Toronto Mayor John Tory held a news conference on Saturday to ask Raptors fans and the media for a favor.
Leave Kawhi Leonard alone and let him enjoy Toronto — and enjoy it so much he wants to stay for good.
Since the Raptors won the NBA title on June 13, Leonard’s journey around Toronto has been chronicled on social media. He’s been photographed running errands, eating in restaurants and taking in a Toronto Blue Jays game.
Tory was joined by Raptors’ superfan Nav Bhatia at Saturday’s news conference.
“We are just trying to say to the fans, ‘Yes, we know you are very excited, you have reason to be excited but give him the space to eat where he wants to eat and shop where he wants to shop,’” Bhatia said. “If you see him say ‘Thank you’ and move on and let him enjoy himself.”
Leonard, acquired last summer by the Raptors, can become a free agent on June 30. Numerous reports have said Leonard wants to return to his native Southern California and is likely to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Tory and Bhatia are making an effort to show him how beloved he is in the city. They, along with Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih, have created a website, KawhiUShouldStay.com, where fans can sign a petition. As of Saturday afternoon, it had about 6,000 signatures.
“If the voice of the fans should be heard, which it should, then the best way to do that, the Toronto way to do that, is to sign this petition,” Tory said.
Nearly 6 million people live in the Toronto metro area.
Leonard was named the MVP of the NBA Finals, when the Raptors defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games. It was the first championship for the Raptors, who joined the league in 1995.
In the playoffs, Leonard averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds over 39.1 minutes in 24 games. In the regular season, he averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 34 minutes per game.
He turns 28 on June 29.
—Field Level Media