As there is no other story in this country today, here is why I think Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the Canadian (nee Toronto) Raptors, will opt to stay and continue to play here:
The Raptors are Canada’s one and only team. He is the star. He goes south and there are many teams, including two basketball teams in the very town he’s allegedly considering. Will he want to be the one and only, or one among many? I think he likes being No. 1.
Picking up on that theme, the city where he’s being wooed has two basketball teams, not one. And the top team there, the glamour pusses, are the Lakers. The Clippers are No. 2 in that market. Does he really want to play for the Clippers? The Lakers, maybe. But not the Clippers.
The Lakers just traded for a guy named Anthony Davis. He’s a glamour puss among glamour pusses. Southern California is full of glamour pusses. There are 20 (count ’em, twenty) major professional sports teams in that state packed with megastars. And that’s not counting all the music superstars and Hollywood stars. Leonard will just be another pretty face down there. Up here, he’s king.
Money will never be a problem. MLSE will match or exceed any offer, Somebody has offered him a penthouse condominium, rent free, if he stays. He does not have to pay for a meal; clothiers are lining up to dress him as are the limo companies to drive him. He is in Heaven. He must know that.
During the season, he only plays every third game that the Raptors play. They called that “load management.” Nobody minds, because he is being saved for the playoffs (where he came through, unlike some of the Maple Leafs stars). I guarantee he will not get that deal anywhere else. The fans of the L.A. Clippers, for starters, would not stand for it. Nor would its management. They would want him on the court just about all the time, every game. This is Canada. We understand. Americans would not. That’s no knock; that’s just the way it is. A cultural difference.
Everybody talks about the weather. Oh, Leonard won’t stay because the weather in California is so much nicer than it is here, people say. And we know all about that. Tim Leiweke once ran Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment but was only here for a little more than two years before going back to L.A. because a close family relative hated the winter. Didn’t (and don’t) blame her. But if you’re a guy like Leonard, you can spend a winter here and never go outside. It is possible to walk from a lake shore penthouse, to Scotiabank Arena, to a limo parked underground, to the Exhibition Place practice facility, back to Scotiabank Arena, to the P.A.T.H. and never feel or breath the outside air. So, the weather? No problem.
And remember what I said above about only playing every third game? He doesn’t have to bring his family to Toronto. He can jet back and forth to California between starts, if need be.
So there you have it. Leonard is a whale in a backyard swimming pool, he’s a multi-millionaire, he doesn’t have to play all that often during the season, he doesn’t even have to go outside. He’s got it made in the shade.
More than 15 million Canadians watched Game 6 of the final and two million people turned out in Toronto Monday for a parade to salute him and his teammates.
Who would want to give all that up? And for what?