DeMar DeRozan is thriving this season while wearing silver and black — and not the red and white that he wore during his nine years north of the border.
As DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs face the Raptors on Thursday, here’s a look back at the first act of DeRozan’s career, the one spent in Toronto that yielded no shortage of memorable moments:
The time he told a city he had them
All stories have a beginning. DeRozan’s tale in Toronto doesn’t start on draft night or with his first basket. It starts with a tweet.
Five words can carry a lot of meaning. Those ones came in the aftermath of Chris Bosh deciding to leave the Raptors and join LeBron James in Miami. At the time, DeRozan was coming off a shaky rookie season in which he averaged just a little over eight points in 21 minutes per game.
It seemed, at the very least, improbable that he could fill the Bosh-sized void. Then he became an all-star and, eventually, helped lead the Raptors to the playoffs and the Eastern Conference Finals. When it came time for him to decide if he wanted to re-sign in Toronto or test free-agency, he didn’t even meet with another team. He did what no other star before him did. He stayed.
“Don’t worry, I got us.”
In the moment they were five short words. In every moment afterwards, every high and low, they defined who he was for Toronto.
The times he stole the show
DeRozan occupies a lot of pages within the Raptors record book.
He’s the only Raptor who’s been named to both the second and third All-NBA teams. He was a 10-time Player of the Week and a three-time Player of the Month, both of which are franchise bests. He’s the all-time leader in games played with 675 and minutes played at 22,986 and points scored with 13,402, and the list goes on.
You don’t put together those totals without putting on iconic performances in the process.
Maybe your favourite was when he went coast to coast for a game-winning dunk against the Detroit Pistons that did to Anthony Tolliver what the asteroid did to dinosaurs. Or maybe it was when he hit 10,000 career points in the most DeRozan way possible.
But when it comes to a most memorable total performance, it’s hard to top him ringing in the New Year by dropping a franchise record 52 points against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018.
The time he spent with Kyle Lowry
DeRozan and Lowry spent seven seasons together in Toronto. Through it all, there were no shortage of words to describe what they shared. Of all them, Lowry’s may be the best:
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This is a real friendship , this is a real bother, this is us forreal!!! Words can only explain so much to what this dude means to me so it’s not going even matter what i say because words can’t explain how important our friendship is to me. Thank you for being you at all time no matter what from DAY1( even though you ain’t pass me the ball back when I 1st got to the team jk) but we’ve grown as men, fathers , sons, and everything else in the last 4 years and most importantly we’ve done it TOGETHER!! I could go on and on but I ain’t because you soft and might cry when you read it so imma stop now. I love you bro that’s real talk, no matter what happens ever in life we still gone be brothers!! Happy life day !!!! #youknowyoustillmylilbro #dinneronmebecasueitsyourbirthday #1-3equals4bro #SIKE#ineedthemostexpensivemeal #hadtocropoutcuzbigassheadlol #youstilldontpassmetheballenoughlol #brothers#lovebro#COMP10 #donewiththismushystufflol
The time he charted new territory
On May 1, 2016, led by DeRozan’s 30 points, the Raptors defeated the Indiana Pacers to win their first playoff series in 15 years.
But DeRozan’s Raptors weren’t content with ending streaks, they were chasing franchise-firsts. In the second round they bested the Miami Heat to earn Toronto its first ever Conference Finals appearance, where they would ultimately fall to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
DeRozan’s performance through each of those series was, in a word, uneven. But for the first time in 15 years, Toronto had playoff moments to commiserate over.
The time he became bigger than basketball
Like the time he reassured a city, this one also began with a tweet — although the tone was decidedly different.
Every important conversation needs someone to be the one who says the first words. DeRozan sparked a discussion about mental health in sports that will persist long after his appearances on highlight reels stop trending.