Today is Friday the 13th. Here, at The Book of Juan, this is the 14th time I’ve written a post on this taboo day. Last summer, it was about the first of the Jason Voorhees films. This time around, let’s take it back to what I wrote in Triumphs & Tribulations XX the morning my Toronto Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The words I wrote were: “In all of my watching of basketball, never have I seen such a dramatic moment”. The moment, of course, is this and that brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Kawhi Leonard’s series-ending buzzer beater.
How I first came across this moment? I was watching the game. Mercedes, Ashton, and I were in our accommodations at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Chesapeake, Virginia. We were in town because Mercedes had to take some professional development class. I tuned into the win-or-go home Game 7 on the live TNT broadcast.
What it meant to me then? At the moment, it meant a lot to me. Prior to the 2019 NBA Playoffs and especially that moment, the Raptors had largely disappointed. The year before, in the midst of the greatest regular season in franchise history, the season ended with an unceremonious sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 2016-17 season ended with a similar sweep to LeBron and the Cavs. And the 2015-16 season also ended with LeBron sending a dagger through my heart. We had developed a nickname of “LeBronto, Ontario, Canada” and I didn’t like it. Kawhi’s shot against a very good Philly squad vanquished that and the Raptors were well on their way to winning 8 of the next 12 games in capturing the championship. It was essentially the biggest moment in franchise history…a makeup for Vince Carter’s missed jumper 18 years earlier, which prevented a similar Eastern Conference Finals matchup against a Milwaukee Bucks team with a very talented player wearing #34.
What it means to me now? That was 3 years ago. As I wrote, the Raptors won the title by dethroning the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard left via free agency that summer and we’ve experienced lean years since. But that shot still rings out. I still look at the YouTube of it on occasion. It certainly made me reflect on that season and what it meant.