Before I say anything else, please know that this post is FULL of spoilers for the news “Star Wars” movie, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. In other words, if you haven’t seen this movie and are planning to - DON’T read this article!!!
As much as this Kawhi Leonard injury saga really bums all of us out, here is my attempt to cope with it all in a creative way. I’ve been a die-hard Spurs and “Star Wars” fan all of my life, and being ‘The Last Jedi’ recently came out on digital download, this idea felt timely. Although be forewarned - things are going to get super nerdy here REAL quick.
After re-watching ‘The Last Jedi’ last week, it dawned on me that Kawhi Leonard is essentially Luke Skywalker. Current-day Kawhi/Luke is grizzled, distant, and conflicted about things. In this movie, Luke has evidently cut himself off from “The Force”, just as Kawhi has cut himself off from playing. Although Luke and Kawhi could be the answer to their respective sides problems, both have secluded themselves on their own private islands, refusing to return to action.
With that said, I’ll take a step back in order to show how closely this series also parallels other members of the Spurs.
In terms of the entire “Star Wars” universe, I’m tempted to say Pop is Obi-Wan in this equation (he also kind of looks like him), but instead I think Tim Duncan personifies Obi-Wan better. When the older Duncan first met Kawhi, the San Diego State product was a raw prospect with a lot of potential, but needed a mentor to help teach him how to be a winner - just like Luke needed a master in Obi-Wan. After Obi-Wan is killed (or retired, in Duncan’s case) by Darth Vader (insert any Western Conference rival here, in Duncan’s case OKC since they were the final team to beat him), Kawhi/Luke is left to fend for his own and realize his full potential.
At first, things look promising, with Kawhi/Luke elevating his respective game and ready to take on more responsibility. Kawhi/Luke enhances his training under Gregg Popovich/Yoda. However, instead of completing his training and leading the Spurs/Rebellion to a championship/victory without Duncan/Obi Wan by his side, Kawhi/Luke prematurely tries to rescue his teammates/friends despite not being at 100% (remember, Kawhi was first injured during semi-finals against the Houston Rockets, just as Luke wasn’t done his training yet). Although Kawhi/Luke goes in with good intentions to fight for his side, he ultimately suffers a massive injury from the evil Lord Vader (Kawhi gets undercut by Zaza, and Luke loses his hand).
Unfortunately, I wish the rest of this story could match up with what happens in “Return of the Jedi”, but for right now, the more appropriate story line seems to fit with that of ‘The Last Jedi’.
After the recent report that the Spurs held a “players only” meeting with Kawhi, asking him why he hasn’t come back yet, it’s clear that the entire Spurs’ team is essentially Rey. When Rey first meets Luke, she knows there is something special about her, but she needs the right leader to help show her the way. Just like the Spurs know they could be a powerhouse of a team with Kawhi, but in order for this to happen, they need him to come back and help lead the charge.
The entire Spurs season has been like ‘The Last Jedi’. It closely parallels the chase through space aspect of the film where “The First Order” is trying to catch up with “The Resistance” for a large part of the story. For most of the season, the Spurs/”The Resistance” were able to stay out in front of the rest of the West/”The First Order”. For most of the year, the Spurs held on to the third seed, until they inevitably slipped in the standings. Now, as we enter the final phase of the season, things look relatively dire in terms of the Spurs’ title chances. Just as “The Resistance” looked done for near the end on the planet “Crait” with “The First Order” advancing quickly on them.
The way this film was received is also comparable to this Spurs season. Audiences were very split - some calling ‘The Last Jedi’ an awesome addition to the series (I’m in this camp), while others claimed it was awful and signals the end of a once powerful dynasty. Even though the Spurs have struggled this year, there are some that think this is one of Pop’s best coaching jobs yet. They believe that this season has ultimately been a huge success given what the team has gone through with Kawhi as well as injuries to other key players. While others say this year shows that the end might be near for the Spurs, and that things are really bad right now.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know Luke comes back to save the day, only we find out it’s him projecting a slightly younger version of himself on to the planet - and that he’s really still on his own planet using an advanced form of The Force. Hopefully, for the sake of the Spurs, Kawhi does in fact come before/during the playoffs to help save the day for the Spurs - just with different results than poor Luke who sacrifices his life entirely. We do want that slightly younger version of Kawhi/Luke to come back and lead us to victory, being Kawhi was really at the peak of his powers before he got injured last year.
Right now, at least in terms of this season, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Will the Spurs remain as Rey and eventually pull Kawhi/Luke on our side, ultimately deciding to fight for us? Or will the Silver and Black eventually morph into Kylo Ren, with Force Ghost Kawhi/Luke haunting them for eternity should he decide to move on from the organization soon? It’s really up in the air right now.
For our sake as Spurs fans, we can only hope the outcome is more like ‘Return of the Jedi’ where evil is defeated and Kawhi/Luke is the savior of the galaxy and all is well, and less like ‘The Last Jedi’, where we are all left wondering at the end of this season/movie where we go from here.