Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia sounds off on Kawhi’s decision to join Clippers

Donnovan Bennett sits down with Nav Bhatia, the Toronto Raptors' Superfan.

The most famous Toronto Raptors fan not named Drake is pointing a finger in your chest, moving his face close to yours and vigorously explaining how he feels about Kawhi Leonard today.

Nav Bhatia wants you to know it’s not anger that has him all worked up. It’s passion. And the man’s passion knows no off-season.

Bhatia, a Raps season ticket holder since Day One, devoted his spring to following Toronto’s team, a journey that ended with his hugging the Larry OB — and Leonard leaving town.

When you bump into him at Smashfest Thursday night, he says he caught a couple minutes of Leonard’s introductory press conference with the Los Angeles Clippers this week but couldn’t be bothered watching the entire thing.

Nav is a Raptors fan. Kawhi is not a Raptor.

"I thought he would make the right intelligent decision, but he didn’t make that intelligent decision," says Bhatia, making his arguments with courtside vigour.

"He’s gone. I’m the least interested in him now. I’m focused on my people, my team. We’ll give him love before the game, we’ll give him love after the game, but for those 48 minutes, I’m going to be throwing every towel, every jersey I can find for him to miss the free throw — and all the fans are going to join me in making the noise."

It was Bhatia, you might recall, who got to serve as grand marshal of the Raptors’ championship parade. And it was Bhatia who made a public plea for Torontonians to leave Leonard alone during his final days in the city, back when the hope of a return was still in the air.

So, does Bhatia believe the organization should one day honour the Finals MVP by retiring his No. 2 jersey or commissioning a statue of The Shot?

"No! Not at all. No!" Bhatia says, loudly. "[The championship] was not just because of him. It was because of [Fred] VanVleet. It was because of Marc Gasol guarding [Joel] Embiid. It was because of [Kyle] Lowry playing his heart out. It was a lot of people. Not just because of Kawhi.

"People are giving him more credit than they should. He’s part of a team. For me, it’s everybody: Kawhi, [Serge] Ibaka, Lowry was huge, VanVleet was huge in Golden State in Game 6, when he made those three-pointers… and God assisted us. That was the biggest assist I’ve seen in 24 years, in the Philadelphia game."

Wait. You really think God played a role in the Raptors winning the championship?

"Of course. Look at the Philadelphia game. Seventh game, 0.02 left. It would’ve gone to overtime, and the momentum was on the Philadelphia side. The story would’ve been different. Yes, He was a part of it."

Bhatia says he still counts Danny Green, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers, as a good buddy. Ditto Paul George, who joins Leonard in instantly transforming the Clippers into contenders.

As for the team that remains in Toronto to defend the title, Bhatia promises post-Kawhi life won’t be all bad.

"He made a decision. I respect that. We’re OK without him. We’ll still be there. We still have nine core players. You watch [Pascal] Siakam. You watch OG [Anunoby]. We’re going to be good this year," Bhatia says.

"We’ll be in the Eastern Conference’s top four."

And if Bhatia had a say, he wouldn’t hesitate to sign 42-year-old free agent Vince Carter.

"I think he should be coming back," says Bhatia, getting excited. "That’s where the statue should go. Vince Carter! Of course. What he brought to Canada, nobody ever did."

Giddy, the superfan pulls out his cellphone to show you a recent texted invite to a Carter charity event.

"You got Kawhi’s number in there, too?" you ask.

"Kawhi, I deleted," Bhatia smiles, waving his hand dismissively. "He moves on. We move on."

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