Kawhi Leonard is an MVP caliber player and a quiet killer who embodies the characteristics of a leader. It is easy to see he has the confidence to carry the ball down the court. With being one of the greatest – if not the best – defender in the game currently, Kawhi Leonard has a remarkable story explaining his motivation to become the fantastic athlete he is today.
Despite Kawhi Leonard being only 25 years old, he has already won Defensive Player of the Year twice, once in 2015 and again Indian. He also won a Finals MVP in 2014 along with a ring.
Growing up in Riverside, California, Kawhi Leonard was a local basketball star who was averaging 22 points a game during his senior year with 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Those numbers were phenomenal for Kings High School, since they went on to a 30-3 record. Playing alongside with Tony Snell from the Chicago Bulls, Kawhi Leonard was considered a 4-star recruit. He listed barely in the top 50 players in the nation in 2009 at number 48. He also made the cut of top 10 Small Forwards at number 8 at the time, showing that he was going to leave an impact wherever he goes.
Kawhi spent 2 years playing college basketball at San Diego State University. In his first year, he almost averaged a double-double with 12.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds. After winning the Mountain West Conference title, they went on to the NCAA Tournament, where they were quickly eliminated by Tennessee in a 3-point game in the first round. That same year, Kawhi became the Mountain West Tournament MVP and the Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
During his second year at San Diego State University, Kawhi did even better where he scored 15.7 points per game (an increase of 3 points) and 10.4 rebounds which made him a double-double machine. The San Diego State Aztecs even finished better at 34-3 compared to 25-9 the season prior. This led the Aztecs to win back to back conference championships. During their second chance with the NCAA Tournament, San Diego State University made a huge impact by cruising their way into the Sweet 16, losing to the eventual national champions the UConn Huskies.
During his time at SDSU, Kawhi Leonard was Consensus second team All-American, NABC All-American Third Team, 2 All Mountain West first team, 2x All Mountain West All-Tournament Team, All Mountain West Defensive Team, Mountain West Tournament MVP, and Freshman of the Year.
When Kawhi entered the 2011 NBA Draft, he was predicted to go first round in the top 10 picks. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson, Bismack Biyambo, Brandon Knight, and Kemba Walker are all key players currently who went above him in the draft. The Indiana Pacers picked Kawhi Leonard but at the end of the night he was traded to San Antonio Spurs, along with the rights to Erazem Lorbek and Davis Bertains.
Often times, Greg Popvich called Kawhi a sponge. He is very coachable and learns everything he can. He was noted for coming in early and staying late. His work ethic made it clear that he wanted to be the best.
During his first season, Richard Jefferson was traded, becoming a starting player immediately. He ended at 4th place on the Rookie of the Year voting and on a special up and comers team to help train the 2012 USA Olympics team with the likes of Kobe, Lebron, and Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul.
During the 2012-2013 season, Kawhi Leonard was growing with the Spurs. The Spurs went to the finals against the Miami Heat. Although they were almost about to win in Game 6, they sadly lost in Game 7. This lead Kawhi to average 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The next season however Kawhi came out stronger. With a season high game of 26 points he finished the season with 13 points and 6 rebounds with 2 assists and 2 steals. He was a great rounded player. With 52% shooting the San Antonio Spurs went on to be the top seed when ending the season 62-20.
During the finals with the Miami Heat Kawhi had a career high game of 29 points. Averaging 17.8 points on 61% shooting he became Finals MVP when the Spurs won 4-1. He became the 3rd youngest player (at the age of 22) to win this honor following Magic Johnson who won it twice when 20 and 22.
That moment was when the world found out who Kawhi was. Although NBA fans knew of him, the casual fans took a notice of him and his lockdown defense against Lebron.
The 2014-2015 season was one about defense. Going in and out of injuries he still ended the season a career high of 7 steals against the Golden State Warriors. When winning Defensive Player of the year, he was the only player, along with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, to win NBA Defensive Player and Finals MVP.
During the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, Kawhi signed a 5 year 90-million-dollar contract. The 2015-2016 season was nothing less than amazing. He finished runner up during the MVP voting after Steph Curry and won Defensive Player of the Year again. He was the first player to win back to back who was not a center.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the quietest and most humble players in the game. His rise to Stardom was never one that was predicted, but one that was earned by hard work and dedication. Kawhi Leonard noted for driving the same car from High School and using coupons for wings shows that a star should never forget their roots.