No, no one is comparing Kyle Lowry to Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
Except perhaps Lowry himself.
Because what the Miami Heat point guard is attempting to accomplish is among the rarest feats in sports – to go from franchise championship mainstay as a beloved presence in one city, and then reset late in a career with championship visions of doing the same elsewhere.
For Lowry, back with the Heat for Wednesday night’s game at Scotiabank Arena, each of these returns to Toronto rekindles memories not only of his 2019 championship with the Raptors, but also of his nine seasons with the franchise that assuredly will raise his No. 7 to the rafters of what used to be the Air Canada Centre.
“Emotional, as always,” he said of the visit that comes amid a mid-November snowstorm.
The NBA is replete with such late-career changes of leading men who soared to memorable heights while creating an enduring bond with one city, only to play it out elsewhere.
In some cases, the look was practically distressing, such as Patrick Ewing at 38 putting on a Seattle SuperSonics uniform and at 39 an Orlando Magic uniform, after standing for 15 seasons as the face of the New York Knicks.
In some cases, the juxtaposition is jarring, Robert Parish, after three championships with the Boston Celtics at 41 putting on the colors of the Charlotte Hornets and then the Chicago Bulls, where there was another championship.
For Lowry, the move to the Heat came at 35, amid the fanfare of possibly creating a latter-day Big Three a decade after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo that has not materialized in his season-plus with the Heat. Tyler Herro has offered the Heat more during Lowry’s Heat tenure, albeit currently injured and away from the team.
With some, there is the notion of reputations tarnished by such late career moves. Michael Jordan as a Wizard? Hakeem Olajuwon as a Raptor? Karl Malone as a Laker?
To his credit, as shown by his emotions in discussing this latest return to Ontario, Lowry acknowledged that Toronto will be where his basketball heart endures, perhaps fitting considering how South Florida is synonymous with transplants.
“A place I’ve called home for a long, long time, nine years,” he said.
And if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is correct, if Lowry is indeed headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, it will be far more of a celebration north of the border.
From the moment he opted to join friend Jimmy Butler, already the godfather to Butler’s daughter, there was never anything about wanting to get back at the Raptors.
This is not Ewing practically run out of New York by coaching regime change, Jordan at wit’s end with Bulls management, Malone desperately seeking a ring, as if he somehow was failed by the Jazz.
Toronto was moving more toward youth. Lowry was seeking one last payday. So the Raptors worked with Lowry for the sign-and-trade that delivered him to year round golf in South Florida.
If the Heat do take the next step from last season’s finish within one game of the Finals, if Lowry is able to secure that second championship, it will be more as supporting player.
This is not Manning, at 36, going from the Indianapolis Colts to the Denver Broncos and another Super Bowl championship.
This is not Brady, at 43, taking his New England Patriots championship hardware to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and winning another Super Bowl.
What it is is persevering to win the respect of one fan base while cherishing the memories with another.
“A business trip for us,” Lowry said of Wednesday’s game.
But also part of a greater challenge.
To some, it is like Wade Boggs and Roger Clemons going back to Boston in a Yankees uniform after a decade in Red Sox.
Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier back to Edmonton in anything but an Oilers uniform.
Even, gulp, Joe Namath as a Los Angeles Ram, Johnny Unitas as a San Diego Charger, Joe Montana as a Kansas City Chief. (But, fortunately, not Dan Marino as a Minnesota Viking.)
With Lowry it is so much less pronounced. Just another twist of NBA career reshuffling, where Shaquille O’Neal can be iconic with the Magic, Lakers, Heat, where LeBron James is viewed as savior with the Cavaliers, Heat and even Lakers, based on 2020 alone.
To these kindler, gentler fans, it is re-embracing Mats Sundin or, before that, Dave Keon, when they moved on after lengthy Maple Leaf tenures.
To some, with his how-slow-can-you-go body movements, Lowry is a dinosaur.
In Toronto, he assuredly is and will remain so. Raptors once and forever.
Or as he said ahead of this latest embrace, “I don’t even need a passport to get in.”