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O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done: A farewell to Kyle Lowry

A thank you letter to the G.R.O.A.T
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ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY
ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY

A jersey saying “LOWRY 7” will hang from the rafters at the Scotiabank Arena one day. That’s not conjecture, but a statement of fact — a fact about the recognition that he has more than earned in his storied nine-year tenure with the Toronto Raptors. 

However, all good things must come to an end. Now, the whole event isn’t quite as morbid as the reference to Whitman’s “O Captain! my Captain!” as the title may suggest, but Toronto will still mourn the loss of all-star point guard Kyle Lowry in the sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat finalized on August 6, 2021. 

With rumours of a trade swirling for a long time, it’s unlikely that this surprised anyone who follows the NBA. Nevertheless, any fan — or any Torontonian, for that matter — would be remiss not to bask in a little nostalgia. So, bask we shall.

Kyle Lowry’s journey in Toronto began with a trade from the Houston Rockets: Houston got Gary Forbes and a protected first-round pick in exchange for a 26-year-old Kyle Lowry. This was a lifetime ago by basketball standards — back when Andrea Bargnani sported number 7 in the Raptors’ frontcourt, and Dwane Casey was entering his second season as head coach. 

That Kyle Lowry was young and hungry. He matured during an era of rapid change in how the game was played and how the rosters were constructed. It wasn’t easy to be traded to a team that was coming off an abysmal 23–43 record in the 2011–2012 campaign. In retrospect, it would’ve been easier to jump ship than to try to breathe life into a team that had achieved a record of over .500 in only one of the past 10 seasons at the time — but that wouldn’t be the Kyle Lowry we’ve come to know and love, now would it?

To an observer, Lowry’s journey as a part of the Raptors was tumultuous at best. The typical highs and lows of an NBA season take a toll on any fan, let alone a player. That isn’t to say things didn’t improve for Lowry. They did, and quickly. 

What was a team that only won 23 of their 66 games in the 2011–2012 season went on to make seven straight playoff appearances from 2013–2020, due in no small part to Kyle Lowry, who led the team in Win Shares for five of those seasons. Within that same stretch, Lowry accumulated six All-Star game appearances. Over his nine seasons with the club, he would play the second-most games and log the second-most minutes played of any player in the Raptors’ franchise history. 

He would also collect the most triple-doubles in franchise history — along with the most three-point field goals, steals, assists, and Win Shares. To top all that off, he helped take home the 2019 NBA championship which was the first championship for the Raptors in franchise history. 

It’s clear from his statistics that, among the heartache and failure that comes with competition, Kyle Lowry found success in Toronto. He found family in a team and organization that believed in him. Yet what truly sets his legacy apart is that he found a home. Lowry adopted this city as a second home, just as it adopted him as one of its native sons. 

The Lowry Love Foundation, which he and his wife established in 2013, helps underprivileged and disadvantaged people both in their adoptive city of Toronto and their hometown of Philadelphia. Preaching equality, the organization promoted basic necessities for everyone, a sense of community, and even holiday cheer. Notably, the foundation was responsible for giving over 200 Thanksgiving meals a year to underserved families in the Greater Toronto Area between 2015 and 2020. “It means the world to me to be able to give back to a place that has given me so much,” said Lowry in an interview with TSN. In short, Kyle Lowry gave back to Toronto both on and off the court.

Now, the significance of Whitman’s “O Captain! my Captain!” is not in its drama but in the uncanny sentiments it conveys. This article, like the poem, is meant to express love and attachment as well as sadness and relief about the departure of a fearless leader: in this case, of a man who put his team above himself all the way to his sign-and-trade, and a man who will likely continue to help underprivileged Torontonians past his time with the franchise. 

Kyle Lowry is the captain who would stop at nothing to steer a ship through a storm. He’s an undersized, gritty, and hard-nosed underdog from North Philly who became the avatar for a gritty, hard-nosed underdog basketball team — and its city.