2x Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard looked into the camera and told the world his decision to leave Toronto was never about winning a Championship, it was about going home.
He told us all what we essentially already knew. What we didn't know is if the Raptors could have done anything more to keep their guy. He pretty much answered the question, too.
“You know, once I got together with my team and we put the pros and cons down, it was never about winning a championship,” Leonard said to Yahoo Sports. “It was about what the future has to hold. And for me, myself and my family, that's what type of decision I had to make. It’s no discredit to Toronto, I just wanted to play at home. I wanted to do that before I got traded there, and obviously when I got there, it was a goal of mine to make history and get them a championship, and I feel like I did my job there pretty much and that I should be granted to go play where I wanted to after I gave them what they needed. I just wanted to play at home. Like Paul said, our families are able to come to games. But just from my own thinking, it’s like we're in the NBA and I played eight years already. Eight years can fly by so fast, and we’re not able to do anything with [our families] eight or nine months of the season.
“So once the summer comes, you got three months to either go see family, train and do your other business obligations. There’s really no time to see them, to see your family. I love my family. Over the last five or six years, I’ll go back home and see my family, my nieces and nephews, and they’re talking, playing, shooting basketballs, and I’m like, ‘Dang, I missed all this. Y’all talking already. What? You’re doing this?’ So it’s like, ‘Man, where the hell have I been?’ It feels like you been in a matrix or something."
“For me, it was a family situation more so than a basketball decision. Basketball is going to be here long without me, so I feel like when we’re here, we just have to make sure we share it with our loved ones, and that’s one of the big reasons why I came to the Clippers.”
For a guy that doesn't talk, Kawhi sure poured his heart out in that speech.
When the reigning Finals MVP was traded from the Spurs, there was no inkling he would stay in Toronto past the one season that was remaining on his contract. That narrative changed, however, after months of success and growth between Leonard and his new team.
As they created memories together, the consensus was that the Raptors had a chance, at the very least. Them winning the Championship only increased the likelihood of that idea in a lot of people's minds. Still, Toronto was never considered "home" to Kawhi.
And in the end, the 3x All-Star prioritized family over winning. And who can fault him for that?