On exactly one year ago today, the Toronto Raptors acquired Kawhi Leonard in a blockbuster move that sent longtime franchise star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs.
The trade, which at the time, was criticized by many fans because of DeRozan’s noted desire to play Toronto, was simultaneously billed by many in the media as a move the Raptors had to make in order to potentially get past their much-talked about playoff struggles under team president Masai Ujiri.
Differing opinions aside, you’d be hard pressed to find just about anyone who believed that Leonard, whose health status at the time of the trade was unclear after playing just nine games the season prior because of a quadriceps injury, would lead the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship in the 24-year history of the team.
Leonard is now a Los Angeles Clipper, after signing a reported three-year, $103 million deal with his hometown team in free agency, but nonetheless, the championship he helped to deliver for the Raptors will live on forever.
Here’s a timeline of Leonard’s stellar season with the Raptors:
2018-19 regular season
July, 18, 2018 – The Raptors acquire Leonard and Danny Green in a trade with the Spurs, in exchange for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
Sept. 24, 2018 – After having not being formally introduced to the media since being acquired by the Raptors, Leonard and Green were finally introduced during a press conference ahead of the team’s annual media day.
Oct. 17, 2018 – Leonard has 24 points and 12 rebounds in his first game as a Raptor, a 116-104 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oct. 20, 2018 – Leonard sits out a back-to-back game for the first time due to “load management”, an official term used by the Raptors that resulted in Leonard missing a bunch of other games over the course of the regular season.
Jan. 1, 2019 – Leonard records a regular season career-high 45 points in a 122-116 win over the Utah Jazz.
Jan. 3, 2019 – Leonard has just 21 points, five assists and one rebound in a 125-107 loss to the Spurs.
Jan. 24, 2019 – Leonard is named a starter for the 2019 NBA All-Star game, his third career nomination.
Feb. 22, 2019 – Leonard scores 25 points, including the go-ahead dunk after stealing the ball from DeRozan, in a 120-117 win over the Spurs.
Apr. 27, 2019 – Leonard scores a playoff career-high 45 points in the Raptors’ 108-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
May 12, 2019 – Leonard scores 41 points, including his much-talked about game-winning shot that bounced off the rim four times before going in, to lift the Raptors to a 92-90 win over the 76ers in Game 7 of the East semis.
May 19, 2019 – Down 0-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the East finals, Leonard’s 36 points and nine rebounds delivers the Raptors their first win in the series. Toronto ultimately went on to win the series and advance to their first-ever NBA Finals appearance after beating the Bucks in each of the next three games.
June 5, 2019 – Leonard scores 23 points as the Raptors defeat the Golden State Warriors 118-109 in Game 1 of the Finals in Toronto.
June 13, 2019 – Leonard has 22 points as the Raptors beat the Warriors in Game 6 of the Finals and win the series 4-2 to capture their first-ever NBA title.
June 18, 2019 – Leonard and the rest of the Raptors are honoured in a parade in Toronto with an estimated two million fans in attendance.
June 23, 2019 – Leonard declines to exercise his contract option with the Toronto Raptors for the 2019-20 season, becoming an unrestricted free agent.
July 3, 2019 – Toronto breaks into frenzy as a local news outlet shows O.J. Simpson-style helicopter footage of a vehicle appearing to carry Leonard from Pearson International Airport to a downtown hotel for an alleged free agent meeting with Ujiri and Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. A large crowd also assembles outside of the hotel.
July 6, 2019 – Multiple reports surface stating that Leonard has elected to sign with the Clippers in free agency.
July 10, 2019 – The Clippers officially announce that they’ve signed Leonard.