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Dear Kyle Lowry

The Little Prince is my favourite book. It’s about a young child learning about the ways of the world through drunkards and kings and snakes. It’s a children’s book, which means I’ve been reading it over and again for a long time. It’s also very short. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read The Little Prince, but my reaction never lessens upon the pilot finding comfort in the stars. I know what happens, but it’s new every time. The Little Prince is a love letter, but not to any single person. It’s more an ode to life, renewing and redeeming the simple and overlooked. No matter how many times I read it, it always matters just as much, and always in different ways. 

Kyle Lowry is a love letter to basketball. It’s tough to say how many love letters have been written to Kyle Lowry by sports fans in the city of Toronto. It would be like counting condo buildings south of the Gardiner; the number grows by the minute. But like every good love letter, our infatuation with Lowry feels new every time.

“It’s a blessing to have (Kyle) on the floor,” said Kawhi Leonard after game five.

I’m getting emotional just thinking about this. It’s a blessing for all of us. But the point is that this is nothing new for Lowry. Still, it doesn’t get any less special every time it happens.

Kyle Lowry has been good in the playoffs, and he has been especially good in opportunities to close out series. Lowry scored 35 points with 7 rebounds and 9 assists in a smothering of the Miami Heat in 2016. He scored 24 last year in game six against the Washington Wizards. In all five possible closeout games with the Toronto Raptors, Lowry has averaged 22.2 points and 6.2 assists on 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep. He’s been excellent, and it was no different in beating the Orlando Magic.

Toronto, in general, has been fantastic at jumping on Orlando’s throat early out of the gates, and Lowry has always had his part to play. Toronto led 14-2 halfway through the first quarter of game two, capped by a Lowry triple that tore violent cheers from the throats of the erstwhile-doubting Toronto crowd. The Raptors led 22-3 after seven minutes of game five. Lowry scored the Raptors’ first nine points.

Lowry performances repeat like seasons, each classifiable and understandable like botanical samples. Game one was the winter of Toronto’s sadness. Lowry scored zero points, even as every other aspect of his game was impressive. The winter repeats, just as Lowry’s poor scoring outings reoccur.

Game two was his bounce-back game, where he attacked the rim like it was the one bashing him after his game one performance. His 10 attempts at the rim were his most from the area since 2015. He blossomed anew, as he does after every freeze, like a lilac in springtime.

Game five was Lowry as summer, raging and burning and firing Orlando into the good night. Lowry was the catalyst and the reactant, the slingshot and the stone. He scored Toronto’s first nine points of the game with three layups and a pull-up triple. His contributions didn’t stop there. He collected three deflections, drew three charges, and altogether led the Raptors in ways innumerable and uncountable.

Summer and spring are no better than winter, but they are more fun. Every season has its purpose, and players wouldn’t have it any other way when it comes to Lowry.

“I enjoy playing with him this whole series, and I feel like he made us all better,” said Leonard.

Torontonian pundits have frequently claimed that Lowry’s contributions don’t show up in the box score. Game five was the perfect example. Despite his fire and fury, he finished with a modest 14 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds. I’ve read this book so many times, I almost forgot that the ending doesn’t change. The Prince always finds his way home. Even though it seemed after nine straight points for Lowry like he might break the mold and score all the points forever, Lowry ended up doing exactly as he always does: dominating a game with few numbers next to his name.

“He was amazing in this series,” said Nick Nurse. “I don’t know how many charges he ended up taking, he was blocking out, taking charges, pushing the ball, getting into the paint, stroked just enough threes. He was, I dunno, maybe as good as I’ve ever seen him in this series.”

Lowry is the game’s foremost chessboxer. How many other NBA players combine his bodily aggression with his no-nonsense management style? Lowry came out of the gate swinging haymakers before he settled into his seat at the board, coordinating Toronto’s kingside assault. How many players can lead an assault and then settle back to organize the rest of the fight? Lowry is both general and footsoldier.

The Orlando Magic were no match for Kyle Lowry, and it wasn’t only in game five. Sure, he went scoreless in game one. But through all five games when he was on the floor against the Magic, Toronto won those minutes by 106 points, which is the highest of any NBA player through the first round of the playoffs. When he was off the floor, Toronto was outscored – I remind you, in a series that saw three blowouts – by 34 points.

This is nothing new for Kyle Lowry. He’s always driven Toronto’s winning, through John Salmons to DeMarre Carroll to Kawhi Leonard. No matter how many times I write it, Lowry remains above everything. How many times have I read this book before? I can’t help myself. Every time I reach the good part, it always gets me.

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