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After LeBron James left for LA, DeMar DeRozan was confident he’d win his first title

DeMar DeRozan & LeBron James

DeMar shares how he felt after leaving the Raptors

From 2015 to 2018, the Toronto Raptors were one of the head honchos of the East. Thanks to the leadership from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, winning at least 50 games in the regular season was automatic for them. However, come playoff time, the Raptors were stonewalled time and time again by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They met three times in the playoffs from 2015 to 2018; one series went to six games, the other two were decided in four. 

After being eliminated from contention three straight years, it became crystal clear to the Raptors: they can't beat LeBron and crew. Fans coined the term "LeBronto" because the man seemed to know the ins and outs of the team. But then, in a strange turn of events, James headed west for LA. And the Raptors knew that it was their time to shine. 

"Our biggest obstacle was one person. That year, knowing he was leaving, we felt like we got a shot at this thing. Let's give it our all. If it don't work then, alright cool. Maybe it's really time for us to blow up, one of us to leave, whatever. But I really felt like that next year… you know because our team was equipped for it. We was always right there. That next year, I truly believe, like, we would have got it," DeRozan said, Knuckleheads podcast.

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DeRozan was right on in his forecast. In the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Raptors went straight to the Eastern Conference Finals with no LeBron in sight. For the first time in franchise history, they would head to the NBA Finals and win it all.

Unfortunately, DeRozan wasn't there to share the glory. A month after James committed to the Lakers, the Raptors traded DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. It was a bitter separation. DeRozan shared that he wasn't given a leeway before the trade. The transaction just occurred while he was kept in the dark.

That was in the past. DeRozan seems to have fully moved on from missing out on a title ring. Besides, the Chicago Bulls are one of the favorites to be crowned kings of the East this season. If everything goes well, DeRozan may have another shot at the title.

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