Leonard responded to Ujiri’s words (and gamble) by leading Toronto to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Kawhi says he doesn’t care about his status among the game’s greats: he merely wants to win.
Per The Athletic:
Kawhi Leonard wanted to know one thing. Two days after the San Antonio Spurs met his trade demand last July, following a bizarre, season-long stalemate with the organization and its training staff, Leonard showed up at the Toronto Raptors’ practice facility, scraggly beard and all, and got directly to the point with team president Masai Ujiri: Why did you trade for me?
“Because you’re the best player in the league,” Ujiri told him in that initial meeting.
Trading for Leonard was a bold gamble, with obvious questions over his health and whether his heart would be into playing north of the border.
“We’re trying to win at the highest level. So, we thought he’d give us the best chance of doing this,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told The Athletic. “And obviously, it’s something to different to say now in May than we did the deal in July but honestly, this was the plan. It doesn’t always happen according to it. We wanted a champion…everyone has seen before their eyes in this playoffs.”