We live in a time where everything is about instant reaction: “likes” and “retweets“. That instant reaction has made its way to the game of basketball. We love the big highlights and that vine that blows up your Twitter feed. I mean we’ve always loved highlights — I’ve always been glued to the TV waiting for the Sportscenter Top 10. but it seems like we thirst for that highlight more than ever now.
Steph Curry has been a big factor in that. This is his league now as he’s bound to give you about four or five major highlights in a game, guaranteed. He has grasped the love from young aspiring basketball players all around the globe. Everywhere you go kids are wearing Under Armour, rocking Curry jerseys, and going out on the basketball court to mimic his every move — similar to what my generation did as kids where we imitated Kobe Bryant, even while shooting a piece of paper in the trash can. And even though I have no problem with that, there’s a guy out there who’s getting work done on a nightly basis that I believe is worth idolizing, and his name is Kawhi Leonard.
I’ve become a big fan of Leonard as he’s begun to make a name for himself in this league. I feel a lot of young kids are cocky and arrogant out on the court, whether they’re the best player on the court or the worst, and personally, that aggravates the hell out of me. A lot of that comes from what they see on TV because the majority of NBA players carry themselves in that same fashion. Kawhi Leonard, however, is the complete opposite. He’s literally the epitome of a guy who lets his game do the talking. Kawhi has a very calm demeanor. He doesn’t say too much unless he’s talking on defense and he doesn’t show much emotion; he just plays!
Kawhi Leonard won Defensive Player of the Year this season to become only the 2nd player in NBA history behind Hakeem Olajuwon to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and win Finals MVP. He is the staple in the San Antonio Spurs defense as he led them to the no. 1 ranked defense in the league, only allowing 92.9 points per game and 96.9 points per 100 possessions. The guy locks up and that’s something that doesn’t get praised anymore. We’re so amazed by offense and shooting threes that we forget about defense and tend to give guys major praise for things that they should do every possession. Leonard takes pride in defense and he goes out on the floor and guards the best offensive player every night while still putting up 21.2 points per game.
Oh yeah, did I forget to talk about how this guy is pretty good on offense too? And might I say, efficient! This season he averaged a career high, 21.2 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting .506 from the field and .443 from behind the arc, which was good for 4th in the league. Kawhi has earned his respect on the offensive side of the ball. Many thought he was just a defensive player and not much of a threat offensively but he has shown he can get buckets in multiple ways. A lot of that has to do with the looks that he gets because he’s in Gregg Popovich’s offensive system, but if you watch the Spurs, you’ll see that Leonard breaks his defender down and goes and gets buckets when necessary.
It’s all good and dandy to be great offensively, but when you can’t play a lick of defense you get exposed, just ask James Harden. Kawhi Leonard is a guy that gets it done on both sides of the ball and I believe that should not be overlooked. Yes, we love offense, we love thundering dunks, and we love bombing threes, but we should also love defense, playing hard, and being humble while doing it. I’m not saying kids can’t show emotion or want to be like the Steph Curry’s and Russell Westbrook’s of the world, but I’m saying don’t rule out Kawhi Leonard either. He’s a great kid just working to be great, and at the end of the day, that’s what every kid should be striving to be.