Winning a championship is a truly unique experience, and when someone is lucky enough to win it all, it creates a connection that can never be broken.
Speaking with the media ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers’ meeting with the Toronto Raptors — Kawhi Leonard’s first against his former team — Clippers head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that his new superstar shares a relationship with the championship core that is irreplaceable.
“He has a different bond with them,” Rivers said, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen. “He danced in the locker room. That’s a rarity, that you have an opportunity to do that, with guys. That group, whoever was on that team, it’s like a blood transfusion. They’ll be connected for the rest of their life with that team and with that city, no matter what you do or where you go, that’s just the way it is.”
Rivers should know. Having helped end a 22-year drought in Boston by coaching the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title, Rivers is revered in the city for that accomplishment along with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen among others.
And yes, for someone who usually has a poker face at the best of times, seeing Leonard dance in the locker room, soak in all the adulation that over 2 million showered him with at the championship parade, and heap plenty of praise on his teammates for their performances throughout the Larry O.B. claiming run, it’s easy to see that Leonard truly formed a sacred bond with his now-former Raptors teammates.
The chemistry didn’t happen overnight, though, as Fred VanVleet told TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, and perhaps that’s what made those winning moments all the sweeter.
“Obviously he didn’t talk a lot. I think it took him a long time to warm up to us, for him to open up and to trust us. On the court — off the court, he was great — but on the court, I think we saw over the course of the year him open up and trust us, the entire team. I think him and Kyle had a good chemistry pretty early. And you could see it gradually happen for the entire team.”
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