The stories that define Lowry’s Raptors legacy

Ahead of what should be an emotional homecoming, TSN spoke to some of the people who know Kyle Lowry best – his former teammates, who shared what they admire most about the man commonly known as The Greatest Raptor of All Time.

By Josh Lewenberg

What makes Kyle Lowry special?

It took some time for the Raptors organization and fan base to understand and fully appreciate what they had in the fiery point guard. It feels like forever ago, but Lowry’s time in Toronto didn’t get off to the best start. It was supposed to be a brief pit stop early in his career. Neither player nor team expected the relationship to last long.

Instead, something incredible happened. Lowry became the face of the franchise and the heart and soul of its greatest era to date, leading the Raptors to seven straight playoff appearances, nine postseason series wins, and, of course, an NBA championship.

All the while, he blossomed on and off the court. Raptors fans watched him grow into the player and man he is today. However, his most defining qualities never wavered.

Consider the lasting memories of his historic run. Most involve him sacrificing his body for his team and teammates. That’s Kyle.

After his nine-year tenure reached a natural end point last summer when he left for the Miami Heat in free agency, Lowry is scheduled to make his long-awaited and much-anticipated return to Toronto as a visiting player on Sunday.

Ahead of what should be an emotional homecoming, TSN spoke to some of the people who know the 36-year-old best – his former Raptors teammates, who shared what they admire most about the man commonly known as The Greatest Raptor of All Time.

Jonas Valanciunas

Played 453 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2012-2018

One word to describe Lowry: Bulldog

“He would die on the court. He’s an angry beast bulldog who’s going to be going out there and diving on the floor, getting the ball, playing hard. He never backs down and never looks for the easy way [out]. Sometimes he doesn’t listen to you. He has his own mindset and he’s going to do it his own way. He’s a hard-minded dude.

He doesn’t practice a couple days, he’s acting weird, and then he comes to the game and he dives on the floor and he’s basically winning the game [for you]. He’s practising, he’s not practising, but when the game comes, he’s basically killing. So, this is Kyle. It’s hard to be with him, but it’s hard to be without him. That’s his own way and I respect it, and I probably respect it more now that I’m not with him. He’s a true warrior. He’s not bulls---ing around.”

DeMar DeRozan

Played 445 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2012-2018.

One word to describe Lowry: Unique

“He stays [true] to himself in every type of way, whether it’s an unapologetic way, aggressive way, or extremely loyal way. That’s what makes him unique.

We had a bad game or something and we had to meet at the plane the next day, and Kyle was so frustrated and mad at everybody to where he said he was gonna be two hours late to the plane, just because. And I thought he was joking. We get to the plane the next day. Thirty minutes go by, we’re waiting on Kyle. An hour goes by. I called him, he said, ‘You thought I was playing about being late to the plane, but I’ll get there when I get there.’ And he really showed up two hours late to the plane because he was mad at something the day before.

I think, like most real friendships, you really can’t identify when it first started because everything happened in such a genuine way. Initially, I had my own reasons not to deal with him that first year, but I don’t know what sparked it for us to get us close as we did. Maybe just the respect level was there, and the appreciation started to come in when we had the same common goal and that was to be great to win, and it just carried over from there.”

Terrence Ross

Played 359 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2012-2017.

One word to describe Lowry: Tenacious

“He’s a bulldog when he gets on the court. Especially his younger days in Toronto, he was a menace on defence. I remember him leading the NBA in charges and it was by a mile. He’s always had that toughness to him.

I remember the toll it took on him. I remember when his elbow was really swollen, like really bad. I remember him sometimes wearing pads or whatever, but he had this huge f---ing welt on his arm. I remember seeing the scars from them emptying the fluid and I was just like, ‘What is that from?’ He was like, ‘Bro, it’s all the falling on my elbows when I’m taking charges’. So that’s one thing that always stuck out to me. He was a dog, man. He was super tough.

Kyle didn’t care if you were the GM, the 15th man in the rotation or the head coach, he was always going to voice his opinion about what he felt, and he was always going to challenge us to get better and do better. I think that’s what really led the culture here to change, the fact that Kyle was like, alright, we need to feel uncomfortable to get outside our comfort zone and to go places we’ve never been. And man, that mindset really carried through in Toronto, the way everybody goes hard.”

Pascal Siakam

Played 321 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2016-2021.

One word to describe Lowry: Resilient

“He’s scrappy. Obviously, not the tallest guy out there, but he understands the game and puts it all on the line no matter what. Going through everything he went through, coming to Toronto and building what he built with DeMar, it took a little bit of time, but he embraced it and what he did here was unbelievable.

It was huge for me, just knowing that he had my back. I think we had that chemistry off the bat. I was always ahead on the break, and he was looking for me. I wasn’t really guarded that much so I was open, and it really helped that he had the IQ to be able to make those plays.

He was one of the first people in the organization to believe in my ability to handle the ball and to get a rebound and go on the break. I remember we were playing for [Dwane] Casey and he and DeMar were the first people to say, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta let Pascal bring the ball up.’ That was always something that meant a lot to me. It opened the door for me and the things that I’ve been able to do.”

Fred Van Vleet

Played 269 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2016-2021.

One word to describe Lowry: Brother

“When I think about Kyle, I think [of him as a] brother, as close as you can get in this business and somebody that you develop a lifelong relationship with outside of work. So, he’s definitely just a brother to me.

It was kinda like a real recognize real moment [when I first showed up to training camp and went head-to-head with Lowry] … I think that having somebody that has kinda been in my shoes, not from the undrafted standpoint, but coming in trying to prove himself, similarities in size and stature and game a little bit, I think he just saw [himself in me]. And also, now that I’m in the lead role, I think seeing that from a young guy you might look at it and say this is valuable for our team. So, where he was in his career, I think he just respected me for who I was and my approach to the game.

The best Kyle story is when he sat on the court to stop practice. I’m sure that story’s been told before. That was the Bench Mob year, we were kicking [the starters’] ass in practice, [Casey] was unhappy with him, he tried to sub him out, and his response was, ‘Well, if you take me out, practice is over.’ So, it was like the kid taking the ball home from the park, it was one of those moments. They tried to take him out, he sat on the court to stop practice, and then we tried to move to the other court, and he went on the other court and sat on that court. That’s just his evil side where he’s just playing mind games with everybody and being a d--k.”

Rudy Gay

Played 191 games together with the Grizzlies, from 2006-2009, and Raptors, from 2012-2013.

One word to describe Lowry: Determined

“When Kyle wants something, he goes and gets it. He’s always been like that. We’ve known each other since we were boys, and now we’re men. He’s a father now. He’s a historic basketball player. It’s crazy for me to even say it, knowing him since he was little. He’s changed in some ways, in a way we’ve all changed, but in a lot of ways he hasn’t.

When we came into [the league] together [with Memphis], Kyle broke his wrist our first year and they literally had to stop him from trying to work out and from trying to play. He broke his right wrist, so he was out there trying to shoot with his left hand and stuff like that, and the trainers literally had to tell him to stop. One thing about Kyle is he’s determined, like I said. He’s going to find ways to do what he wants. He knew what he wanted out of his career, and he did it.”

Cory Joseph

Played 161 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2015-2017.

One word to describe Lowry: Selfless

“Obviously, we know his talent, that speaks for itself, but Kyle’s a guy who loves to see his teammates do well. It shows in how he took Fred under his wing. Fred learned from Kyle, and I learned from Kyle. The way that he approaches the game and gives back to his teammates is unmatched. He’s truly one of the greats in the game in that aspect, and it shows. Everywhere he goes, winning follows him and I think that’s one of the reasons, because he’s so unselfish and he genuinely wants to see his teammates do well.

It’s an everyday thing. Kyle’s the type of guy who will show up to your kids’ birthday, you know what I mean? He’s that type of guy. Everybody loves Kyle. Anybody would run through the wall for Kyle because they know that Kyle’s got their back. I haven’t heard of one person in the NBA that doesn’t like Kyle as a teammate or as a person. That just speaks for itself. Basketball is one thing, obviously he’s great at basketball, but when you have a person of his character, that goes a long way.”

C.J. Miles

Played 107 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2017-2019.

One word to describe Lowry: Tough

“He hits everything hard. He leads hard, he plays hard. He’s for his guys. He’s just tough-minded with everything he approaches.

Just knowing his route, knowing everything he had to do to get to where he is, I think some of the traits that it takes to do what he did naturally make a good leader. There’s a certain confidence you have to have in yourself to be able to beat the odds, there’s a certain wisdom that comes from [it]. You get pushed to the edge real fast. Some guys come in and have natural abilities that allow the game to kinda find them, but he had to go take it.

The biggest thing that you appreciate right away being a teammate is how much he was pro his guys, his teammates. Whether it was to try to get us an extra rest day or to get us anything that was going to make us better and make things easier for us, he fought for [it], just like he fought on the court. That was a real refreshing thing because you knew he wasn’t just going to play hard on the basketball court. He was like that on the plane, on the bus, wherever. He was always like that.”

Danny Green

Played 88 games together (regular season and playoffs) with the Raptors from 2018-2019.

One word to describe Lowry: Competitor

“He’s the ultimate competitor, gritty, came from Philly and you can tell he’s from Philly. He’s a dog. Off the court, even on the court, he’s one of the better all-around teammates you’ll ever find. He’s there to support, he shows up, he’s there if you need help. Whatever it is, he’s going to ride for his teammates, ride for his guys. Whatever’s going on, whether it’s right or wrong, he’ll be behind you.

Just to show you what kind of person he is, it was his birthday and he actually showed up and did my podcast on his birthday for me. It just showed how much of a real teammate he was, the kind of person he was.

[I could see how much winning a championship meant to him] throughout that whole season, but definitely towards the end. Everybody was talking about him, him not showing up in the playoffs, he had a couple bad outings, but then he carried us... So, seeing him perform the way we knew and I knew he could perform in the playoffs, like the true champion that he is and true competitor, was really great. To see him get it done and be one of the greatest Raptors in history, and possibly be a hall-of-fame player because of that, it was the icing on the cake for him and for us to see it happen.”

Jose Calderon

Played 31 games together with the Raptors from 2012-2013.

One word to describe Lowry: Competitive

“He wants to win, and he wants to get better, but not quite at any cost. He does the right things, he’s a good teammate, he cares. So, there are a lot of things that go with winning. I think that’s why he’s grown year by year. That’s why he kept learning and growing as a player and as person as well. It was really nice to see.

When he was younger, he was thinking sometimes about how he could get better but without [always] thinking about who was around. These are things we all do when we’re younger. But the good thing about him was he worked hard, he asked questions and he listened whenever I was trying to [teach him] something, so we created a great relationship. I think he was learning and seeing where he could be better as an NBA player, what he could bring to the table. He was getting better, so it was just about trying to find that balance [between him and the team] to where he could be great.”