As the Raptors settle in for Game 3 tonight, the first ever Eastern Conference Finals game on Canadian soil, Kevin Rashidi caught up with Marie Hollaway, mother of Raps All-Star Kyle Lowry. Here are some of her thoughts on her son's career, growing up in Philly, and the city of Toronto.
Q: Growing up in North Philadelphia, was basketball always what Kyle wanted to get into?
A: Early on Kyle played everything. I bought them footballs, basketballs, baseballs, gloves, all kinds of sport equipment. I'm sort of surprised that he loved basketball so much because we were a family of baseball and softball players. His first organized sport was baseball which he was really good at. Then he tried football, but he fell in love with basketball.
Q: Kyle has said that he credits you for his work ethic and that you've had the biggest influence on his basketball career. Can you explain what he means by that?
A: I worked a lot. I was a single mother and wanted everything and the best for my sons. With the help of my mom, I was able to work a lot of OT and a second job to make sure they had everything they needed and most of what they wanted. I worked overnight and would work 10 hours and go straight to his Saturday morning games. My vacations were Kyle's AAU tournament week. Kyle's older brother Lonnie was the basketball guru. He told me where Kyle needed to be and I made sure he was there, and had everything he needed to be successful. That sometimes meant working ten hours, picking him up, driving an hour, sitting for another two while he practiced, driving another hour back home.
Q: He's had some well documented struggles early on in his NBA career but has put that behind him since coming to Toronto. What do you think was the biggest reason for this?
A: Maturity. Realizing that he had to trust the process. I think [Raptors GM] Masai [Ujiri] was the most honest with him about how to achieve the success he craved and challenged him. And Kyle is one of the most competitive people
you will ever meet. He took that challenge head on. I think the biggest change in him though, came with the birth of his first son Karter. Then getting married. It was like that was when he realized that it wasn't just about him anymore, and that for him to be able to give his son the world, he would have to do some things differently.
Q: Your son is now a two time All-Star, has led the Raptors to historic marks and is currently playing in the Eastern Conference finals. As his mother, what does that mean to you?
A: It means everything! To watch my son be able to live his dream is more than any mother could ask for. To finally see him get the recognition that he deserves, to see all of his hard work pay off, for the world to see what we've always known, is so amazing. I've had to watch him fight at every level, from his first AAU team to him coming to Toronto and finally being given the opportunity to show that he is a starting point guard in this league and that he belongs there.
Q: The ultimate goal for any NBA player is to win a championship but has Kyle mentioned anything else to you that he would like to achieve during his career?
A: I've never really heard him speak of individual goals. He wants to be great, one of the best. Individual accolades are nice, but he's never been one to strive for those individual accomplishes. He wants his team to be one of, if not the best and he's going to do whatever they need him to do to make that happen. I know he pushes his teammates, wants everyone to be good, and what do you get with a lot good? You get great.
Q: You reside in Philadelphia but I'm sure you have been to Toronto on more than one occasion. What do you think of the city and has the perception changed for you?
A: Actually, I live in New Jersey now, I've lived here since Kyle has been in the League. Yes, I've been to Toronto, on several occasions. I like it. I never really had a perception of Toronto except that it is cold. To be honest up until this year's All-Star weekend, which was cold as bejesus, I've always been pleasantly surprised at the weather. The city is very clean, very hospitable, people are pretty nice. But what I love the most is the love the fans have for my son and this team. The fans, Jurassic Park, the fact that follow this team everywhere is phenomenal. I meet fans in every other city we go to and they are the best! They can be a bit finicky though, but thats everywhere. Those finicky ones can never outweigh the love that he gets.
(Answers have been edited for clarity.)