Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry’s Presence still being felt today

Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

Through both the wins and losses, the start of the 2022-23 season has been a success for Raptors fans. Rookie Christian Koloko has shown promise, Scottie Barnes has evolved into a well-rounded two-way force despite some struggles, and Pascal Siakam was high in the early season MVP rankings before his injury.

Twice already, the team has faced off against the Miami Heat, a split with one win and one loss. The loss included an injury to Barnes, a scrap that ejected Koloko and coming back from down 25 points to threaten victory. The win, responding with a convincing all-around performance from the team, even with a depleted roster.

This grit and determination the team has been showing across the board has been one of the defining characteristics of the Toronto Raptors thus far this season. The 2022-23 roster is not beautifully constructed the way it was in 2019, but the Raptors haven’t been this fun to watch in a few years.

It’s a “never say die” team identity that defines every single play and player we have. From the top down, win or lose, teams around the league know that when they play the Raptors they’re walking into a dogfight. It gives us incredible pride as fans to see the team we love play with that kind of passion.

Where did this fire come from? Look no further than the ghost of Kyle Lowry hanging over this team.

Kyle Lowry still influences the Toronto Raptors.

Opening up as an almost timid expansion franchise in 1995, the Raptors had to watch as their Canadian parallel in Vancouver folded and starved as their fans lost interest. Vince Carter gave the team life, but the franchise slowly lost credibility through the following decade.

Things changed when the Lowry and DeMar DeRozan era came into full force. It wasn’t just the talent of that duo, but also something more complex and intangible that they brought. DeRozan, a homegrown star who wanted to play in Toronto, and Lowry, an undersized point guard who eventually made the All-NBA Team, set the stage.

Lowry specifically is the one who would take a hit charge, fly into the paint and get knocked down, and set up his teammate. He was the team’s emotional leader for nine years. It’s him we have to thank for establishing the culture we’re now so proud of.

Usually, “culture shifting” players live within the highest ring of the NBA pantheon. See Tim Duncan’s methodical Spurs, Magic Johnson’s showtime Lakers, or Stephen Curry’s pace and space Warriors. Lowry is unique in that while he was still a multiple-time All-Star, his cultural impact was even more impressive than his play.

He shifted the way players and fans viewed the Raptors franchise. Yeah, it had a lot to do with winning the championship, but he was the locker-room leader there too.

After his departure before the 2022 season, Raptors fans were sad to say goodbye to a player that means so much to us all. Alongside that was the fear of losing the culture Lowry helped to build.

Not only have the Raptors not lost that identity established by Lowry, but it’s also just as alive as ever. With the determination shown by the entire team, the passion and resolve to fight back in losing games and dominate in winning games, we can almost taste the Lowry influence in the play of the 2022-23 roster.

How many times this year have we seen the Raptors battle back from a large deficit? Or keep pressure on when they were ahead? Through injuries and bad luck the one constant has been the determination of the players on the floor, an inheritance from the Lowry years.

It’s wonderful to experience the staying power brought on by this exceptional player. The way Siakam and Fred VanVleet have evolved as leaders is due in no small part to Lowry. The young guys, the rookies and sophomores who never played a single game with him, they too are absorbing and implementing the Lowry mentality.

The best part of it all is not just that Lowry caused a cultural evolution while he played in Toronto, but also that it’s seeped down into the soil of the Raptors franchise and is now a part of the organization forever.

From NBA generation to generation, the Lowry mentality is living on.

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