PHILADELPHIA—It takes a few seconds for Kyle Lowy to digest the information when it’s mentioned him in a quiet moment in the Raptors locker room.
He’s getting dressed after his 507th regular season Raptors game and he has been told he is the longest-serving professional athlete in Toronto, with more time with the Raptors than Morgan Rielly has spent with the Maple Leafs or Jonathan Osorio with TFC or, well, anybody with the Blue Jays.
“That’s pretty bizarre,” he says.
Whether that’s an indictment of the other Toronto franchises or a testament to Lowry’s abilities or just a sign of the peripatetic life of professional athletes is hard to say. It’s probably a little bit of all three things.
But for whatever the underlying reason might be, Lowry’s longevity in Toronto is impressive, especially given that he figured he’d be in the city and country for a short time.
“I thought I was going to be here for a year, two years, and be long gone,” the 33-year-old, six-foot guard said. “Come up here for business and that’s about it but, at the end of the day, I think the perseverance and the work I’ve put in and the belief the organization has in me means something.”
Lowry is not a particularly warm and fuzzy guy who’ll publicly profess undying love for anything other than his family, the city (Philadelphia) where he was born and raised, his NFL Eagles and Villanova University.
And maybe that’s why he doesn’t get all the adulation that is due him for what he has accomplished in the city and the impact he’s had on the franchise.
He joked this week about the social media chatter that suggested maybe he came back too soon from a broken thumb in light of two consecutive losses at home, and that he is still a bit of a contrarian so there are factions of the media that don’t sing his praises all the time.
“People talk, you deal with it and keep doing your job,” he said. “At the end of the day, it don’t really matter to me because as long as my wife and kids and my family are happy, we’re all happy.”
But he has a sense of belonging in Toronto that means a lot to him. He owns a year-round residence in the city and he does outside-the-spotlight things just because. He might never say “I am Toronto” but that’s truer than you might think.
“We made it home. We’ve got a home here — I’m here September to June — so it’s been home,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve come to really understand it, take the good with the bad.”
There has been far more good than bad with Lowry and the Raptors. No matter what anyone feels or thinks about him or how he’ll eventually be remembered, he has presided over the greatest era in franchise history.
Since got here — in a July 2012 trade with Houston that cost the Raptors a journeyman in Gary Forbes and a draft pick that ended up with Oklahoma City (Steven Adams) — the Raptors have been one of the consistently good-to-great franchises in the league.
Lowry has been the one constant in a run that has included last June’s NBA championship, another appearance in an Eastern Conference final, a 370-225 regular-season record going into Sunday’s game and six straight playoff appearances.
He has re-signed with the Raptors twice when free agency was a possibility, and he was rewarded for his service and his sparkling play with a one-year contract extension worth $31 million (U.S.) in October.
How long he stays remains a question, like it is with every athlete in every sport. As a proven winner with a championship pedigree, he may be a valuable trade chip for president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster to play next spring or even next summer and then the title of “Longest Serving Toronto Athlete” will be passed to someone else.
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For now, though, it’s the guy who thought he’d blow in and out of town with barely a ripple.
“They’ve rewarded me and for the most part, the city has showed me unbelievable love and that’s why I give back as much as I can,” he said. “I give back with my Holiday Assist (Christmas program), my (Thanksgiving) turkey drive. I want to do as much as I can.