Not much was expected of Kawhi Leonard when he entered the league seven seasons ago. He showed flashes as a rookie and sophomore, but little consistency that would lead you to believe he could be an all-star, let alone become the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
However, after Tim Duncan retired in 2015, it became apparent to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs staff that it was time for Kawhi to step up and take on a larger role. The “Big Three” era ended with Kawhi leading the team in scoring during their final season together. The rest is history…Kawhi ascended to new heights this year, taking the NBA by storm route to winning his first NBA Championship and Finals MVP award.
The player who shut down LeBron
Leonard made a name for himself when he shut down LeBron James during the 2014 NBA finals while collecting defensive player of the series honors. That summer, he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in his foot but, undeterred by this setback, went on to establish himself as an elite two-way player in 2015-2016 with averages of 21 points per game and 2 steals per game.
Kawhi Leonard was not expected to become an NBA champion, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year by many observers when he entered the league seven seasons ago. After Tim Duncan retired in 2015, it became apparent to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs staff that it was time for Kawhi to step up and take on a larger role. The “Big Three” era ended with Kawhi leading the team in scoring during their final season together. However, after experiencing setbacks such as being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in his foot that required surgery, Kawhi ascended to new heights the next two seasons with averages of 21 points per game and 2 steals per game.
Kawhi Leonard was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2011
Immediately following his draft, Leonard has compared to NBA great Tim Duncan because of his quiet demeanor and mid-range game. Although Kawhi did not start for the Spurs in his rookie season, he played well enough to earn a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
In his sophomore season, Kawhi played in all 66 games and started the final 25 as the Spurs reached the Western Conference Finals for a second consecutive season. In 2014, Leonard was named to NBA All-Defensive Second Team and helped San Antonio win its fifth championship by defeating Miami.
During Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Leonard suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for most of the series and required surgery right after. The Spurs still claimed their sixth championship at the end of that season.
Kawhi Leonard won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA Basketball at the 2012 Olympics held in London, England. He also received five first-place votes to become one of three players on this year’s list who finished first in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
He is a two-time NBA champion, Finals MVP, and NBA All-Star.
He is the first non-American-born player to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He has won an Olympic gold medal and FIBA World Cup gold medal with Team USA.
In 2016, he became one of five players to have multiple games with at least 25 points and 5 steals in a playoff series.
Kawhi Leonard’s favorite player growing up was Kobe Bryant because of his drive to win at all costs.
While Kawhi is great at scoring, defense, passing, leadership, and ball-handling; his biggest strength is that he does not care about individual accolades or attention.
He would rather focus on leading his team to glory than grabbing the spotlight for himself.
Kawhi is one of the best players in the league today. He is a fearsome defender who has improved his offensive game since entering the league seven seasons ago. On June 15, 2014, Kawhi won an NBA Championship and Finals MVP award while being named the Defensive Player of the Year.