Kyle Lowry swore there would be no tears.
The beloved former Raptors point guard returned to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday and was celebrated with a moving pre-game video tribute and a long standing ovation.
“I know if I’m crying, DeMar [DeRozan] gonna make fun of me and it’s gonna go viral,” Lowry joked before the whistleblower.
The lights went out and the video played when the Heat’s starters were announced. The 36-year-old guard was introduced with the familiar: “From North Philly, to your city. Number 7, Kyle Luh-luh-luh-luh-Lowry!”
WATCH | Lowry gets a standing ovation back in Toronto:
Looking shaken by the long standing ovation, but dry-eyed as promised, he raised his arms to thank the crowd, then kissed his sons Karter and Kameron.
Lowry became a cornerstone of the Raptors franchise during his nine seasons in Toronto, instilling a scrappy, professional approach that the team carried through to their historic NBA championship in 2019. He was traded to Miami last summer in what was an amicable parting between everyone, including Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster.
“It’s because of the respect I’ve earned, but it’s also the relationship I’ve created [with them]“, Lowry said. “We were all in conversation at all times about everything. And they looked at me as someone who, “Like, you helped build this thing, we’ll never disrespect you in any way,” and I felt the same way.
“So we wanted to do it the right way…and when you’ve given so much to a franchise, and they’ve given so much to you, you want to see them succeed no matter what.”
Arriving from Chicago early Sunday morning, where the Heat were beaten 127-109 by DeRozan and the Bulls, Lowry said the drive along Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway was emotional. He mentioned the sting of driving past familiar landmarks like BMO Field, the CN Tower and the team’s practice facility at the OVO Athletic Centre.
“It was like, fuck, this is crazy,” Lowry said. “It’s my home, the place I was for a long, long time. So that was cool.”
Sunday morning, on Instagram, he had posted a black square with two Canadian flags and a word: “Home”.
Lowry arrived at the pre-game press conference wearing his championship ring, which resembles a giant glittering chewing gum, on his right ring finger.
“Something special,” he said twisting the ring with his left hand. “I was like, I’m going home, so let me wear something that I felt like I brought home. It’s special for me, the city, the country and the organization. , so why not wear it?”
Lowry was originally scheduled to play in Toronto on February 1, but was absent from the squad at that time for personal reasons. Additionally, COVID-19 restrictions meant no fans were in the building that night.
The magnitude of Sunday’s game extended beyond Lowry’s return. With five games left in the regular season, the Raptors are fighting for a top-six spot in the Eastern Conference, which would mean avoiding the qualifying tournament. Miami is the best team in the East.
“I hope God will ruin us [Lowry’s] night,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the whistleblower. “We love him, there’s no doubt. But you know what? My job now is to kick his ass. We’ll see what happens.”