How Do You Measure Heart?

by Vivek Jacob

How do you measure heart?

Perhaps it’s in the way a basketball player is willing to sacrifice their body for the good of the team and stand above the charge circle to draw an offensive foul on their opponent. Or maybe it’s the way they can be the smallest player on the court yet find a way to grab the most pivotal rebound of the game using pure smarts. Or how about inspiring a franchise record 30-point comeback with just over a quarter of the game remaining?

If these are some of the ways in which you’ve come to understand what it means to leave it all out there on the basketball court, it’s because for nine years filled with blood, sweat, and tears as a Raptor, Kyle Lowry showed Toronto and Canada how to appreciate the little things: everything that happens in between the margins and beyond the box score.

Fans of Raptors basketball paid attention to the little details of every nook and cranny of who he was and how he played the game because it’s been a journey lived in unison. From the blocked Game 7 buzzer beater in 2014 to the glass ceiling shattering conference finals appearance in 2016. From the soul snatching LeBronto sweep of 2018 to the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship a year later. Over nine years, Lowry became the greatest Raptor of all time because he became synonymous with every peak and valley of the franchise’s greatest era.

How do you measure growth?

In those nine years, Lowry changed his reputation from a stubborn, cantankerous, possible journeyman in 2012 to the ultimate competitor, a leader, mentor, all-star, and champion. He built a family with his highschool sweetheart and wife Ayahna Cornish-Lowry, becoming a father to two boys, Karter and Kameron. He took tremendous pride in that role and the kids could regularly be seen in the locker room after games playing or just hanging out with dad as he got ready to take them home.

When the Raptors were swept out of the postseason by the Washington Wizards in 2015, he underwent a physical transformation and arrived for the start of next season in the best shape of his life. When he struggled to open the 2016 playoffs due to an elbow injury, he stayed in the gym and worked on his jumper until the wee hours of the morning, the end result being a watershed East semis that culminated in a spectacular 35-point, nine assist performance in Game 7 that Toronto won by 27 points.

Criticism raged about Lowry after a first round Game 1 zero-point performance against the Orlando Magic in 2019, but he bounced back in the most heroic way possible when it mattered most, scoring the first 11 points for the Raptors and finishing with 26 points and 10 assists in the championship clincher that cemented his legacy.

When the 2019-20 NBA season resumed after being halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lowry played a key role as a member of the competition committee crew with the player’s association to help make a return possible. He advocated for the NBA to make a bold statement with its messaging and actions in the fight against social injustice upon its return, and when the Raptors played their first game back against the Los Angeles Lakers, it was Lowry’s idea that the teams kneel not just for the American anthem, but the Canadian anthem as well.

As he gained strength in who he was and his place in the league, Lowry showed his softer side, too. His bromance with DeMar DeRozan will stand the test of time and he helped usher in the next era of Raptors basketball by taking all of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby under his wing. He made time to be a guiding light for Malachi Flynn in Tampa, too. From struggling to trust higher authority initially in the NBA, Lowry steadily built strong relationships with team president Masai Ujiri, general manager Bobby Webster, former head coach Dwane Casey, as well as current head coach Nick Nurse.

How do you measure success?

Lowry finishes his tenure in Toronto as the franchise leader in assists, steals, three-pointers made, triple-doubles, and charges drawn. He’s second in games played as well as points scored and, to further illustrate his tenacious and unrelenting playing style, he also departs with the third-most rebounds and free-throws made.

As a team, the Raptors won at least 48 regular season games for seven straight seasons between 2013-2020 and 374 in total, a mark only bettered by the Golden State Warriors. The Raptors made the playoffs in each of those years with nine series wins and the Larry O’Brien trophy to show for it, the franchise had one series win in 18 years prior.

Together with his wife Ayahna, Lowry created the Lowry-Love foundation that gave back to communities in both his hometown of Philadelphia and his second home Toronto. Specifically in Toronto, the Holiday Assist program around Christmas and the Thanksgiving Assist program gave back to families in need. That, along with team organized events such as the annual visit to SickKids Hospital built a bond with the city that is unbreakable.

The chants of “Lowry! Lowry!” will be heard again and will likely be ringing in his ears for a lifetime, but for now all we can say is thank you and good luck. Kyle Lowry will always be a Raptor, and just like his heart, he wears it proudly on his sleeve.

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