Orange Fizz


SU Legend Leo Rautins Is Canada’s Mr. Basketball and Living His Best Life

The performance and the attitude were pure Leo. What is it about guys named Leo? DiCaprio, Gorcey, Tolstoy, Durocher – even Uncle Leo from Seinfeld – all carry themselves with a well-established inner confidence.

We all should be dealing with COVID-19 lockdown as smoothly as Syracuse legend Leo Rautins is handling it. 

Stress? Not here. Frustration? Nowhere to be seen. Out of things to do? No, Rautins isn’t the kind of guy who does boring.

Laying poolside, Rautins is dressed in tank top and shorts. He looks lean, tall and tanned and far too well conditioned to be 60 years of age. His level of relaxation suggests that the glass of wine situated on the table next to his lounge chair isn‚Äôt the first one he‚Äôs enjoyed today. 

Rautins is holding a basketball because, of course he is. He’s Leo, after all.

The camera is rolling and Rautins is comfortable in its lens. 

On this particular day, the Twitter video opens with a wide shot. Suddenly, a basketball arcs high in the air from behind the house, grabbing nothing but net and it swishes through the hoop on the other side of the swimming pool.

As the ball is skyward, Rautins strolls out around the corner of the house from the same place where the basketball had just emerged. He struts self-assuredly to the chez lounge that is situated poolside.

Rautins stops in his tracks, feigning surprise to see the camera. ‚ÄúOh hey, what are you doing here?‚Äù he asks. ‚ÄúOh, I know what you‚Äôre doing here. It‚Äôs five o‚Äôclock. So you know what that means? 

“We sit down, we crack open a little cab and it’s time to wine and twine, Cheers.”

This is everyday lockdown life at the Rautins household. A trick shot, a glass of vino and some laid-back Leo. You can have your five o’clock whistle. We‚Äôll take wine and twine every day of the week.

If everyone did the pandemic with the style of Rautins, the coronavirus would’ve retreated and surrendered months ago.

Mr. Basketball Canada is Canadian Cool and that’s truly something, because as any Canadian will tell you, as a rule, they don’t do cool.

It’s just another unique talent that makes Rautins stand out in the crowd.

A Canadian Orangeman

Leo Rautins was named to the Syracuse All-Century team in 2000. Photo by: @LeoRautins (

At Syracuse, Rautins was a many of many skills and a master of all of them. A talented forward who was an effective player all over the court, Rautins began his NCAA with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He finished second in the Big Ten in assists to some guy named Magic Johnson. Rautins was named to the Big Ten All-Rookie team.

Transferring to Syracuse, in 1981, his tip-in of the winning shot in triple overtime against Villanova gave the Orangemen their first Big East Tournament championship. His junior year saw Rautins record a triple-double in the NIT Tournament against St. Peters. He finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in an 84-75 win.

Rautins made Big East history as a senior. His 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists against Georgetown on Jan. 1, 1983 produced the first triple double in Big East history. Rautins would do it again later that season.

He was named to the Syracuse All-Century team in 2000. Follow The Fizz’s SU 100 countdowns to see where he lands.

It Almost Didn’t Happen

As an 11-year-old basketball prodigy, Rautins‚Äô dream nearly went up in smoke. He hurt his back so badly that the pain ran right down his legs and wouldn‚Äôt subside. 

His mother took him from doctor to doctor in search of answers. 

“I actually remember doctors telling my mom she was crazy and she should get some help because you know, with a back you can’t necessarily see or find things,” Rautins told the Toronto Sun. “And times were different back then.”

Finally, following a visit to Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital, the ailment was discovered. Rautins underwent an operation. The post-surgery diagnosis was that he was finished as a basketball player.

‚ÄúThat was done,‚Äù he remembered the doctors telling his family. 

Mr. Canada Basketball

Rautins played for the Canadian national team at the age of 16. He later coached the team for many seasons. In 1983, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward was the second Canadian picked in the first round of the NBA Draft when the Philadelphia 76ers selected Rautins 17th overall. 

He played two NBA seasons and seven more years in Europe but was plagued by knee problems. Rautins underwent 14 knee surgeries.

Today’s generation of Canadian basketball fans know Rautins as the analyst on Toronto Raptors broadcasts. He’s been calling the team’s games since they entered the NBA in 1995. Rautins was on the mic at courtside last season when the Raptors stunned the reigning title holders the Golden State Warriors to win the championship of the NBA in a huge upset, bringing the title to Canada for the first time.

A Canadian NBA title, brought to the masses by Mr. Canada Basketball.

How cool is that?

‚ÄúI don‚Äôt even know how to put that into words,‚Äù Rautins said of all that basketball has given to his life. ‚ÄúIt feels like you cheated. 

“Somehow you had this life that you shouldn’t have had. It’s pretty bizarre.”

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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