Everybody loves Kyle Lowry. And how could they not? The 34-year-old is a kind of basketball magician, a quasi-powerhouse who some consider to be the greatest Toronto Raptor of all time. He is, in a word, remarkable — and he was especially remarkable Wednesday night, when he dazzled with a fiery performance on the court in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics. Thirty-three points. Eight rebounds. Six assists. Two steals. Easy. The crowd went wild.
The internet went pretty wild, too. So many people were saying his name that it became funny to imagine the confusion of any non-basketball fan logging on to find social media had gotten a facelift and become a big party for Kyle Lowry.
“Kyle Lowry is not appreciated as he should be,” tweeted Philadelphia 76ers player Joel Embiid. “Mike Lowry I mean Kyle Lowry,” wrote Miami Heat player Goran Dragić. Magic Johnson admitted how much he loved to watch Lowry play. Stephen A. Smith called him the MVP of the game. Nick Wright said it was “one of the greatest playoff games ever played,” and that, “when folks debate if Kyle Lowry is a Hall of Famer one day,” they should look back on this game as proof. “Unreal stuff from him,” he wrote.
So what exactly makes Lowry so unreal? Why is everybody so obsessed with him? What is it about his legacy that has such a profound impact on the way people think about him? Why should we all try to be more like him? And what the hell is a basketball IQ?
For starters, he seems like an excellent father
In the historic summer of 2019, when the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors and won its first ever NBA championship, Lowry, the longest tenured player, lifted the trophy above his head and beamed. He was coming off a hell of a season (26 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds in that final), and had something sweet to say: “I play basketball to provide for these two,” he announced, gesturing toward his two sons, Karter, 7, and Kameron, 3.
Lowry has often given the world such sweet and intimate family moments, in which he’s shown himself to be a shining example of fatherhood. “How does it feel to be an icon all over Canada to kids?” a 13-year-old CBC Kids News reporter asked him last summer. He seemed astonished.
“I’ll put it this way, man,” he said. “I was once a kid. I was once in your shoes, and to be able to know kids one day will want to be like me — I hold myself to a super-high standard. I want kids, and I want you, to see a man who is really professional, really about his business, but at the same time, he’s still fun and loving it.”
And when a spectator shoved him during Game 3 of the NBA Finals that same month, Lowry kept his composure. It would have been totally understandable if he’d retaliated, but he admitted he had more important priorities than that.
“There were plenty of fans and kids in the world watching this game. And me being a grown man, having kids myself … I’m a grown man, and my kids could always go back and see that,” he said. “Understand that I have two young children and being able to hold myself to a certain standard, which I do, I hold myself to a high, high standard. And I have to make sure that I uphold that.”
Off the court, he tries to give back
In 2013, Lowry and his wife, Ayahna Cornish-Lowry, founded the Lowry Love Foundation—a 501c3 organization that is, according to its website, “committed to improving the lives of the underprivileged and disadvantaged of Philadelphia and Toronto in order to help them attain a better quality of life.”
And since the foundation came into existence, Lowry and his family have made a number of charitable efforts. On Thanksgiving last year, the family visited John Innes Community Centre in Toronto to distribute food to some 200 families, then meandered over to the Cabbagetown Youth Centre to serve a hot Thanksgiving meal and offer groceries to families there. (It was the fourth year the Lowrys and the Lowry Love Foundation had provided that particular service.)
The foundation does school giveaways, too, but Lowry doesn’t care to draw too much attention to his philanthropic endeavours. “The people that need to know [what I’m really like], know,” he has said. “I do [charity] out of the kindness of my heart. It’s about being a human being.”
Watch: Lowry’s relationship with his kids is adorable. Story continues below.
In early 2018, the Raptor made a $1-million donation to his alma mater, Villanova University in Pennsylvania, which marked the largest donation a former student had ever made to the school. The money would go toward upgrades for the school’s athletic facility. “It’s not about the money, it’s about family,” he said. “I’m able to give back to this great university that helped me get to where I am: 31 years old, three-time all-star, wife and kids, married. I know it’s crazy, right?”
And then there’s his “basketball IQ”
Think of the omniscient narrator in a movie or a novel. They can see everything. Nothing seems to escape their line of sight, even if what they see isn’t really visible: thoughts, impulses, desires, next steps.
A version of this exists in basketball, and it’s called “basketball IQ.” To have a high basketball IQ is just to play the game well — to “see the court,” as David Leonard writes in The Undefeated, like you’re Neo in ”The Matrix.” Players with high basketball IQ are able to “outsmart their opponents and use their intelligence to elevate the play of their teammates. They understand a ‘good shot,’ proper defensive positioning, and the ‘fundamentals’ of the game.”
Lowry is widely thought to have an incredibly high basketball IQ. He just knows what to do, instinctively. He’s brilliant. ESPN has called him a “genius.” You can’t actually see him doing his mental inventory, taking note of which opponent is most lethal, calculating risks, determining possibilities, but it’s one of the things that makes him great. He was voted among the NBA’s smartest and toughest players in 2016, and he’s certainly maintained that spirit over the last four years.
“Lowry rarely ever makes highlight plays, he just makes winning plays,” William Lou wrote at The Score in 2016, for a piece titled “3 smartest minds in the NBA.” “Lowry preys on mistakes and forces his opponents to be perfect.”
On the court, he’s unstoppable
Though impressive, Lowry’s performance in Game 6 wasn’t an anomaly. Many Twitter users used memes to illustrate just how reliable Lowry has become. If the team is falling, he will catch them. And it’s been this way for a while. What are his stats like? you might be wondering. Well. In a piece arguing why he’s the greatest Raptor of all time—or, the GROAT, for short—sports writer Vivek Jacob makes a pretty convincing argument.
“Lowry is the franchise leader in assists and steals — only DeRozan and Chris Bosh have scored more points, only DeRozan has played more minutes,” he writes. What else? He has six All-Star appearances under his belt, a record for the Raptors. He leads the franchise in total points. He has a championship ring.
And he’s had some truly legendary moments in basketball history, moments that have become imprinted on the cultural consciousness — like his performance in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, during which he scored the opening 11 points and finished with ten assists, seven rebounds and three steals. He might not be the biggest, most chiselled player on the court, but Lowry often weaves magic out of thin air.
Take, for example, this absurd shot against the Washington Wizards earlier this year:
None of that is to mention his leadership talents. The Raptors just isn’t the same team without Lowry, who has been a mentor to teammates Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, and who is considered to be the team’s heart and soul. “I think it’s clearly Kyle’s team,” coach Nick Nurse told TSN in January. “His care factor is up there, his intelligence factor is way up there. We’re in good hands with him as the leader of this team.”
He’s a great parent, leader, teammate, and just all-around a good guy.
Maybe we should all try to be a little bit more like Kyle Lowry.
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