Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry says the last year in the NBA ‘takes the cake’ as the hardest of his career

Kyle Lowry walks on a court.
Kyle Lowry. Nic Antaya/Getty Images
  • Kyle Lowry told Insider that this NBA season was perhaps the toughest of his career.
  • Lowry said the compressed schedule, testing, and protocols were difficult to handle.
  • He said it’s important for players to take care of their mental wellbeing.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Kyle Lowry has seen a lot over his NBA career, but never a year like this one.

Since last July, Lowry, a six-time All-Star, and his Toronto Raptors have played in the NBA’s Disney World bubble, staying on the Disney campus from late July to mid-September to complete the 2019-20 season.

They then took part in the shortest offseason in league history, resuming training camps in early December and tipping off the regular season weeks later.

However, because of the pandemic, Lowry and the Raptors were not able to travel back and forth between the U.S. and Canada, so they spent the 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida. Amid all of this was the strangest, most stringent NBA season ever – replete with health and safety protocols, masks, limited team activities, fan-less arenas, and testing – lots and lots of testing.

“By far one of the toughest seasons,” Lowry told Insider while promoting his investment in Spring Health, a benefits provider focused on comprehensive solutions for employee mental well-being.

Lowry said the daily testing for COVID-19 became the most strenuous part of a season unlike any other.

“It was difficult,” Lowry said. “Just the testing. You had to test every single day, twice a day. And that became the most difficult part, having to test and test and over and test and test again. That was part of it.

“Then our schedule – it was definitely different from what we’ve had before. And I’m fortunate, I’ve been in the league 15 years now, going on 16 years. So I’ve been in the season where we had the All-Star break was only three days, and I’ve been a part of the lockout year where we had back-to-back-to-backs. I’ve been a part of the bubble. I’ve been a part of a lot of things. This one just takes the cake. Just from the simple fact that you had to, honestly, be in your house, be very careful what you did. There’s testing every day. You had to make that drive [to get tested] every day. For us, the Raptors, we didn’t even play at our home city. So it’s just different.”

Lowry similarly said the bubble was “tough,” largely because players weren’t allowed to leave. Though they had activities they could take part in like golfing and fishing, but the routine became monotonous.

“You’re literally just in the bubble … If you’re not playing basketball, what do you do?” Lowry said.

Still, Lowry said players and the league did the best job they could to keep their business afloat during the pandemic.

“It was difficult, but I think we all did a good job of understanding that this is what our business is, right?” Lowry said. “At the end of the day, our job is a business. Our league is a business, and we understood that we had to do what we had to do to continue with our business and try to have our business thrive.”

Lowry encourages players to get help, if they need it

Lowry described himself as a “happy-go-lucky” guy who, despite the challenges of the season, got through it by decompressing and doing little things he enjoys.

“I play a lot of golf. I watch TV, I have my kids, I got my family. I keep everything close,” Lowry said. “But I’m happy. I’m a happy-go-lucky person. I definitely have days where you’re not there … So for me, going outside, being on a golf course, and just hanging out with my kids, you find joy just in the smallest things.”

However, Lowry said that for players who may be struggling with their mental health, it’s important to know that they can ask for – and receive – help. Lowry said teams have mental wellness doctors on staff that are available for players to speak to if they want.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Lowry said. “It’s something that a lot of people deal with, and you have to be able to be willing to open up yourself and be vulnerable. You know, it’s not about, ‘Oh, you’re not tough,’ or you’re not this or you’re not that, but just having that opportunity to speak up and talk to someone is, and being able to say, okay, this is [what’s going on] is definitely something that you have to be okay with.”