Raptors Lead

Reliving “The Shot”– A Kawhi Leonard Game-Winner Retrospective

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May 12th, 2019 was exactly one year ago today. It all seems so vivid, yet so long ago. The joy, the togetherness and the relief are all currently foreign feelings. Kawhi Leonard‘s magical game-winner in the Eastern Conference Semifinals was always going to stay firmly in the minds of Toronto Raptors fans. Just 365 days later, however, we sit in a position that makes us need those memories even more.

For most, the memories are pretty vivid. There are just certain extraordinary moments in one’s life that they will never forget where they were when it happened. In the Toronto sports scene, it had certainly been a while since one of those moments came about. Many adults could recall the day that Joe Carter won the World Series for the Blue Jays in 1993. For anyone over the age of 30, that first everlasting sports memory may have never arose.

I can certainly remember where I was as the Raptors prepared for the inbounds play with 4.2 seconds left on the clock. Locked in my parent’s basement, I stood inches away from the TV, pacing back and forth. The anxiety, the stress, the nerves, all flowed through my body. When the shot fell, I let out a scream, and then just sat down for the first time all fourth quarter, in disbelief.

Hopefully today, you’ve also thought back to that moment. How you felt when the shot dropped, who you were with, how you celebrated afterwards. It’s tough to appreciate just how lucky we were to be living those moments just one year ago. From our new perspective, the Raptors’ championship run was so much deeper than basketball. It was a time of celebration, and most importantly of unity.

In the short term, Kawhi’s game-winner serves as a quick distraction from uncertain times to remember an unforgettable memory. However, there’s a larger picture that we can all take from that moment.

Surprisingly, when the immediate aftermath of the shot had worn off, three memories surged to the top of my head. First, Vince Carter’s infamous missed game-winner against those same Philadelphia 76ers in 2001.

 

Next, Chris Bosh’s blown layup at the end of a regular season game in 2010. That missed shot almost guaranteed the Raptors missing the playoffs, for what would be the third time in a five-year playoff drought from 2008-2013.

 

Lastly, Kyle Lowry getting blocked by notorious Raptor killer Paul Pierce to eliminate the jumpstart Raptors from the playoffs in 2014.

For a while, I wondered why in a moment of pure happiness, I thought back to the struggles the Raptors had endured in the past. Eventually, it all made sense. The Raptors had to overcome so many years of hardships to get to their “promise land”. Every trial and tribulation that they and their fans went through made that fifth and final bounce through the rim that much sweeter.

Shifting to today, one year from that moment, and we find ourselves in a similar position. The world’s faced with an unprecedented global crisis, and with that comes tremendous worry and uncertainty. However, right now is just our clanked jumper, our missed putback and our blocked floater. One day, our game winner will come, just as Kawhi’s did. It may not be as universal as “The Shot” was around the country, but it will come nonetheless.

While today is a day of reflection and celebration, it also represents a quest that we all face.

Finding our next game winner.

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About Matthew Winick

Matthew Winick is an avid basketball fan both from the NBA side, as well as NCAA hoops. A native of Toronto, Ontario, he is a lifetime Raptors fan and is just now reaping the benefits. He is currently studying Sport Media at Ryerson University in Toronto, and hopes to be talking sports with the best of them in his future. You can reach him on any social media @matthewwinick.

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