Kawhi Leonard’s Lasting Impression

Last summer, when Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Uriji traded All-Star DeMar Derozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, Raptors fans weren’t sure what to expect for the coming season. The possibilities, however, created a sense of hope and optimism – and one thing we knew for sure was that we were getting a man with his own laugh and his own style. 

Fast forward twelve months. The Toronto Raptors are the reigning NBA Champions, and as we continue to celebrate the moment, one thing for sure is that fans will need to come to terms with the departure of Leonard and Danny Green to the Clippers and Lakers for the 2019/2020 season.

Welcome OVO

Typically the loss of a loved one leads to sadness and sorrow, but in the case of the reigning champions, I wanted to find the silver lining in our championship style. A quick look at the style-on-style on display at the Raptors parade  this summer shows that the future is bright and that our championship team will have a lasting impact on street style for the near future. Here are six of my favorite examples.

1. Purple Rain

Drake in Stone Island Jacket
Drake, Game 3 – Eastern Conference Finals

We all know Drake is a fashionable guy. He owns his own clothing label, OVO, designs collaborations with Air Jordan, and has numerous style trends bearing his name. The one that caught my attention the most during the NBA Playoffs was when he appeared courtside in a purple Stone Island jacket. Somewhere between the nod to the late pianist Prince and the fact that the jacket signified that the Raptors would be wearing purple for the remainder of the playoffs, I’m forecasting purple as a regal, not Barney, go-to color this fall/winter.

2. Most Improved Style

Pascal Siakam
MIP – Pascal Siakam on Stage At Raptors Parade

At the recent NBA Awards, Pascal Siakam was awarded Most Improved Player in the NBA this season. But for this African giant, it wasn’t just his game that improved – it was his style. He added many new dimensions added to his game this season, and several memorable moments were worth noting. But my personal favorite was when he was on stage, presenting to the crowd at the end of the parade.

The green pants he donned with the Gucci red stripe and black tee were clearly a nod to his home country, Cameroon. Considering that this kid grew up in Africa and came to the NBA as part of the Giants of Africa program, it was only fitting that this champion would give a style nod to his home country in the most athleisure way he could. Well done, homie! 

3. Retro Reinvention

Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry wear Damon Stoudamire Jersey at Raptors Parade

Raptors fans who have been with the team for 25 years have experienced nothing but heartbreak until this past season. We’ve been on the brink of being crowned champions before, only to continuously fall to King James or a missed Vince Carter corner shot. Not only has our team been horrible at times – who wanted to wear pinstripe purple jerseys when your team was perennially sub-five-hundred?

Cue Kyle Lowry, who for the Raptors Championship parade decided to sport an autographed Damon Staudomire jersey for the nationwide celebration. His nod to the Raptors original draft pick closed the loop on 25 years of Raptors style and sparked a feeding frenzy for all things retro. Now, as we prepare for the upcoming season, I suspect all things Raptors will return to style, even if it’s purple and pinstriped. Cue Mitchell and Ness!

4. Our Home And Native Land

Superfan
Nav Superfan Leads Raptors Championship Parade

Through the course of the playoffs, the Raptors down several jerseys, white, black, gold and red. As the team got closer to the finals, merchants told stories of sold-out merchandise, so it should come as no surprise that companies began printing t-shirts to fill the need for championship tees to fit the entire family – including one of my favorites, adorned with  “In Kahwi We Trust”. For the Raptors fan that made their way to the championship parade, a broad range of jerseys and t-shirts to choose from for the once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully not!) experience might have been a harrowing experience.

But from the images, Superfan made an impeccable choice to don the jersey that most reflects the colors of our flag: red & white. Superfan’s choice not only represents Canada and the Raptors; for our nation, which is comprised of 55% of people born abroad, the colors of our flag are always in vogue and should always have a mainstay in your wardrobe. Besides, if anybody has worn a Raptor’s jersey or two, it’s definitely Superfan, who has been with the team since day one! 

5. Clear For Takeoff

OVO Jet
OVO Jet Does Flyover at Raptors Parade

Growing up, one of my favorite experiences was going to the CNE to watch the Snowbirds do their annual fly-over. Their tight formations and aerial acrobatics occur with such precision that one can only imagine that the number of hours invested by the pilots aligns with the hours of hard work our championship Raptors put into each season.

And, naturally, since the parade was a unique experience, it only makes sense that the Snowbirds would be in attendance. But this experience was different – as a new Snowbird joined the air show: Air Drake. So yeah, we know Drake has a deal with Jordan Brand and that the kid rocks AF1s and Jordans on the regular. But just in time for the playoffs, Drake got his own Boeing 767 plane to do a flyover during the parade.

Now, I’ve been a sneaker and style fan for as long as I can remember, but adding a private plane bearing your logo on it to your wardrobe – especially when you’re on the ground in a double-decker bus – is some next-level goodness that we can’t even fathom. I guess the moral of the story here is: If you can’t get yourself a plane bearing your logo this fall, at least get yourself a pair of Air Jordans so you can be fly, too!

6. Raised By Cubs

Nick Nurse
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse at Wrigley Field

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse led his team to an NBA Championship in his first year, having inherited the role from Dwane Casey. A departure from Casey’s old-school ways, Nurse’s style was considered a recipe for success by the Raptors organization, which gave the rookie coach a lot of leeway to set a tempo and lead his team to a championship. Noticeably intoxicated at the parade, Nurse appears to be in no hurry to nurse a hangover and seems to have been on a bender all summer.

Most notably last week, the first-year head coach sang the Star Spangled Banner at Wrigley Field before a Cubs game, a place not too far from his home state of Iowa. Now, we’re not cheering for Cubs here, but we are cheering for the fact that the rookie head coach donned pinstripes like a boss while at the ballpark. It only takes a few cues to be reminded that pinstripes mean business, and despite his summer of reckless abandon – even at the park while singing the national anthem – Nurse is a guy who means business. We should all hope he brings that attitude with him back to training camp in early October in our quest for a repeat.

The Last Laugh

Kahwi Leonard
Kahwi “Board Man” Leonard Hoists Larry O’Brien Trophy

So while Kawhi Leonard returns to his home city of Los Angeles to play for his hometown LA Clippers, Raptors fans and Canadians should wish the Californian native all the best. We knew the deal when we traded Demar Derozan, the heartbeat of our team, for Kawhi and Danny Green – and we got exactly what we hoped for. In fact, one could even argue that we got more than we expected, because the laugh we heard at the opening presser provided countless memes during the season. And clearly based on the above six examples, Kawhi has left a stylish impression on his teammates, this city, and this country that is undeniably inscribed in our memories. So, as you head into fall and consider a wardrobe update, dabble in some purple, a hint of Congo green, a retro play, and national pride to give your style flight – like a back-to-back champ to-be!

Peace,

Burke

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