Kawhi Leonard billboard perfectly predicted what he’d do in Oakland

The superstar has been lovingly dubbed the ‘King of The North’ by the mushrooming number of Raptors fan

A billboard strategically placed near Oracle Arena had warned the Warriors what was coming.

It was a clever New Balance ad that went up ahead of Games 3 and 4 of a stone-faced Kawhi Leonard, arms crossed, alongside the slogan “The King of the North is Coming.”

READ MORE: Raptors a win away from NBA title after beating Warriors 105-92

He more than lived up to the promise.

The superstar, lovingly dubbed the “KOTN” by the mushrooming number of Raptors fans, led Toronto to two wins against the two-time defending champs on their home floor with the chilling demeanour of an assassin.

Then the Raptors flew home Saturday leaving a trail of destruction in the Bay Area.

Now the Raptors can capture their first NBA title in the team’s 24-year franchise history and bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Canada for the first time with a victory at home on Monday. Leonard will have orchestrated the stunning end of Golden State’s dynasty. He would be named Finals MVP for his efforts.

“It’s not over yet,” Leonard said after Friday’s 105-92 victory. “It doesn’t matter until you get that fourth win.”

The 27-year-old, who earned MVP honours in the 2014 Finals with San Antonio, is averaging 30.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in the Finals, and 31.1 points and 9.1 boards over the four playoff rounds.

Leonard’s 36 points on Friday marked his 14th game of the post-season with 30-plus points. The only other players to reach 14 were Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Hakeem Olajuwon and Allen Iverson.

Jordan and Olajuwon are tied for the most 30-point games with 16.

The statistics are on the Raptors’ side. Teams that take a 3-1 lead in the Finals have a 33-1 series record — 97.1 per cent. The only time a team with a 3-1 record did not win the Finals was 2016, when Cleveland rallied to beat Golden State.

Friday’s win was a snapshot of Leonard’s might. Trailing for most of the first half, he knocked down a pair of three-pointers to start the third quarter before many fans were back in their seats from the break. Nothing special was said at halftime. Leonard would say later that “I had faith it was going to turn around.”

“Kawhi Leonard came out and hit two big eff-you shots to start the half,” Fred VanVleet said. “There’s no defence for that. There’s no schemes for that. That’s two big-boy shots.”

Nurse is never surprised when Leonard’s big shots fall.

“He’s a really, really good shooter,” the coach said. ”When he vaults up from three with space, you’re pretty surprised when it doesn’t go in because he’s got great mechanics, he’s usually got it on line.”

With his monotone demeanour, Leonard has been portrayed as sub-human in these playoffs. A video of him leaving Norm Powell hanging with an outstretched fist for a knuckle bump had Raptors fans roaring. Cue the cyborg comparisons.

Before Game 4, Warriors star Draymond Green had been asked how one rattles Leonard?

Green prompted laughter when he said “rattle” isn’t a word in the Warriors’ scouting report of Leonard.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to rattle Kawhi,” Green said.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri took a huge risk when he traded away DeMar DeRozan for Leonard after he’d played just nine games in San Antonio last season because of a quadriceps injury. His split with the Spurs was messy, he wasn’t with the team during the post-season.

Leonard was questioned earlier this week if any lingering backlash from last season would affect his legacy.

“I’ve never been one of those guys that growing up in high school getting all the media and the college media, so I don’t really think my legacy is going to ever reach the potentials of Michael Jordan and how the media followed them since they were a rookie,” Leonard said.

“I just want to play and just let people remember that I played hard at both ends of the floor, I was a winner, and that’s basically it. I’m just here enjoying my dream, having fun.”

There’s been a groundswell of support for the Raptors in the past few weeks as their historic run is celebrated coast to coast. Hundreds of Raptors fans were at Oracle Arena on Friday night, serenading the players with an impromptu singing of “O Canada” as they walked off the court. Across the country, fans attended viewing parties. Jurassic Park was nuts.

“It’s awesome,” Nurse said. ”Our fans travel really well in the regular season. We get this a lot on the road. It’s really amazing. It’s Canada’s team, and Canadians from all over the country are travelling down and making plans when we play in Florida or California or Detroit especially. You ought to see a Detroit game. It’s really something in there.

“Surprises me a little in The Finals because I don’t think it’s that easy to get tickets to these games, so our fans are working extra hard and being extra vocal, and we appreciate that.”

Leonard, who’s lived in Canada for all of 10 months, was asked the impact an NBA championship will have north of the border. He answered in typical deadpan fashion.

“I guess you really would have to ask somebody on the street or one of our fans. I’m pretty sure it’s a long time waiting,” Leonard said. ”They’re going to be excited. They’re already excited just as us just being here for the first time. They’re going crazy after the Eastern Conference Finals and — I don’t know, there’s no telling.

“We’ll see.”

Indeed we likely will.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Cavalry Chapel Kelowna

Attendees of the Sept. 13 morning church service may have been exposed, Interior Health says

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

Regional district funding phased out for Friends of Fintry

Heritage site volunteer group loses $39,000 grant incrementally over next two years

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: Ghost sighting in Vernon’s Polson Park

Mom and daughter photoshoot brings joy and laughter to bystanders

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read