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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: The longest tenured Raptor Kyle Lowry cements his legacy with his first championship ring

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(NBA Getty Images)

Ahead of Monday night's Game 5 loss, Kyle Lowry was asked by a kid reporter what it's like to be an icon.

MORE: Kawhi named FInals MVP | Raptors crowned NBA champs | NBA players react to Raptors win

Lowry said he had never been asked that question before and that he holds himself to a super-high standard knowing kids now look up to him.

On Thursday night, Kyle Lowry became a champion and as the clock struck zero in Toronto's 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors he instantly became a legendary figure in Canadian sports lore.

"It's surreal man. I play basketball to provide for these two," Lowry said on the championship podium while pointing to his two sons.

"It's been a long time coming...yeah it's crazy."

Nobody on the roster has spent more time in Toronto than Lowry. Next season, he'll eclipse 500 regular season games played with the team. He leads the franchise in career playoff games played at 73. There's no one that the team rallied around more than Lowry. He's the team's heart and soul - he embodies what it is to be a Toronto Raptor.

Being around one franchise as long as Lowry's been you're bound to face heartbreak. That's sports - for every triumph, there are a million stories of failure. Lowry had become synonymous with Raptor failure.

With Lowry as the leader, the Raptors have only missed the playoffs once - his first year with the team. They've won the Atlantic division five of the seven seasons the 33-year old has been on the roster. Regular season success was a given, playoffs not so much.

The first two playoff runs with Lowry at the helm came off the strength of two promising regular seasons. The first ended in dramatic fashion at the hands of the older more savvy Brooklyn Nets and the second ended in embarrassment after being swept by the Washington Wizards in 2015.

Then there was a bit of light peaking out at the end of the tunnel. Lowry and the Raptors were finally able to break through and not only win one but two postseason series before losing in six games to LeBron James and the championship ready Cleveland Cavaliers. The Conference Finals appearance was a milestone, it was hope, but it also created a narrative that the Raptors weren't far off breaking through to the Finals. All they had to do was figure out a way to beat LeBron.

The ensuing two playoff runs ended in sweeps at the hands of the King and for many in the Raptors fanbase, it felt like this team would never be able to stand on top of the mountain in the Conference - especially with LeBron in the way and even worse with Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as the core.

We all know by now what happened this offseason - when Raptors' President Masai Ujiri decided to make the biggest trade in franchise history. The trade changed the core, but it put Lowry in the spotlight. It was his team and they would only go as far as he was capable of leading them.

"It was part of the growth of our team," Lowry told NBA TV after the win. "We know we've had failures, so at the end of the day, you got to figure out how to be a better basketball player, a better teammate.

"And last year I kind of took a little bit of a back seat. And then this year, listen I wanted to come in and do whatever the team needed me to do.

"Pascal (Siakam)'s growth this year has been unbelievable. Kawhi coming in...I wanted to make sure he knew that he was the man. Like Kawhi you are our guy, you are the guy that's going to be the man.

"For me, being the point guard and being professional and understanding the moments that we're going to be in. I'm going to need everybody we're all going to be in this thing together - we're going to have to fight together so everybody has to be feeling good."

There was a time in Lowry's career where it was questioned whether or not he could be a starting point guard in the NBA. Then it was questioned if he could be a go-to-guy and debated whether or not he should be an All-Star. Now as a champion the question has shifted to his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Lowry has plenty of basketball left to play in his career, so the Hall of Fame question won't be answered anytime soon, but there's no debate about one thing - Kyle Lowry is a national sports legend and no one can take it away from him.

"Six years ago when we got there, we didn't really know where Kyle was," Nick Nurse told NBA TV. "He was just kind of a part-time starter at that point.

"He took a step to become our fulltime guy, our chemistry was really good that first year. Case (Dwayne Casey) did an awesome job of just pounding away at the defence and working at chemistry and we won 48 and got in the playoffs.

"Then he kind of developed into...he got an All-Star bid. I thought he worked on being able to go right a little better the next year.

"The thing he did the best this year - and it was a goal of our entire team - was he played so much more emotionally unflappable. He was just so much more in control of...I don't know he was just more confident.

"For him to play so great in the playoffs - he hasn't had some great playoff series - for him to play so great I couldn't be happier for him."

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