Well known as the best small forward in the current NBA, some refer to Kawhi Leonard as the best all-around player in basketball today. Despite braised by NBA greats like Charles Barkley and sponsored by the greatest of all time Michael Jordan, Kawhi is actually better known for being one of the most humble players to ever play pro-basketball.
Ever focused on self-improvement and positivity, Leonard’s humility and hard work have clearly paid off in terms of his skills as a player and teachability as a player. The real reason Kawhi maintains his humble and earnest demeanor though is that he has not forgotten were and what he came from, and when those factors are taken into consideration, it’s no surprise that he is so hardworking and humble at the sametime. Here are 15 facts you may not have known about Kawhi Leonard that explain a lot about why he is destined for greatness.
Baller on a Budget
Probably the most definitive example of Kawhi’s humility is his car. Leonard drove the same silver Chevy Malibu all through college and his freshman NBA career, and it was only the second car he ever owned. He drove this practical sedan even though both he and his family have more than sufficient financial means to afford better. Even when he signed his first NBA contract, he kep on driving his Malibu. However, he did cave to “peer pressure” from friends and family and bought himself a silver Porsche after his second year in the NBA. Humble or not, sometimes it is good to treat yourself.
MLK High School
As a regular kid growing up in LA, Kawhi Leonard attended Martin Luther King High School, and was a graduating member of the class of 2009. In a strange twist of fate, Kawhi actually didn’t play basketball his freshman year because he missed try outs. His mom was out of town and he couldn’t get a ride, so he joined the football team for that year instead and then made the basketball team for his last three years of high school. Senior year, Kawhi earned the title Mr. Basketball California, and lead the MLK High Wolves under coach Tony Snell to a 30 and 3 season.
Not a Fan of Social Media
Eschewing the fame monster that is social media, Kawhi’s mellow and humble nature is evident in all his dealings with the public and everyone he meets. With his larger-than-life presence, he is possibly one of the best known players in the NBA, and he is rapidly gaining a global reputation as a star player. He has a positive effect on everyone around him, including his teammates, though wearing his larger than life presence like a second skin. However, he does not care to put that presence on social media or attract the kind of attention that social media brings to NBA players. If he has something to say, he will say it during interviews and post-game reports for public consumption.
15th Overall Draft Pick
Given his meteoric rise to the top of college basketball, there was not a doubt in anyone’s mind that Kawhi Leonard was going pro. He was initially drafted to the Pacers in 2011, but was immediately traded to the Spurs within minutes of that announcement. Little did those teams who took a pass on him know the bright future that lay in store: out of the 14 players drafted ahead of him, more than 50% of them never saw the playoffs.
NBA All-Rookie Team
Making this team is an honor that is bestowed annually by the NBA for top performing rookies from the regular season (which means it excludes post-season play). Kawhi made the team thanks to his 8 points, 1.3 steals, and 5 rebounds per game average in the regular season. He is the 10th Spurs player ever to earn this award from the NBA.
Growing up the youngest of four siblings and the only boy, Kawhi was naturally very close to his father Mike. The family ran a successful car wash business, and Kawhi worked their lend a hand on a regular basis. Sadly, Kawhi’s father was murdered during a shift at the car wash. As a memorial to his late beloved father, Kawhi has a tattoo on his shoulder that says “R.I.P. Dad”. There is no doubt that if his father is watching from somewhere in the afterlife, he is extremely proud of his son and all that he has accomplished.
NBA All-Defense Team
During the 2013-2014 basketball season, Kawhi Leonard was again honored by the NBA with a spot on ithe All-Defensive Team, winning the award by majority vote. As if that were not impressive enough, Kawhi has been honored with NBA All-Defense awards for more than half of his NBA career seasons.
A Dedicated Player
Becoming a better player is never far from Kawhi Leonard’s mind, and his lifestyle has always reflected that. While attending San Diego State University, Kawhi left the house before 5 a.m. every day to work out and run basketball drills, often alone in the early morning hours. After individual practice and training, he would attend classes for the day and then head to team practice at night,
Upon graduation from MLK High School, Kawhi attended San Diego State University, where he proved an exceptionally good student. As a basketball player, he earned first team all conference, and a consensus All-American for his second year. With his 12 points per game average and other outstanding performance statistics, Kawhi was drafted in his second year of college to the NBA.
Youngest MVP in Decades
Kawhi scored an average of 13 points per game in the regular 2013-2014 season, and went on to score 14 points per game in the postseason. He was also the second highest scoring player in the playoffs, averaging 17.8 points per game. His performance garnered him an NBA Finals MVP award for 2014, making him the youngest NBA player since Magic Johnson to win that honor, and the third youngest in history.
Jordan Brand Sponsored Player and MVP
Along with other up-and-coming NBA players, Kawhi Leonard is sponsored by Michael Jordan’s brand, and currently holds the title as the only player to win the MVP in the finals since Michael Jordan did six separate times in the 1990s.
Lifetime Spurs Player
Despite his initial draft pick to play for the Indiana Pacers, Leonard had stated to give his maximum effort to whatever team he played for, a promise he has kept during his time with the Spurs. He has enjoyed a diverse group of veteran and rookie players to help him develop his game during his time with San Antonio, and he has routinely stated in interviews that he hopes to be a Spur for life. I’m sure the Spurs management team feels the same way.
Honors his Momma
In addition to living humbly with his 1997 Chevy Malibu, Kawhi Leonard also shared a two story him with his mom for the first three years of his NBA career. This seems much less unusual when you consider the fact that Kawhi was drafted in his second year of college and was very young when he began his first NBA pro season.
Kawhi has the distinct accomplishment of appearing in the playoffs for each of his first four years in the NBA, where he has played with both skill and determination. During last season’s playoffs, he even averaged 22.5 points per game!
Third Player in the NBA to Earn the Title of Triple Threat
After winning an NBA All Star title, a Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of The Year in one season, Kawhi Leonard became one of just three players in NBA history to achieve this momentous accomplishment. The only other players to earn the Triple Threat title are Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, both legends of the game in their own right. Kawhi Leonard is clearly going places with his career if he shares such high honors with the likes of Jordan and Olajuwon.