My favorite player to watch right now is Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. I have been a basketball fan since the mid 90’s and this is the first time I have bought a player’s jersey. This should illustrate how impressed I am with what I am seeing in him. With so many scandals that happen with players in the NBA I have been burned in the past with selecting a favorite player so I have been incredibly cautious with this decision. I had to make sure it was the right type of player for years before committing to getting his jersey. Here are some of the key lessons to learn from Kawhi Leonard:
Kawhi is a team first kind of guy. If you ever watch interviews with he is incredibly soft spoken and is a man of few words. He is positive but also calls things as he sees them. He doesn’t act boastful, rude or conceited. He doesn’t seem to be interested in flashing the money he has after signing a maximum $94 million deal with the Spurs. Although it has been reported that he owns an expensive car he often drives a Chevy Tahoe that is 19 years old. He says because “it runs and it’s paid off.” He also uses coupons to get chicken wings at one of the local San Antonio businesses that sponsors him. If he runs out of coupons he gets upset so they ensure he is well stocked. There is something incredibly refreshing about that mentality.
Kawhi has been identified as the best two way player in the NBA. When he started with the Spurs they used his defensive skill set to shut down his opponent. He is often assigned to the best player on each team they play against and often absolutely frustrates them. He denies them the basketball and makes it very hard for them to get comfortable scoring. Coaches often preach “good defense leads to good offense” and Kawhi’s skill set definitely lends itself to that.
Insatiable Appetite to Improve
Kawhi Leonard was a sophomore at San Diego State when he was drafted to the Pacers and then traded to the Spurs. Some would say that selecting him 15th overall was a gamble. His coach Greg Popovich said he felt nauseous when they selected him because it was an unorthodox choice. His work ethic and insatiable appetite to improve has really been something to see.
There is an elite group of NBA players that belong to the 50-40-90 Club which means the player for the season shoots 50% from the field, 40% from the 3 point line and 90% from the free throw line. Players that belong to this club include Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Over the last couple of years Kawhi’s offensive mentality has really flourished to a point where he is now closing in on that group. His free throw and 3 point percentages have increased by about 10% each this year alone. When you add that to his defensive presence he possesses it really makes him such an incredibly unique player to watch.
One of the most important things that great players need to do is be consistent day in day out night after night. Kawhi definitely has shown that level of precision in the last couple of seasons. He started out with playing impeccable defense and then continued making his offense presence known in small ways at first then building further as his confidence as well as skill set grew. Now he is at the point in his career where he has earned the trust of his teammates and where the coaches have decided to run the offense through him. In 2014 when the Spurs won the Championship Kawhi was the Finals MVP. I just can’t wait to continue to see the heights he reaches in his career.