The basketball world has been hard on Kyle Lowry. He has been called a failure, a disappointment, a loser, and everything in between. Debates had begun to surface around the possibility that he may even be the worst NBA playoff performer of all-time.

But through all these ups and downs, one fact has always stayed true – no one is as hard on Kyle Lowry, as Kyle Lowry.

Just over a year ago, Lowry and his Toronto Raptors suffered a merciless first-round defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards. Rewind another year, when the Brooklyn Nets handed the Raptors another early defeat. – this one in a 7-game series that came down to a last second shot by Kyle Lowry, that was blocked by our old nemesis, Paul Pierce.

This would typically be a career defining moment for most players – it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to be at the center of the NBA stage with the spotlight on you. As a result, most players who are unable to take advantage, never get the opportunity for redemption. Thus, they accept defeat.

However, Kyle Lowry is different.

Why? He has determination and heart that cannot be measured. After consecutive heartbreaking playoff exits, Lowry made a promise that he would never allow himself, the Raptors franchise, or the entire Canadian basketball fan base, to experience that devastating feeling again.

He then proceeded to dedicate his summer to improvement. He reshaped his entire body – became more lean, more agile and more durable. What followed was the best season of his entire career. Per game, he recorded 21.2 points, 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals. He played as an NBA All-Star in front of his home crowd, competed neck and neck with unanimous MVP Stephen Curry, and hit last second clutch shots to defeat LeBron James’ Cavaliers. In the end, he led his team to a 56-win season.

Kyle Lowry was looking for revenge. He wanted to redeem himself as one of the league’s elite. And by the end of the 2015-16 season, most would say he achieved this goals.

But then, when playoffs rolled around, Kyle Lowry disappeared once again. The man who had just finished re-establishing himself as the Raptors franchise player, and one of the league’s best, was nowhere to be found.

He came into the Pacers series ice cold. In game one and two, he was forced to rely on his supporting cast – most notably his back-up point guard, Corey Joseph.

The struggles continued for Lowry all series and even into the second series against Miami. In game 1, many were fooled by his half court heave at the buzzer that pushed his team into overtime – but in reality, Lowry had a bad outing once again. He played 42 minutes, and only recorded 7 points on 3 of 13 shooting and 1 of 6 from the 3-point line, causing his team to suffer defeat on their home court.

He felt utterly defeated.

However, once again, he refused to accept defeat. Later that night, video footage surfaced on Twitter of Kyle Lowry in the Air Canada center at 1 in the morning working on his jump shot. He was all alone: just him, his thoughts, and his desperate search for his absent jump shot. Albeit, Lowry was not only searching for his shot – he was searching for himself.

Lowry tried jumper after jumper by his lonesome, hoping that this was just a cold streak that he could soon overcome. He had no other choice but to keep working. And although it took him a few more nights, his refusal to accept defeat eventually paid off.

In game 3 in Toronto against Miami, Lowry scored 33 points to put the Raptors in the driver’s seat. He then scored 25 and 36 in games 5 and 6. He was finally breaking out of his slump, and so were the Raptors.

Finally, game 7 had arrived. It was a Sunday afternoon, the stage was set and the whole 416 was buzzing. And as soon as the opening tip-off occurred – somehow, the city building knew that the real Kyle Lowry had returned.

He was hitting threes, dropping dimes, getting boards, penetrating the paint, taking charges, getting steals. In 42 minutes of play, he was a plus-31, and finished the game with 35 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.

The rest of the World finally got to see THE Lowry that Raptors fans watched all season.

Now, when you look up “Kyle Lowry Game 7” on Google, you won’t see him on the floor with his hands over his face after being denied at the buzzer by Paul Pierce – you will see highlights of the best game of his career.

The 1 am shooting sessions, the sleepless nights and the exhausting summer workouts all paid off. Kyle Lowry had finally led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals – something that Canada has been chasing fiercely since the Raptors’ inception in 1995.

What an accomplishment.

Now, no one expected the Raptors to make it this far. There was definitely no expectation from them coming into the series against the undefeated Cavaliers playoff team. But, this Raptors team has been doubted all season, and the truth is that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Here we are now looking at a 2-2 series tie, with Kyle Lowry coming off of two unbelievable performances – most recently a 35-point game in game 4 to lead the Raptors to back-to-back home wins.

Much credit must also be given to the rest of the Raptors squad for their unbelievably solid performances – most notably from our other franchise player, Demar Derozan and our “Chairman of the Boards”, Bismack Biyombo. This Raptors squad has proven that they should not only be treated as a competitor, but they should be seen as a threat.

Most people in the basketball World are still doubters, who refuse to believe that the Raptors have any shot at competing for the 2016 NBA Championship Title. However, as Raptors fans, if there is anything we have learned by watching this historic playoff run: it is that with the heart-filled leadership of Kyle Lowry – anything is possible.