Please, Don't Break Up With Canada, Kawhi Leonard
Don’t Break Up With Us, Kawhi
Canadians can’t get over the last breakup.
The hysteria over Kawhi Leonard has reached Biblical proportions.
To an American reader, that may seem hyperbole. I assure ya’ll, it’s only slightly. Really, if I compared Kawhi to Moses, some people would nod in agreement. He may not have parted the Red Sea and led the Jews out of Egypt but for heaven’s sakes he led the Toronto freaking Raptors to an NBA title. You know what I mean?
It’s only been a week into NBA free agency and the entire league has already been flipped on its head. Even so, the most important chip has yet to fall. That chip (shut up, Drake) is Leonard. And that chip is in Toronto on the last leg of his tour. And Canadians are wondering whether he’s gonna take another dip (argh, Drake, stop, please).
Think of it this way, Americans can understand what it’s like to be obsessed with their sports superstars. It’s not like Americans lack passion, or, like, a soul or something. They’re human beings. But they’re also a country of 320-million people spread across 50 states that are, in most cases, culturally different from each other. They’re a country of east coasts and west coasts and Midwest’s and souths (which has an entirely different connotation than simple geography) and pacific northwest’s. They’re also a country of either red or blue, but hey, let’s not make this political (when do the Raps hit up the White Hou-er, oh yea…).
The point is, one athlete can only mean so much when so much meaning is spread out across so much space. In Canada, we don’t have that wrinkle. We’re not a dress shirt run through the wash and hung to dry. We’re dry-cleaned, the only contours are the seams on the sleeves and collar. Most Canadians are not terribly different from each other. If you live out west, you either care more about protecting our coasts or building a pipeline. Otherwise, you both go to Tim Hortons. If you live in the middle, you may be able to see Grandma’s out on the horizon before your nine-hour drive to visit her, but you’re just like the poor soul who takes nine hours to drive the QEW from Toronto to Oakville. If you’re in Quebec you’re…ok, they’re pretty different, but hey, je ne sais quoi.
Now, Toronto is a unique beast. To the rest of Canada, the Big Smoke like if New York City resided in Texas, hunkered down on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the big fish in a large pond and represents, for better or worse, much of the national sentiment. Yea, we still have Montreal, but really, what would Dallas be if it had to compete with NYC? Yea, we have Vancouver, too, but what would Houston be if it had to compete with NYC?
The point is Canadians, unlike Americans, get really, really focused in on big fish in our pond. We’re like a bee colony, ok? We all fly out to get that honey for ourselves, but when push comes to shove we rally to protect our Queen (no, American reader, not Meghan Markle for f*cks sake). We get attached. In part, it can all go back to the big breakup. The loss of our one true love.
His name was Wayne Gretzky. You may have heard of him. He was last spotted, ironically enough, courtside during Game 6 of the NBA Finals, mere feet away from Kevin Durant as the now-Brooklyn Net clutched as his ruptured Achilles. He’s better known as The Great One. Yea, we gave him that nickname. That’s how much we love the shit out of the guy.
Kawhi Leonard can never truly mean to Canada what Gretzky does – if only Kawhi could skate – but he’s the next closest comparable. Some may argue we have Sidney Crosby, but we lost him before we ever truly had him. Gretzky was born, bred, and achieved his greatness in Canada. Kawhi may not have been born here, he may not have been bred here, but he sure as hell made the biggest statement of his greatness here.
When was the last time an athlete staked their claim as the best in the game on Canadian soil?
Ask any Canadian older than a millennial and they will tell you what Gretzky left meant (don’t ask an Edmontonian, you might get a troubled stare and an existential soliloquy on grief). It may as well have been the Canadian flag pulled down the flag pole at Parliament and FedExed to Los Angeles. It hurt.
If it seems to Americans we’re obsessed with Kawhi, that’s because we are. We damn well want to be. It’s the way it should be…
…please, God, do not let him sign with LA.