Kyle Lowry was relaxed and smiling and joking around and entirely in his element in a short media session at the Nick Nurse Foundation golf tournament.
He was Peak Lowry — “make it a good question,” he joshed at one point. “I’m in a jacket, I want the heat,” he added later in a cool and cloudy portion of the session Wednesday at Wooden Sticks in Uxbridge — and considering the difficult few months he’s had to deal with, it had to feel good to be in his element.
The ex-Raptors guard, still one of the athletes of the last two decades most beloved by a vast majority of Toronto sports fans — has lived through, and is still living through, a tumultuous period in his professional and personal lives that has weighed on his mind since last winter.
Things did not go wonderfully for the 36-year-old in his first season with the Miami Heat, there was a bout with COVID-19, a couple of nagging injuries and an away-from-the-game family situation that ate at him from about February on.
He dealt with it, tried to compartmentalize everything, tried his very best but it was hard.
It was a challenge.
It was difficult.
It was a balancing act few can imagine.
He did his best — his best is the only thing the native of Philadelphia knows — but it was hard. And not overly successful.
“It’s definitely something that kind of derailed my whole season and kept me derailed for a long time,” he said before striking out to join the fundraising day for Nurse’s charitable foundation. “Still to this day, it’s still something I deal with every single day, I actually got a phone call just now about it.
“It’s life, life happens and you just have to continue to get better and focus on the things you can control and try to help as best you can because at the end of the day, I can’t do this or that, all I can do is go to people who can help me and hopefully I can help them and we can kind of work together and collaborate.”
Lowry would rather still not make the specifics of the issue public — “It’s a situation when it’s better, I’ll talk about it more,” he said — but separating real life issues from basketball issues was hard. It’s nice to think that pro athletes can disassociate from life’s realities; in practice that’s practically impossible.
Life bleeds into games, there’s no getting around it.
“It’s very possible (to separate the two) but you have to be strong-minded and you have to be able to say, ‘OK, this is one thing but when I’m able to get out here and I’m able to do this other thing, let me turn it off a little bit,’” he said.
“But it’s very tough because as soon as you’re done the activity or whatever you’re doing to take your mind from the thing, then it’s right back to it.”
It’s not a surprise at all that Lowry found a way to get away to take part in the first major fundraising project of the Nick Nurse Foundation. The Raptors coach unveiled his charity in March 2020, the same night Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. It set in motion a two-year chain of events that decimated pro sports and the charitable endeavours of many players and coaches.
Lowry loves to play golf, he has a long-standing relationship with Nurse and an unequivocal love of Toronto.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Nurse said. “I said ‘Hey, we are having a tournament’ and … he just said ‘I’m coming, I’m in’ and he has not wavered.
“For him to travel in and spend the time and on top of that he has helped us with sponsorships and even connections. He has just been a huge, huge help with it all. It means a lot to me and it’s going to mean a lot for some kids down the road that will see the benefits of some of this stuff.”
And the Lowry-Toronto bond is lifelong.
“Nick’s a friend of mine and we got closer and closer and as the years went on we trusted each other more and more,” Lowry said.
“To keep a relationship with a guy like him, obviously I’m here for a reason, he’s such a great man, he’s helped me in my career tremendously and all I can do is try to give back as much to him as he’s given to me.”
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