climbing thieves pilfering wire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Repairs are costly and thefts jeopardize public safety

Union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

According to a press release, both parties met on Oct. 16, 18, 19, and 20.

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

Most Read