Former Raptors star Kyle Lowry earns long ovation in long-awaited return to Toronto

Kyle Lowry vowed there wouldn’t be tears.

The beloved former Raptors point guard made his return to Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, and was feted by an emotional pre-game video tribute and a long standing ovation.

“I know if I cry, DeMar [DeRozan] will make fun of me and it’s gonna go viral,” Lowry joked before tipoff.

The lights dimmed and the video played during the announcement of the Heat’s starters. 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 standing ovation in return to Toronto:

Raptors pay tribute to Kyle Lowry in his return to Toronto

A video of Lowry’s Raptors career highlights was shown before fans showered him with love in Toronto. 3:47

Looking overwhelmed by the long ovation, but dry-eyed as promised, he raised his arms to thank the crowd, then embraced his sons Karter and Kameron.

Lowry became the cornerstone of the Raptors’ franchise through his nine seasons in Toronto, instilling a scrappy, workmanlike approach that the team rode to their historic 2019 NBA championship. He was traded to Miami last summer in what was an amicable split between everyone, including Raptors president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster.

“That’s due to the respect that I earned, but it’s also the relationship I created [with them],” Lowry said. “We all were in conversations at all times about everything. And they looked at me like someone who, ‘Like, you helped build this thing, we will never disrespect you in any type of 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 you so much, you want to see them be successful however that is.”

Arriving from Chicago early Sunday morning, where the Heat was beaten 127-109 by DeRozan and the Bulls, Lowry said the drive along Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway was emotional. He mentioned the sting of passing familiar landmarks like BMO Field, the CN Tower, and the team’s practice facility at OVO Athletic Centre.

“It was like, damn, that’s crazy,” Lowry said. “It’s home, the place I was for a long, long time. So it was cool.”

On Instagram on Sunday morning, he’d posted a black square with two Canadian flags, and one word: “Home.”

Lowry arrived at the pre-game media conference wearing his championship ring, which looks like a giant glitter gumball, 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 to me and the city and the country and the organization, so why not wear it?”

Lowry had originally been scheduled to play in Toronto on Feb. 1, but he was away from the team at the time for personal reasons. Plus, COVID-19 restrictions meant no fans were in the building that night.

The magnitude of Sunday’s game stretched beyond Lowry’s return. With five games left in the regular-season, the Raptors are battling for a top-six spot in the Eastern Conference that would mean avoiding the play-in tournament. Miami is the top team in the East.

“I hope to God we ruin [Lowry’s] night,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before tipoff. “We love him, there’s no doubt about that. But you know what? My job now is to kick his ass. We’ll see what happens.”

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