Toronto Mayor John Tory made his pitch to Raptors star Kawhi Leonard to stay with the team, presenting him the key to the city at the rally to honour the 2019 NBA champions on Monday.
“You are family, you are one of us, this city and this country love you and we look forward to seeing you and the whole team back to do this again next year,” Tory said as he delivered the first speech in the rally at City Hall.
When Leonard was introduced to the crowd, fans chanted ”MVP, MVP” to greet the most valuable player of the NBA Finals.
As Tory talked about Leonard, fans bellowed “Stay, stay, stay.”
Leonard is expected to decline a player option on his contract for next season and become a free agent.
The forward can start negotiating with teams on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET.
The Raptors can offer Leonard a five-year extension worth about US$190 million, while other teams can offer only four years for about US$140 million.
Later, Leonard addressed the crowd, saying “Thank you all for welcoming me after the trade with open arms.”
He finished his speech by poking fun at his own laugh that made headline when he first arrived in Toronto, saying, “Ha, ha, ha, ha.”
Earlier, with the help of Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, fans along the parade route were voicing what they hope Leonard decides as he approaches free agency.
The crowd was chanting ”one more year” as the double-decker bus carrying Leonard, Lowry and others slowly makes its way toward Nathan Phillips Square.
When Lowry held out five fingers, the crowd started shouting ”five more years.”