Everyone in the NBA finds themselves admiring Kawhi Leonard. He is just better, more committed, and more locked in than the average player.
As a basketball writer, the same holds true for Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, who has crafted the best profile on Kawhi Leonard yet written.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole piece.
Here are a few of our favorite snippets.
On Kawhi's commitment to nonflashy simplicity:
A lot has changed for Leonard since that conversation with Popâhe was named Finals MVP in 2014, captured Defensive Player of the Year in '15 and this season seized the unofficial title of best two-way player in the NBAâbut a lot hasn't. Leonard spends his summers in a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego, where he hangs a mini hoop over one door so he can play 21 against Castleberry. He carries a basketball in his backpack even when he isn't going to the gym. He often drives a rehabbed '97 Chevy Tahoe, nicknamed Gas Guzzler, which he drove across Southern California's Inland Empire as a teenager. "It runs," Leonard explains, "and it's paid off."
"It runs, and it's paid off." Words of beauty every car owner in America can appreciate.
On what Popovich expected when he first joined the Spurs:
"You have to be the best defender in the league," Popovich told Leonard. "You have to be Bruce Bowen times 10." Some first-round divas might have bristled, getting compared to an undrafted grinder like Bowen, but not Leonard. "That's how I grew up," he says. "Just play defenseâand make a basket." As a kid he played defense in pickup games. He played defense in AAU games. In other words, he played defense when nobody played defense. He could lock up the point guard, the center and all positions in between, then sneak out of the gym before anyone noticed, an ideal day.
And lastly, on Kawhi's laser focus (via JJ Redick):
The Spurs notice how his marks react to him. They wince when he checks in. They hot-potato the ball. They never post him up and rarely iso. "More than his length, his strength, his quickness, that mother------ is so ... locked ... in," says Clippers guard J.J. Redick. "I have no idea what scouting report they give him, but he knows every play, and he takes no breaks. I'm still going to run my stuff. I'm going to be aggressive. I'm going to work for my shot. But I have to recognize he's probably not going to make any mistakes, and I may only get a shot or two in a quarter. I have to be O.K. with that. I have to be O.K. knowing there will be more space for somebody else."
Thank you Lee Jenkins for writing the Kawhi profile we all needed to read!