By GREGORY STRONG
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Thursday, July 19, 2018
TORONTO -- A franchise leader in points and games played. A leader as popular with fans as he was with teammates. A Raptor to the core and a man who loved Toronto.
DeMar DeRozan left the only NBA franchise he has ever known Wednesday, shipped to the San Antonio Spurs in a blockbuster trade that sent star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors.
The departure of the nine-year veteran had some former teammates calling for a DeRozan statue to be erected outside Scotiabank Arena. Fans, politicians and NBA players chimed in on the trade news and Drake weighed in with a lengthy Instagram post.
DeRozan, a four-time all-star, was everything a team could want in a franchise player. He was a leader on and off the court and a true professional.
"To my brother @demar_derozan I want to say 10 million thank you's on behalf of YOUR city. You are a fixture in Toronto forever and you gave everything you had," said Drake, who's also a team ambassador for the Raptors.
"Through your leadership we had the most exciting years in franchise history. I am grateful to have witnessed your combination of skill, persistence, and loyalty from the same seats every night.
Thank you for being an incredible captain and an even better friend.
"To Kawhi ... we look forward to a this new chapter and we welcome you to the most intense and supportive city in NBA basketball!!! You have always been a poised clinical warrior and I can't wait to see how Toronto inspires your fight. Let's Go Raptors."
DeRozan was chosen the winner of this year's Magic Johnson Award, an honour presented annually to the NBA player who best combines excellence on the court with media and public co-operation.
The tweets came in fast and furious when reports surfaced that a deal was imminent and again when the trade was confirmed in the early afternoon.
Toronto Mayor John Tory weighed in on Twitter. "On the court, in the community, and in the hearts of Raptors fans, @DeMar_DeRozan has been an incredible part of Toronto. On behalf of the whole city, thank you and all the best in San Antonio."
Former teammate Terrence Ross tweeted a post that was capped by a Canada flag emoji.
"Dear fans of Toronto, It's time you guys build a statue of @DeMar_DeRozan Regardless of what happens. He deserves it."