Man, Kawhi Leonard sure is in the news lately. He's all over PtR, of course, but, in a bizarre twist, he's all over the sports section of your interwebs. Here's proof.
Obviously, Leonard's been deserving of all the praise, even though some of it has come at the expense of teammates like Danny Green and Tiago Splitter who've also been fantastic. In his last 21 games he's averaging 19.6 points-per-game on 55 percent shooting, 43 percent from downtown and 81 percent from the charity stripe, with 6.8 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.8 steals (h/t Paul Garcia).
Leonard has finally, unquestionably, taken over as the Spurs number one option, for better or worse. He's scored over 20 points 12 times since Feb. 28. He'd done that nine times, total, in 230 regular season games before that. And it's not like this scoring splurge has come out of necessity with injured teammates or whatnot. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Green have been healthy the whole time, and Manu Ginobili's missed only a few games. When you factor in that the Spurs have been blowing out so many teams of late and keeping the minutes down for their stars --Leonard became the first guy to record 26 points and 7 steals in fewer than 25 minutes in 30 years against the Warriors-- you really start to get dizzy.
Basically it's Kawhi Leonard's universe right now and we're all just sucking up molecules for a hot minute.
Seriously though, we have to solve this nickname thing once and for all. Some of you old school Pounders may recall that I've coined a nickname or two 'round these parts. I've tried doing it with Leonard with "Cheat Code," or "Big Daddy," and admittedly neither one stuck. In my defense, other professionals have tried and none of theirs have stuck either.
He's said he doesn't like "The Claw," (or if you prefer, "The Klaw") though once Nike made a shoe line out of it he's clammed up about it. The logo is pretty brilliant, and Leonard wears shirts and hoodies showing it off all the time. For what it's worth, this is what is listed as his official nickname on Basketball-reference.com, but that's the same website that lists Parker's nicknames as "Fiery Francophile" and "Parisian Torpedo."
I've convinced more people to call Tony "The Wee Frenchman" or "Frenchy McWonderbutt," than "Parisian Torpedo," and you can fit all the people who read me inside of a Whataburger.
Leonard's teammates usually just call him "Whi" and give a "Big Hand" gesture whenever he does anything exciting. Duncan even does a sneaky, low-key version of it during pregame introductions, if you pay attention.
Shaq came up with "Sugar K" which is the Shaquille O'Neal on the free throw line of nicknames. If you don't think that's stupid, we can't be friends.
So, we need to come up with a better nickname. Here's ten.
1. Mr. Whitastic
A takeoff from "Mr. Fantastic" from The Fantastic Four comics series. Leonard can extend his limbs seemingly forever, so that's the inspiration. Also, since Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are "The Big Three," their supporting cast might as well be "The Fantastic Four."
Leonard is Mr. Fantastic, Green (obviously) is "The Human Torch," the comically shaped Boris Diaw is "The Thing" and Tiago Splitter is "The Invisible Woman," because Tiago is always the girl.
2. The Scorpion
If you've played Mortal Kombat at all, this is a no-brainer.
Hey Monta, GET OVER HEEEEERE.
The sound we make when taking something that doesn't belong to us. This should be a popular choice for younger Pounders out there.
I'd ask Kawhi if he ever says "Yoink" when stealing the ball, but he'd just reply "No, never," and look at me like I'm a moron again.
4. Kawhiet Riot
This isn't mine, obviously, but I love everything about this one. I'm gonna take a wild guess that this song isn't on any Leonard's playlists, but the video is so perfect. His defense literally makes opponents feel like they're playing in a straightjacket and trapped in a tiny padded room. Literally. He drives other coaches crazy. He doesn't say anything but causes a ruckus. If I was Leonard I'd wear the mask to pregame introductions and everything.
5. Judgment Day
It's simple: Leonard was sent back in time from the future to save the world from LeBron James.
Cheesy? Absolutely. But Leonard does seem to have been programmed with a learning computer, as his game continues to evolve geometrically. Also, this movie premiered on July 1, 1991, in Los Angeles. You know who else premiered into existence two days before that, in Los Angeles? Kawhi Leonard. Think about it.
6. The Kawhilander
This has multiple inspirations. For one, Hawaii is a bunch of islands and Leonard says his father came up with his name because "he wanted something that sounded Hawaiian." Second, you always hear the phrase "out on an island" about elite cornerbacks in the NFL who guard top receivers without safety help and who picks off more passes and takes them back to the house than Leonard? Darrelle Revis has nothing on him. Finally, it kind of sounds like The Highlander, and I kind of like the mano-a-mano idea of Leonard vs. LeBron atop the NBA's mountain.
7. The Kingslayer
Another one that's not mine, but if you're a fan of "Game of Thrones," then you probably dig this. Jaime Lannister, one of the main characters of the series, was dubbed "Kingslayer," after he killed a king he had sworn to protect.
(He did it for honorable reasons and saved thousands of lives.)
If you were curious, Leonard has four sisters, though none of them are his twin. And that's about as far as I'm going with that.
8. Kawhiptonite (pronounced Ka-whip-tonite)
I'm sensing a LeBron James theme to most of these.
9. The Taxman
Because no matter what, he always comes to collect, and nobody is ever happy to see him.
10. The Bridge on the River Walk Kwahi
Look man, I don't know. It is late and I am very tired. But at least now you know where that whistle song comes from. Pop probably makes them practice to it.
Maybe the correct answer is that Leonard is so singular, so unique, that he doesn't need a nickname. Maybe he's just Kawhi Leonard.