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High-risk, high-reward trade for Leonard looks golden as Raptors ride him to Finals

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In the last 48 or so hours, his palms are very likely beet red and calloused after so many high fives, and his knuckles bruised from all the fist bumps. What’s funny is Masai Ujiri is the last person to take bows, although there’s a conga line in Toronto anxious to give him his due, and it wraps around the Scotiabank Arena twice. So what’s he to do?

The Raptors are in The NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, and the hockey city is ablaze with basketball dreams, and it’s all because the team president took a chance last summer to create a championship team.

Ujiri did not play it safe with a team that in successive years won 56, 51, 59 and 58 games. He did not assume all was good when noted Raptors assassin LeBron James took his talents to the Western Conference last July.

Ujiri traded the second-most popular player in team history for a brooding and mysterious ringer because, while every general manager says winning a championship is all that matters, Ujiri actually meant it, based on his actions.

 

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri talks about trading one of the most popular players in Raptors history.

And so Kawhi Leonard is the toast of Yonge Street right now, and there’s no civic angst detected over DeMar DeRozan being sacrificed in the process. And this represents the gutsiest and most rewarding swap in recent history — or, according to an unofficial polling of Canadians, maybe of all time.

But was it that risky? And were fans really up in arms about it when it happened? And where do the Raptors and Leonard go from here?

The arrival and triumph and future of Kawhi Leonard in Toronto is a basketball drama in three stages:

Why it made sense then

Ujiri wasn’t happy in the immediate aftermath of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. He was quite irate, in fact, and this is likely the precise point where the quest for a superstar took root.

LeBron beat the Raptors at the buzzer with a running, fading, floater after running unchecked for nearly the length of the floor to put the Cavs up 3-0 in the series. Ujiri had harsh words for coach Dwane Casey, according to those who stood outside the closed doors, and the topic of conversation likely had to do with strategy on the play. Ultimately, it cost Casey his job when the Raptors were a no-show in Game 4 and the Cleveland sweep complete. The most successful coach in team history was gone.

But something else: Ujiri surely noticed the Raptors lacked anyone good and dependable enough to take over a game, similar to what LeBron and maybe a dozen other players do. It’s nearly impossible to win a title without at least one. And the trick was finding one. Unless you’re bad enough to be in position to draft one (and even then you have to wait until they develop), or can convince one to sign through free agency, the odds dwindle.

There is one other method: Find a distressed one.

 

Masai Ujiri discusses trading for a player who missed almost an entire season with a quad injury.

This happened three decades ago when a domestic violence incident greased Jason Kidd’s path out of Phoenix and he subsequently led the Nets to a pair of trips to the Finals. Rasheed Wallace, though not a franchise player, was acquired by the Pistons from the Hawks and Detroit poured champagne that same year. You could go back to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asking out of Milwaukee and landing in Los Angeles to help launch Showtime.

Kawhi fit that description last summer. After playing just nine games due to a quad injury and the bad vibes between him and the Spurs that developed from it, the 2014 Finals MVP was on the market. And Ujiri pounced at the chance to get his missing piece.

Truthfully, the only gamble was this: With LeBron gone, Toronto’s chances of moving into June were instantly enhanced; LeBron had closed out the Raptors three straight years. Ujiri could’ve stayed put, but he went with his instincts and pulled the trigger, even without assurances that Kawhi would sign a contract extension the following summer, essentially making him a one-year rental.

But Ujiri planned to shake up the team anyway, suspecting the Raptors had gone as far as they could with DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Again, other GMs would’ve played it safe. He didn’t. High risk, potentially high reward.

One other thing: The notion that all of Canada was incensed by the trade is faulty. Fans loved DeRozan because, unlike Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh, DeRozan wanted to be in Toronto. Carter leveraged himself out of town, T-Mac wanted his own team, and Bosh bolted to form the Big Three in Miami. But these underrated basketball fans are smart, and they knew Kawhi was an upgrade on both ends of the court.

The only person in Canada whose feelings were hurt was Lowry, who is tight with DeRozan and for weeks refused to speak to Ujiri. But with a $500,000 bonus for reaching the Finals and a chance to win a ring, he’s good.

How it paid off

The Raptors did everything Kawhi asked in terms of protecting and preserving his body from injury, and therefore the Raptors did themselves a favor in the process.

Feeling refreshed and refocused from a season of light wear and regular rest and sensitivity from the organization, Kawhi returned with a renewed spirit. He felt, for the first time since prior to his injury, that his organization was totally behind him, from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and the locker room. Everyone was on board with the plan and process.

So the least Kawhi could do was deliver, and he has — and then some.

In 2016-17, his last full season in San Antonio, and with Tim Duncan gone and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili diminished by age, Kawhi dropped hints that he could be The Guy. He averaged 25.5 points despite playing the same minutes and emerged as a true two-way star.

Ujiri with Kawhi and Danny Green, players he obtained from the Spurs.

This is the Kawhi the Raptors saw this season, with more of a willingness to be a volume shooter and sharper passer from the double-teams, while never neglecting the work on defense. And in the postseason it has been an uptick, with a special emphasis on end-of-the-game presence, as the Sixers and Bucks painfully discovered. In the afterglow of the Eastern Conference finals title, Ujiri called Kawhi “the greatest player in the game.”

He has been the anti-DeRozan in springtime. Too often, DeRozan had a pattern of performances that ranged from respectable to regrettable, rarely raising his game when the games mattered most. It was this pattern from DeRozan (and to be fair, Lowry as well) that convinced Ujiri that DeRozan, while beloved, could never be That Guy the Raptors needed for the next step.

Almost instantly, Kawhi’s teammates yielded to him, most notably Lowry, which is the ultimate respect any newcomer could get.

A trip to the Finals was exactly what Ujiri wanted from the trade, a chance to reward Raptors’ fans for their loyalty and support, and maybe this experience could sway Kawhi this June when he must decide what’s next in free agency.

Anyone in Toronto on game days during the playoffs could see the benefits of trading for Kawhi: Crazed fans standing outside at “Jurassic Park,” bars and restaurants jammed, merchandise selling briskly, every seat taken at Scotiabank. And there was hope.

Suppose this is all short-lived and Kawhi is just passing through? Well, then …

Why trade was right even if Kawhi leaves

What’s the old saying? Better to have loved Kawhi than never to have had the chance to love him?

He came, he “clawed,” he conquered. Mostly, he gave Toronto a season to remember, maybe even forever if he and the Raptors pull off a stunning upset in a few weeks.

If the relationship is indeed brief, then there’s no hard feelings anywhere. Not from Ujiri, not his teammates, certainly not the fans. Kawhi will not get the Spurs treatment if he returns next season in another uniform. No promises were made and therefore, none broken.

But enough of the sentimentality. Should he leave, then in retrospect, how much did that trade cost the Raptors?

Well, again, where were they headed without him? Most likely, they would’ve been a 45-50-win team with an early expiration date each spring, given the uprisings in Milwaukee and Philly. The DeRozan-Lowry Raptors had maxed out. Change was coming anyway.

 

If Kawhi leaves, the Raptors could retool around Pascal Siakam, who scored 25 points in Game 3 of the East finals.

Without Kawhi, Ujiri has a chance to retool the Raptors around Pascal Siakim, a young potential star should he keep taking leaps. The Raptors would need to bite the money bullet for only next season; the payroll drops considerably in the summer of 2020 once the contracts of Lowry ($33 million next season), Marc Gasol ($25 million) and Serge Ibaka ($23 million) vanish. It’s possible Ujiri could trade one or more of those expiring contracts although not at the expense of taking back bad money just to win a few more games in 2019-20.

Then the question becomes: Would free agents be attracted to Toronto? Well, free agents are attracted to money, first and foremost. And stable management. And world class cities. And frigid temperatures. Well, scratch that last one.

If anything, a favorable salary cap and a few assets would be just the challenge that a top-flight team president would crave. He’d have options.

Masai Ujiri pulled off a trade last summer that took guts and a reasonable risk and it has worked out; the real risk is with anyone who thinks he couldn’t pull off something else.

That’s the scenario if there’s no Kawhi. Ujiri can stay patient for a year and then roll up the sleeves and go to work. Or he can spare himself that chore and go to work this summer and convince Kawhi to stay.

Can you imagine what his palms and knuckles would look like then?

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him  here, find his archive here  and follow him on  Twitter .

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. 

 

 



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The Big Moments: Toronto Raptors 2019 championship run

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Conference semis vs. Philadelphia, Game 7

Raptors 92, Sixers 90

There’s nothing better than a Game 7 that goes down to the wire. And this one went all the way down.

Key stat: The Sixers totaled just six second-chance points, after averaging 12.5 through the first six games.

Key sequence: Fourth quarter, 3:15 – 1:10. With the score tied after a 5-0 run from Philly, the Raptors came up with three of the best defensive possessions (for any team) in this postseason.

The first was five players on a string and working hard… Gasol making the initial entry pass tough and then hedging an Embiid-J.J. Redick dribble handoff, Ibaka rotating out to Embiid, Gasol meeting Embiid’s drive with help, Leonard rotating down to Ibaka’s man, and Siakam rotating over to Leonard’s man in the weakside corner. That was Butler, who tried to get the ball back to Embiid, but there was no time left on the shot clock.

With the score still tied on the Sixers’ next possession, they set three different ball screens for Butler, but he still couldn’t shake loose, and Gasol forced him into an impossible, step-back 3-point attempt at the shot-clock buzzer.

After Leonard put the Raptors ahead by two with another jumper over Embiid, the Raptors locked the Sixers down one last time. Siakam denied an entry to Harris in the post, Lowry denied a handoff to Redick, and then Siakam denied another handoff to Harris. Embiid finally got the ball to Harris, but the forward was then 30 feet from the basket with less than five seconds left on the shot clock. Siakam and Gasol trapped him and when he tried to get the ball back to Embiid, Lowry came off his man to steal the ball and lead a break that put the Raptors up four.

Three offensive possessions for a Philadelphia lineup that scored 116.2 points per 100 possessions this season (regular season and playoffs combined), and the ball never even got to the rim.

“There are some stretches where it’s darned hard to complete a pass against us,” Nurse said. “That wears into a team after a while when you’re up into them and you’re denying and everybody is just that connected and playing that hard.”

Of course, the Sixers managed to tie the game with 4.2 seconds left. And that, of course, led to one last Kawhi Leonard shot over Joel Embiid …

 

Leonard wins Game 7 at the buzzer.

It was the first Game 7, buzzer-beating game-winner in NBA history. And it took four bounces for it to go in.

“You’re within that moment,” Leonard would say about pressure situations, “You’re embracing it and enjoying what’s going to happen next.”

It’s still not clear that the Raptors were the better team in that series. But all that matters is they were the team that won four of seven games.

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Raptors latest franchise to join NBA’s championship club

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After 24 seasons of ups and downs, the Toronto Raptors are at last NBA champions.

In defeating the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6 of The Finals, Toronto joined the fraternity of championship-winning NBA franchises. From the time the Philadelphia Warriors won the NBA’s first championship in 1947 until the 1970 Finals, the NBA title was claimed by seven different franchises:

NBA champions, 1947-70
Franchise (today’s name) NBA title(s) Year(s)
Philadelphia Warriors (Golden State Warriors) Two 1947, 1956
Baltimore Bullets (disbanded on Nov. 27, 1954. No connection to present-day Washington Bullets/Wizards) One 1948
Minneapolis Lakers (Los Angeles Lakers) Five 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954
Rochester Royals (Sacramento Kings) One 1951
Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers Two 1955, 1967
St. Louis Hawks (Atlanta Hawks) One 1958
Boston Celtics 11 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969

The New York Knicks were one of the NBA’s original franchises, but much like Toronto these days had to wait nearly the same amount of time (23 seasons to the Raptors’ 24) to reach the NBA mountaintop. They ended that stranglehold of only a select few teams winning the title. Since then, more teams have joined them in the first-time championship mix.

Here’s a look back at each of the teams to break into the NBA championship mix for the first time in league history …

* * *

New York Knicks, 1970

 

Willis Reed’s return inspired the Knicks as they won their first title in 1970.

What happened in The Finals: The first six games were classic battles, with the Knicks winning one, then the Lakers tying the series, until a Game 7 loomed. Reed had been having a marvelous Finals, dominating the injury-slowed Chamberlain, until he tripped and tore a leg muscle in Game 5. The Knicks scrambled with undersized players against Chamberlain and hung on to win that game, but with Reed out of Game 6, Chamberlain poured in 45 points to tie the series.

The Knicks left the locker room before Game 7 in New York not knowing if Reed would be able to play. Just before tipoff, Reed hobbled through the tunnel and onto the floor of Madison Square Garden. The fans erupted, Reed scored New York’s first two baskets, and the inspired Knicks went on to a 113-99 victory.

Did they win it all again?: Yes, the Knicks reached three Finals in the 1970s (’70, ’72, ’73), winning the championship in 1973 by defeating the Lakers 4-1 in The Finals. They also reached The Finals in 1994 (losing to the Houston Rockets in Game 7) and 1999 (losing to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5). 

 

Portland Trail Blazers, 1977

 

Portland surprised in the 1977 Finals, winning its first (and only) title.

What happened in The Finals?: Before 1977, many fans barely acknowledged that Portland had been fielding a team in the NBA. The Trail Blazers didn’t command respect, averaging 28 wins in six seasons and failing to earn a playoff berth. But in just one magical season, NBA fans everywhere were introduced to “Blazermania.”

In the playoffs, Portland beat Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles to reach The Finals, where they faced the Erving-led 76ers. Philadephia won the first two games at home. Then Walton cut his long red hair, and Portland reeled off four straight wins, spawning Blazermania and the term “Rip City,” from the sound a shot makes when it rips through nothing but net.

Did they win it all again?: No, the championship parade had been hard to come by for the Blazers. Although they reached two Finals in the 1990s, they lost in five games to the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and in six games to the Chicago Bulls in 1992.  

 

Washington Bullets, 1978

What happened in The Finals?: The Bullets were the self-proclaimed underdogs of the 1978 playoffs, having never won an NBA championship after losing in The Finals twice in the 1970s (1971 to Milwaukee and in 1975 to Golden State). They entered the playoffs with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference while their Finals foe, the Seattle SuperSonics, had the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. 

Facing a 3-2 series in The Finals, the Bullets would romp past the Sonics in Game 6 at home. They then got standout games from eventual Finals MVP Wes Unseld and fellow frontcourt star Elvin Hayes in Game 7 on the road to give Washington, D.C. area its first pro sports championship since the Washington Redskins in 1942.

Did they win it all again?: The Bullets made it back to The Finals in 1979, but it did not go well for them as the Sonics extracted revenge and ousted the Bullets in Game 5. The franchise has not been back to The Finals since then.

 

Seattle SuperSonics, 1979

 

The Sonics toppled the Bullets to win the NBA title in 1979.

What happened in The Finals?: The Washington Bullets took Game 1 by two points when Larry Wright made two free throws with no time remaining. But the SuperSonics, behind eventual Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, won four straight to bring Seattle a title and some overdue respect.

For Seattle, Johnson orchestrated the attack, Gus Williams provided the scoring, Jack Sikma added rebounding and “Downtown” Fred Brown supplied the perimeter bombs. But the man coach Lenny Wilkens pointed to as a key member of the squad was 35-year-old ex-Celtic forward Paul Silas, who averaged just 5.6 points and 7.0 rebounds that season.

Did they win it all again?: Since that 1979 championship season, the SuperSonics have been back to The Finals twice — as two different teams. First, they made it in 1996, losing to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, 4-2. The franchise, now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder, reached The Finals in 2012. However, they lost to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat 4-1 in that series.

 

Detroit Pistons, 1989

 

The Pistons took down the Lakers in four games to win the 1989 NBA title.

What happened in The Finals?: The Los Angeles Lakers had their eyes on a three-peat in the 1988-89 season. However, the Detroit Pistons had suffered enough playoff letdowns and weren’t about to be denied once again.

Behind a stellar Finals series from shooting guard (and Finals MVP) Joe Dumars, the Pistons swept away the Lakers. Although injuries sapped Los Angeles of many of its key players (such as Magic Johnson and Byron Scott) in The Finals, there’s little doubt Detroit would have been denied in those Finals regardless of who suited up for Los Angeles. After faltering in Game 7 of The Finals in 1988, Detroit, at long last, had its championship.

Did they win it all again?: The Pistons won the title again in 1990, dropping the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. After some ups and downs in the 1990s, Detroit returned to The Finals stage in back-to-back seasons in the early 2000s. First, they took down the Lakers in five games in 2004. Then, they pushed the San Antonio Spurs to a Game 7 in 2005 (which the Pistons lost). 

 

Chicago Bulls, 1991

 

In the 1991 Finals, Michael Jordan delivered an iconic move — and Chicago’s first title.

What happened in The Finals?: The 1991 NBA Finals were billed as a matchup between two larger-than-life superstars — the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson. But as the series played out, it became obvious that it took a team, not one superlative individual, to win an NBA title.

Jordan was superb, as his series averages of 31.2 points, 11.4 assists and 6.6 rebounds demonstrated, but the Bulls were no one-man team. Their defense held the Lakers to a record-low 458 points for a five-game series. Jordan, who had won his fifth straight scoring title in April, had finally silenced those who said he couldn’t lead the Bulls all the way.

Did they win it all again?: You could say that. There were two more titles — vs. Portland in 1992 and the Phoenix Suns in 1993 — after the one in ’91 to complete the first leg of a three-peat. Then, for good measure, Jordan and Co. logged a second three-peat from 1996-98, knocking off the Sonics (in ’96) and the Utah Jazz twice (in ’97 and again in ’98) to go a perfect six-for-six overall in The Finals. 

 

Houston Rockets, 1994

 

Hakeem Olajuwon put on a show in leading Houston to the 1994 NBA title.

What happened in The Finals?: In the 1993-94 regular season, Hakeem Olajuwon ran roughshod over the NBA en route to winning MVP honors. When the 1994 playoffs got rolling, he and his Rockets took things to new heights — particularly in The Finals against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks.

He was simply magnificent in The Finals, winning his private duel with Ewing and scoring 26.9 ppg in a series where Houston managed just 86.1 ppg. He also averaged 9.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.9 blocked shots, and it was his block of John Starks’ last-ditch 3-pointer that preserved Houston’s 86-84 win in Game 6. An epic Game 7 was set and Houston came through, thanks to Olajuwon. The 90-84 win not only sealed the city’s first major-league championship in any sport, but was the first Finals since 1955 where neither team reached 100 points in any game.

Did they win it all again?: Yep, things were magical for Houston the following season as it became the first team to defeat four 50-win teams en route to the title. After sweeping away the Orlando Magic in ’95, though, the Rockets have been searching for a return Finals trip ever since. 

 

San Antonio Spurs, 1999

 

The 1999 Finals marked the first championship for San Antonio.

What happened in The Finals?: Buoyed by a win in the “Memorial Day Miracle” in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, San Antonio entered The Finals on a high and was hosting the series to boot. They became the first former ABA team to reach the NBA Finals, where they’d take on the Knicks. They went on quite a run of their own, becoming the first No. 8 seed to make it to the championship round.

But without future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, who was out with an Achilles tendon injury, Duncan, who was named Finals MVP, powered the Spurs to a five-game series win. Spurs guard Avery Johnson, was the hero in the Spurs’ title-clinching win at Madison Square Garden by knocking down an 18-foot baseline jumper with 47 seconds left to clinch San Antonio’s win.

Did they win it all again?: This was the birth of a dynasty for the new millennium as the Spurs would make a lasting mark in NBA lore in the 2000s. The Spurs reached The Finals in 2002 (sweeping the New Jersey Nets), ’03 (beating the Nets in six games), ’05 (beating the Pistons in Game 7), ’07 (sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers), ’13 (losing in Game 7 to the Miami Heat) and ’14 (eliminating the Heat in Game 5). 

 

Miami Heat, 2006

 

The Miami Heat claimed their first NBA title in 2006.

What happened in The Finals?: Miami rolled through the early rounds and knocked off the 64-win, defending conference-champion Pistons in the East finals to reach their first Finals. Their opponent was the Dallas Mavericks, led by German forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was a force throughout the West playoffs, particularly in the West semifinals against the Spurs.

In The Finals, the Mavericks grabbed a 2-0 series lead and were in prime position to go up 3-0 until Wade took over late in Game 3. Averaging over 39 points in the final four games, Wade led the Heat to four straight wins and their first NBA championship. For his scoring exploits and leadership, Wade was named Finals MVP.

Did they win it all again?: Consider this a delayed run, as the Heat lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2007. Thanks to a retooled roster built before the 2010-11 season that featured Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat were back in business. They made the 2011 Finals (where they lost to the Mavs in six games), then won titles in ’12 (against the Thunder in five games) and ’13 (against the Spurs in Game 7). Their last Finals appearance came in 2014, where the Spurs got revenge and ousted Miami in five games.

 

Dallas Mavericks, 2011

 

Dirk Nowitzki at last achieved his long-sought championship in 2011.

What happened in The Finals?: There was no lack of superstar or future Hall of Famer billing in this series as James, Wade and Bosh and the Heat squared off against Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and his crew on the Mavericks. After falling in Game 1 of The Finals, Nowitzki keyed an epic comeback in Game 2 that allowed Dallas to escape South Florida with a series split.

Miami couldn’t withstand the veteran savvy and clutch play of Nowitzki and Kidd. In the end, it was Nowitzki who exorcised his postseason demons to win the Larry O’Brien trophy, thanks to a monstrous Game 6 (21 points, 11 rebounds) that gave Dallas its first NBA championship. 

Did they win it all again?: After their championship season, the Mavericks changed up much of their roster for the 2011-12 season. Nowitzki was still around — he played his entire career with the Mavs — but Dallas never got close to The Finals in the waning seasons of his career.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016

 

In 2016, the Cavaliers won the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.

What happened in The Finals?: The Cleveland Cavaliers were back on The Finals stage for the third time in franchise history, the wounds of their Finals defeat in Game 6 a season earlier fresh in their minds. Once again, the Cavs faced the Golden State Warriors (as they had in the 2015 series) and found themselves on the cusp of elimination after Game 5.

However, Cleveland was not to be denied in his chance to bring the city its first championship in 52 years. The Cavs became the first team in Finals lore to rally from a 3-1 deficit and claim the championship. Doing so against the Warriors — who set an NBA record with 73 wins — made it even sweeter for James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cavs after a bitter loss a year earlier.

Did they win it all again?: No, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. James was the driving force for Cleveland to reach each of its four straight Finals from 2015-18. However, aside from that 2016 series win, the Cavs went 5-12 in The Finals against the Warriors.



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Kawhi Leonard joins elite company in winning Finals MVP

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Make some room, LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kawhi Leonard has just moved into your Finals neighborhood.

Leonard delivered the Toronto Raptors to their first championship on Thursday, posting 22 points, six rebounds and three assists to power a 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of The Finals.

Leonard was dominant in the series, averaging 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals.

Those efforts helped Leonard secure the Bill Russell Finals MVP Award for the second time in his career. His first came as a member of the San Antonio Spurs’ championship squad in 2014. In winning a second with the Raptors, he joins Abdul-Jabbar and James as the only players to earn Finals MVPs with two different franchises.

Here’s a look at how each of them stacked up in their Finals MVP runs:

Players to win Finals MVP with multiple franchises
Player Team Finals Series Stats MVP
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  Bucks 27 ppg | 18.5 rpg | 2.8 apg 1971 (Bucks defeat Bullets, 4-0)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers 25.7 ppg | 9.0 rpg | 5.2 apg | 1.0 spg | 1.5 bpg 1985 (Lakers defeat Celtics, 4-2)
LeBron James Heat 28.6 ppg | 10.2 rpg | 7.4 apg | 1.6 spg | 0.4 bpg 2012 (Heat defeat Thunder, 4-1)
LeBron James Heat 25.3 ppg | 10.9 rpg | 7.0 apg | 2.3 spg | 0.9 bpg 2013 (Heat defeat Spurs, 4-3)
LeBron James Cavs 29.7 ppg | 11.3 rpg | 8.9 apg | 2.6 spg | 2.3 bpg 2016 (Cavs defeat Warriors, 4-3)
Kawhi Leonard Spurs 17.8 ppg | 6.4 rpg | 2.0 apg | 1.6 spg | 1.2 bpg 2014 (Spurs defeat Heat, 4-1)
Kawhi Leonard Raptors 28.5 ppg | 9.8 rpg | 4.2 apg | 2.0 spg | 1.2 bpg 2019 (Raptors defeat Warriors, 4-2)

(Note: Blocks per game not an official NBA stat until 1973-74 season.)

Aside from that honor, Leonard also becomes the 12th player in NBA history to win two or more Finals MVP awards overall in their career. Of the 11 previous players on that list, seven of them are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

The previous multiple Finals MVP winners in NBA history are Willis Reed (1970, ’73); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (’71, ’85); Magic Johnson (’80, ’82, ’87); Larry Bird (’84, ’86); Michael Jordan (’91-93, ’96-98); Hakeem Olajuwon (’94, ’95); Tim Duncan (’98, 2003, ’05); Shaquille O’Neal (’00-02); Kobe Bryant (’09, ’10); LeBron James (’12, ’13, ’16) and Kevin Durant (’17, ’18). 

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