The buzzer-beater from Kawhi Leonard against the Philadelphia 76ers, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, was iconic. As Leonard shot the three, the ball bounced off the rim four times, before going in. The 76ers were shellshocked as the Toronto Raptors won 92-90 in the win or go home game. It was the first-ever winning buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history.
However, before taking that shot, Leonard clearly traveled. With 4.2 seconds left, Leonard collected the inbound pass and took 5 steps before dribbling. A lot of people noticed this but the referee didn’t. The referee also missed a moving screen on Pascal Siakam prior to the inbound pass.
This will always be a painful memory of Sixers fans, and even worse for the players. On Thursday, Sixers’ forward Tobias Harris discussed this incident with Ernie Johnson on NBA on TNT.
Kawhi Leonard: The best shot that should have never counted
“Early in the pandemic, JJ Reddick texts me, ‘You know Kawhi traveled’, so then I went on and watched and he definitely did travel when he caught the ball.” Harris laughed it off then but it was definitely tough for him to watch that. “When he got to the baseline and shot this rainbow shot I was like no way. It was just unreal about how the projectory of the basketball bounced. It’s hard to talk about.”
Last month, 76ers veteran Mike Scott also commented on Kawhi’s shot. “I still think Kawhi traveled, but, whatever. Call me a sore loser.”
During that game, Leonard scored 41 points, albeit it came off 39 shots. That final shot was one of the two total three-pointers he made out of the nine he attempted. After this hard-earned victory, the Raptors then went on to face the #1 seed, Milwaukee Bucks, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
They had an initial scare after going down 0-2. But then they fought back to complete the turnaround, as they won 4-2 to advance to the NBA Finals. Continuing to surprise everyone, Leonard and co, won the Finals in 6 games, as Toronto won its first-ever NBA championship.
With the NBA resuming next month, one cannot rule out a potential rematch between Kawhi and the 76ers. However, we won’t be able to see that in the playoffs before the NBA Finals.