No one, not even NBA players, could recall a shot in any NBA seventh playoff game in the dying second, buzzer beating moment, such as the one Kawhi’s made to lead his team (OUR TEAM) Toronto Raptors to victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena. Kawhi had to leap high up in the air to ensure that it would go over Joel Embidd (2.13 m, 6.99 feet) who stood in front of him to prevent him from scoring. The ball flirted with the rim 4 times before sinking into the basket. The two-points that Kawhi delivered are now for history books and will be talked about for ever! Perhaps, a physicist can explain the science of all that took place in lay terms — the flight of the ball as it left Kawhi’s hands, the ball bouncing on the rim 4 times, 2 times on either side, before it sunk into the basket.
During the course of my life, I have attended about a dozen NBA basketball games. I first came into contact with basketball as a young boy in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). I often escaped with my friends to see local basketball matches played at the court of a college that was just 200 metres from the Jamatkhana. I had no favourite local teams then. A few years later, when our family moved to Dar es Salaam, I would go and watch the nail biting matches between Azania Secondary School and Aga Khan Boys Secondary School. In 1979, when a computing assignment took me to Salt Lake City,Utah, my colleague, Jim Golluch, took me to watch Utah Jazz play LA Lakers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson), Boston Celtics (Larry Bird and Archibald) and Philadelphia 76ers (Julius Erving or Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins). Utah was beaten in all the games — the franchise was new — but one Jazz player who left a mark on me was Adrian Dantley whose shooting was almost perfect. Then several years later when I was in Philadelphia, I went to watch the 76ers on a couple of occasions. Utah, however remained in my heart since 1979, until of course the Raptors franchise was established in 1995!
I had never watched the Raptors on their home court. I didn’t want yesterday’s 7th game to happen. After routing the 76ers in the fifth game in Toronto, we lost the 6th in Philadelphia to everyone’s dismay. On Thursday, I decided I would go and watch the final game and obtained my ticket at a premium price from Ticketmaster. I got to the Scotiabank arena very early and the gates to the arena opened 90 minutes before the game. The arena was empty and when I got to Section 307 to locate my seat (Row 17, Seat 20), a Raptor’s representative welcomed me by giving me a beautiful Raptor’s team pin, when I told him about my love for the game since childhood. The back rest of every seat was covered with a free Raptor’s tee shirt. He told me they did that for the playoff games, and they came in different shades — the free give away tee shirt yesterday was white with portraits of Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, and Danny Green adorning the front with the proclamation WE THE NORTH. The arena gradually filled to full capacity by the time the game commenced shortly after 7.
WATCH KAWHI’S WINNER
The noise level though, throughout the game, was not as much as I had expected. I think everyone was, like me very nervous. I could not scream as loud as I had wanted to – my chocked throat held the screaming back, it was difficult to be really noisy! But then in the final minutes when Raptors scored some important vital points – the game was always close – Gason gesticulated to the crowd to raise the noise level. We then went absolutely crazy and became delirious when Leonard (“God is good, I pray everyday”) scored the winning basket just as the buzzer sounded. We were stunned; no one wanted to leave the arena. It’s fine to watch the excitement at home on TV but there is nothing like being at a live game. The experience was overwhelming.
Yes, Kawhi, God is good – to everyone actually – but the incredible player had availed himself of God’s help by working hard, not being like other players who argue and punch fists, make a show of their talents, and are arrogant. Kawhi Leonard, I have always felt, is a pure soul and the bus driver taking me home told me “I like him for what he is.” A truly humble person who delivers over and over again and carries the team on his shoulders without complaining! Incredible. What a human being, and an example to all other sportsmen. But we do need those fists and fights, and shows of pride and arrogance. Its sports!
Congratulations Kawhi and the Toronto Raptors for making Sunday, May 12, 2019, one of the 3 greatest sporting days in my life. The other two are football related – my favourite team in the world, Tottenham Hotspur, coming from behind to defeat, in midweek, Ajax of Amsterdam, and earlier Manchester City in the UEFA Champions Cup.
I wasn’t in person at the Tottenham games, but I was at the Raptors game and that personal presence gives the Raptors game a slight edge over the Tottenham victories which I watched alone.
Date posted: May 13, 2019.