When have you seen a post game press conference from Kawhi Leonard?
When have you seen Leonard in the news making a big statement that is run on news clips for weeks?
What is Leonard’s Twitter and Instagram handle name?
These are questions that not many out of San Antonio can answer.
While Westbrook is dropping a triple double every night and LeBron James is being the greatest basketball player in the world, there is a 6’7, 227 pound small forward in San Antonio with hands that could crush a basketball with a single squeeze that is straight up ballin.’
Leonard has the clutch gene, but his quiet assassin nature is easy to overlook.
On March 2nd he hit a game winner over Paul George to lift the Spurs over the Pacers and that started his catapult into MVP consideration.
He didn’t stop there.
On March 6th he saw his team down one point late in the fourth to the Houston Rockets but he saved the day on a game clinching three to put them up top 110-108 and then he made the game saving block on Harden at the rim.
Kawhi Leonard is having a career year, and the Spurs seem to be in great hands to start off the post Duncan era. The 5 year pro is averaging 26 ppg, 5 rpg and 4 apg. Last year he increased his 3 point percentage by 10% and he has improved his scoring each year that he’s been in the league. He has become the Spurs best player and he fits right in with the Greg Popovich system, which seems to be less about the flash and more about the efficiency and success.
The Spurs have a Patriot like aura about them, as they have put together successful seasons year in and year out. Kawhi Leonard is already a NBA Champion and at age 25, he is only not entering his prime. He won’t get the storylines of his peers such as the phenom, LeBron James, the flashy Stephen Curry and the beloved Kevin Durant but when its all said and done, his resume puts him right on par with them. Unlike fellow Small Forward, Kevin Durant, Leonard has actually had success against LeBron James but frequently it is Durant that is mentioned ahead of Leonard.
Leonard likely will not be in the media for any shocking comments, behavior or drama and he won’t be a prima donna in the league but what he will do is go out and play hard on both ends of the floor. When it comes to great “two way” players, you should not look much further than Kawhi Leonard.
The man is not your average NBA Super Star. He’s so different that he continues to rock an outdated cornrow hairstyle that he credits as a tribute to Carmelo Anthony and he still drives a 1997 Chevy Tahoe, because he says that it still “runs and is paid off.”
Today, “The Klaw,” as he is referred to is a 2014 NBA finals MVP and 2015 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner but when Leonard first entered the league he was a little less known talent from San Diego State. His wingspan and defensive toughness was heavily noted but the strides that he’s made offensively may be quite a surprise to many, including Pacers President of Operations, Larry Bird who traded him on draft night for the now gone, George Hill.
Leonard’s growth was a bit accelerated as he shined bright in the 2013 and 2014 NBA finals while tasked with putting the breaks to LeBron James. Faced with a new task this year, he’s now in the driving seat for a Spurs Franchise that’s been accustomed to a Tim Duncan led team for the past 19 years. With Duncan retired and Manu Giniboli and Tony Parker a bit older, he’s answered the call nicely as the Spurs are currently competing for the number one seed in the western conference with the Golden State Warriors.
Playing in the small market of San Antonio under a system like Popovich’s fits him perfectly, as he is able to go in each night and do his job and fly under the radar. He’s so quiet and unnoticeable vocally that he could almost rob a bank and nobody would recognize that it is him.
I found his Twitter and he has four (!!) tweets and only follows six people.
Those six are Jamal Crawford, Impact Sports, (A sports Management company that he is represented by) the San Antonio Spurs official twitter, Wingstop San Antonio, H-E-B, and Jordan.
As of his four tweets, the last tweet he had was in July 7, 2015 which is almost two years ago. His first ever tweet was of him meeting President Obama after his first championship in 2014. It is safe to say that Leonard loves to eat and he is about his business.
Being quiet has it’s faults but Leonard is a focused individual that is refreshing in a time where we care more about our social status than we do our own welfare and productivity.
Some will say that Kawhi does not have the “marketability” or “star appeal” as other athletes but I’d argue that it is his, down to earth, class and regular guy persona that is quite relating and marketable to society. Kawhi is an “old school player” and he showed it when asked about being overlooked.
“That doesn’t matter,” he said. “The average fan probably would have never thought that we would have won in 2014. You don’t worry about the outside. You play off of your expectations and what you believe.”
Leonard’s mentality is one that a lot of athletes these days should have, but instead he stands alone on an island as many of his peers have opted to take more money in losing situations or sacrifice their competitive spirits by joining super teams.
With Kawhi, it is not about the individual accolades because they will come but it is actually about what you expect for yourself and what you can do to help your team win.
In this day and age Leonard won’t be recognized for the player and person that he is but if you ask him that doesn’t even matter. To Kawhi winning, being yourself and being efficient is what is important. Sounds like the makings of a MVP, to me.