Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 buzzer-beater did more than just save the Raptors — it altered the NBA's future

In the three seconds that time stopped for nearly 20,000 people, you could feel the span of 18 years, when Vince Carter missed the same jumper against the same team in the same situation, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, in almost the same spot, the same way.

When the ball bounced off the front of the rim and the buzzer sounded, Leonard and Embiid stood beside each other, melding into a crowd of onlookers that stared as so many fates hung in the balance: the Sixers, who made two blockbuster trades for the right to show Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris why they should be the ones paying them; Leonard and the Raptors, who will have their free-agency conversation this July; and the teammates and staffers who will feel the ripples of those decisions.

But with a two-point lead and 19.4 seconds left on the clock, he split them, giving Ray Allen and the Miami Heat the opening they needed to tie the game and complete one of the most improbable comebacks in Finals history in overtime.

The Sixers corralled the rebound, and, to make matters worse, Leonard crashed the boards instead of getting back on defense, allowing Jimmy Butler to surge up the floor for a game-tying layup.

This is, after all, the guy who told reporters he was looking forward to returning to San Antonio — where he was inevitably going to be booed every time he touched the ball — because the experience might give him something new to learn.

When Leonard walked up to the podium after hitting the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history, the man who usually gives up the bare minimum offered some rare insight into how the wheels turn behind the mind of the best player in the conference — and maybe the world.

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