Here's the story behind the fake Kawhi Leonard in Toronto
Fake Kawhi Leonard is a 20-year-old Oakville local who was born in Angola. He’s studying computer science at Brock University, works at Tim Hortons and is developing a workout app.
His name is Royce Lando.
For anyone that attended the Raptors championship parade or watched highlights of it online, fake Kawhi made an appearance. Wearing his Raptors jersey, hair braided and gym bag in hand, Lando posed with fans and signed autographs.
Some people actually believed he was the MVP basketball player, despite that Lando is six feet tall and Leonard is half a foot taller.
“They were going crazy. Some people acted like they saw a famous person,” he said.
But, fake Kawhi started before the NBA championship parade.
After Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks, Lando was leaving a bar. “You look like Kawhi!” A group of fans said.
A few seconds later, these strangers picked Lando up and had the street chanting “MVP.”
That night, fake Kawhi was born.
At the time, Lando was on a six-month social media hiatus, but his friends convinced him to launch @leonardlookalike, an Instagram page dedicated to impersonating the all-star player. The week it launched, the page received 2,000 followers and has since grown to over 5,000.
“It wasn’t really linear, we’re just kind of going with the flow,” Lando said.
Fake Kawhi has reaped the benefits of Ka’wine & Dine – the campaign vowing to feed Leonard for life if he re-signs with the Toronto Raptors. Monaghans Grill in Oakville voluntarily reserved a table for Lando and his friends during the NBA Finals and fed him for free.
Fake Thompson decided to send a camera crew to the championship parade to capture Lando impersonating. The video has more than 420,000 views.
Some critics have said Lando is undeservingly receiving MVP treatment.
“I just wake up this way, I don’t do anything,” he said. His hair has been braided for two years and facial hair naturally grows in like Leonard’s. The lookalike appearance is not a costume.
As word spreads that Leonard is tentatively meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Lando has a solution. “My proposal is that I go instead of Kawhi and he stays here.”
If the solution was that simple, Torontonians would be thrilled.
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