TORONTO – Kyle Lori vowed there would be no tears.
The beloved former Raptors point guard returned to Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, and was greeted with an emotional pre-game video tribute and a long-lasting congratulations.
“I know if I cry, DeMar (DeRozan) will make fun of me and it will go viral,” Laurie joked before Tiff.
The lights went out and the video was played when the hit was announced. The acquaintance was introduced to the 36-year-old guard: “From North Philly, in your town. Number 7, Kyle Luh-Luh-Luh-Luh-Lori!”
Overwhelmed by the long slogan, but with dry eyes as promised, he raised his arm to thank the crowd, then embraced his sons Carter and Cameron.
Lori became the cornerstone of the Raptors franchise in her nine seasons in Toronto, giving the team a dirty, workaholic approach to climb to their historic 2019 NBA Championship. He was traded to Miami last summer, a friendly split between Raptors president Masai Waziri and GM Bobby Webster.
“It’s because of the respect I’ve earned, but it’s because of the relationship I’ve built (with them),” Laurie said. “We were all always talking about everything. And they saw me as someone who said, ‘Like, you helped make this thing, we would never disrespect you in any way,’ and I felt the same way.
“So, we wanted to do it right … and when you give a franchise a lot, and they give you a lot, you want to see them succeed, whatever it is.”
Arriving from Chicago on Sunday morning, where the hit was defeated 127-109 by DeRozan and the Bulls, Laurie said the drive along Toronto’s Gardinar Expressway was emotional. He mentioned the sting of passing landmarks known as team practice facilities at BMO Field, CN Tower and Ovio Athletic Center.
“It was, damn, it’s crazy,” Lori said. “It’s home, where I’ve been for a long, long time. So it was great.”
On Sunday morning on Instagram, he posted a black square with two Canadian flags and a word: “Home.”
Lori arrived at the pre-game media conference wearing her championship ring, which looks like a giant glitter gumble, on her right ring finger.
“Something special,” he said, twisting the ring in his left hand. “I was like: I’m going home so let me wear something I think I brought home. It’s special for me and the city and the country and the organization, so why not wear it?”
Lori was originally scheduled to play in Toronto on February 1, but for personal reasons he was away from the team at the time. Also, the COVID-19 restriction meant there were no fans in the building that night.
Sunday’s level of play extended beyond Lori’s return. With five games remaining in the regular-season, the Raptors are battling for the top-six spot in the Eastern Conference which means avoiding play-in tournaments. Top team in Miami East.
“I hope to God we’ll ruin (Lori’s) night,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before Tiff. “We love her, no doubt about it. But you know what? My job now is to kick her ass. We’ll see what happens.”