Kawhi Leonard isn’t much for words, but the San Antonio Spurs has been letting his play do all the talking in the 2014 NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs have galloped out to a 3-1 lead over the Miami Heat in the rematch of last year’s finals, and Leonard has played a huge part of it. In Game 3 he scored a career-high 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and he somehow topped the performance in Game 4. Leonard finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and three steals.
Kawhi Leonard’s performance goes far beyond the stat sheet. His stifling defense has forced LeBron James to work hard for every point, and his rotations have been spot on, helping the team to three blowout wins.
While Kawhi Leonard has overshadowed even established Spurs stars like Tim Duncan, off the court he’s done his best not to stand out. Leonard has a reputation as a quiet player who doesn’t like talking much to the press — much like Duncan.
After practice before Game 4, Leonard was asked what it felt like to set his career mark in scoring during the NBA Finals.
“Gotta move forward to Game 4 and try to get the win,” he replied.
Leonard has come a long way. In 2008, when he was still in high school, Kawhi’s father was murdered at his own car wash. After high school he was highly regarded but not considered among elite players, earning a No. 48 ranking on Rivals.com.
Leonard enjoyed a solid career at San Diego State including leading the team to the Sweet Sixteen, but struggled at times with ball handling and finishing at the rim.
Many saw potential in him however, and Kawhi’s DraftExpress scouting profile in 2010 noted:
“Whatever team drafts him will need to manage their expectations of what he can offer early on offensively, but Leonard’s gym-rat nature and late-blooming status could accelerate his development if he lands in the right environment.”
Kawhi Leonard has exceeded those expectations, and now is seen as a budding NBA superstar. If the San Antonio Spurs can finish out the Miami Heat (and noting is a given after last year’s Game 6 collapse), Leonard might just have an NBA Finals MVP trophy for his efforts.