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If there was any doubt whether Philadelphia-born-and-raised Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry had committed himself to life in Canada, that probably should have ended this July, when he inked a 3-year, $100 million extension. And as for his adaptation to life as an honorary Canadian, well, his tweet celebrating the life of The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who passed away earlier this week, should have settled that as well. This was one Canadian icon honoring another.
After two and a half seasons in Memphis and three and a half in Houston, Lowry has found a home in Toronto. “I’ve been here six years—well, this’ll be my sixth year—my family loves it, my kids are in school here,” says Lowry. “It’s one of them places I never thought I’d be here this long, but the situation worked out.”
It’s worked out for all parties involved. Lowry’s made three straight All-Star teams, and the Raptors have won 50 games each of the past two seasons, making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016. At 31, Lowry finds himself a veteran leader of a relatively young squad. The competition doesn’t end when the games do, though. Lowry is a video game guy too, and while he doesn’t play quite as much as he used to, he’ll still mix it up with the youngsters (whom, he willingly admits, are on a whole other level.) We talked to him about his history with Call of Duty, a potential Vince Carter return to Toronto, and what it means to be an NBA player from Philly.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What game got you into video games in general?
It was probably Contra—Contra was the game that really got me into video games. You got the cheat—up, down, up, down, left, right, a, b, a, b—all that stuff. Contra was the game that got me going.
Were you an arcade guy or just home?
Just home, going to the arcade, that 25 cents costs a lot after a while. You keep losing men and dying you use your whole dollar that you have for the day in five minutes. I couldn’t afford to keep stacking the quarters up there.
"playing with DeMar, that’s also my best friend, so it makes it a lot easier to play with him—our relationship goes beyond basketball, it goes deeper than basketball, which is why I love him so much, it’s because we can separate basketBall."
Was Call of Duty something you got into right when it came out?
I got into Call of Duty around 2006? My rookie year, we used to play all the time, literally play Call of Duty all the time, because it was like all of the younger guys on the team would get into the communication with the headsets and talking trash.
The newest Call of Duty doesn’t come out until November, are there some of the older ones you go back to.
Mostly the newer ones because it’s more the updated, the visualization, everything that goes into the games is just a little bit different, more high-tech and high-def and all that. But Modern Warfare when it first came out it was like ohhhh yeah, it was the game, it was the one. There was nothin’ that could beat that game, that’s just how I felt at that time.
Do you have teammates now who you regularly play with?
Nah, the young guys play more. I’m the guy that just comes in and randomly, get out there have fun, not worry about who’s on what. When my kids are around I don’t play as much but 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning I slide the game in and play a little.
This NBA summer was just nuts. So many teams reupped or reloaded or blew stuff up, but the Raptors stayed true to your core. What are you looking for out of this season and how do you feel coming out of preseason?
I feel like I gotta give credit due to president Masai Ujuri, he paid us, brought us back here, and we got CJ Miles to come along. I think we’re just continuing to try and get better. We always say take it day by day, but what we’re trying to do this year is prepare our offense for the playoffs, and we’re trying to get used to playing a different style of basketball, I think we’re trying to get used to playing a more free-flowing, everyone touch the ball, everyone have fun, everyone have a place in the offense and an involvement in the offense. That’s what we’re trying to get used to, that’s what getting in the habit of.
I wanted to ask you about playing with DeMar DeRozan, sometimes it seems like he doesn’t get enough credit since he’s not the prototypical 2 shooting threes, he seems like more of an old-school kind of guy.
I think the one thing about DeMar is he’s him. Not sayin’ he can’t change or he can’t do different things, but at the same time he’s been extremely effective at the game at doing what he does, and that’s scoring the ball, putting the ball in the hole, two pointers, three pointers, doesn’t matter what does, he’s still scoring that ball. And at the end of the day you still have to respect the man that’s scoring 28, 29 points a game, you have to respect that. And playing with DeMar, that’s also my best friend, so it makes it a lot easier to play with him—our relationship goes beyond basketball, it goes deeper than basketball, which is why I love him so much, it’s because we can separate basketball and our friendship. It’s pretty cool.
What was your summer like? You signed your deal in July, so it must have been almost relaxing compared to previous summers.
Nah, never relaxing, I’m always working. I’ll be honest with you, I never relax, I always work. I had a chance to take my family to Africa, i got a chance to hang out with them a lot more, but I also got back to work. It’s one of those things when I got a chance to still work and be home and enjoy the family, work as hard as I possibly can—I haven’t really enjoyed the fruits of my labor because I still want to work and get better than what I’ve earned or what I’ve got.
How long do you usually put the ball down after the season ends?
I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I usually try to take a month off, a month and a half of no basketball, maybe two. But I still do my weightlifting, my running, my cardio. I try and just get away from the basketball side of it as much as I can. Yeah I’ll probably go in here and watch, I live near Villanova so I watch those young kids play and mess around a little bit, but I try to let my body heal and rest as much as it can because that’s the biggest thing in this league and this game, your body doesn’t get the chance to recover, so when you get a chance to really recover you gotta take advantage of it.
You grew up in Philly, and there’s been a lot about Dion Waiters lately, getting his new deal. Do you think there’s something about coming out of Philly? What from coming out of Philly helped shape you?
I think just the overall toughness, witnessing what we witnessed, the friends we’ve had, the lifestyle we’ve lived, it’s rough, rugged, everybody gotta get it how they could get it, and we lived it, we lived that way. You grew up with the respect of your elders but you knew at the end of the day you had to go get yours however you can and nothing’s gonna stop you from getting yours and providing for your family.
Because Dion’s like five years younger than you, do you see some of him in yourself?
Yeah, I mean, I think he definitely has been given a little bit of a label, but I think he’s such a good kid—Dion calls me, I’m gonna pick up the phone and answer it, that’s just the respect we have for Philadelphians as NBA players. If he called me I would pick it up, I think he’s done an unbelievable job as a professional, I think he’s done an unbelievable job with the Heat down there, I love him like a little brother because he’s from Philly. If I need to talk to him I’ll talk to him, I text him he’ll text me back, that’s just the mutual respect we have for each other. And him being younger than me I’m always the old head, I’m the OG of this thing.
And speaking of OGs, I wanted to ask you now, there’s that film out now about Vince Carter and his impact on Toronto, do you think he’ll finally be welcomed back the way he should be.
He’s welcome now, whenever he comes back he’s loved, he’s wanted, if he had an opportunity to retire here I would be the first one to say yes, I’m sure me and DeMar would be the first ones to give up our starting spots to see him play another game with the Raptors and get his jersey put up in the rafters.