When Kawhi Leonard posted back-to-back dominant performances in the 2014 NBA Finals, everyone around the basketball world began to take notice. His development over the past two seasons has had a major impact on the San Antonio Spurs’ appearance in back-to-back finals.
Head coach Gregg Popovich has commented that Leonard is the future of the franchise and his teammates say he is only at the beginning of tapping into his real potential.
Leonard can now add NBA Finals MVP to his young resume.
The 22-year-old small forward scored a team-high 22 points and ten rebounds, shot three of four three-point attempts and made seven of ten field goals. He came through on the defensive end as well, containing Miami Heat superstar LeBron James for most of the finals. His reward was becoming the youngest player since Tim Duncan to be named Most Valuable Player of the Finals.
“It just feels like a dream to me,” Leonard said. “This is my second finals appearance in my third year. I’ve been just progressing each year and the team has also. Losing in the semi-finals my first year, and losing the championship my second year, and now winning in my third year, it just makes you believe in your craft and your hard work.”
In this postseason, a star has been born before our very eyes. After having poor performances in the first two games, Leonard stepped up his game and led the Spurs in scoring for the third consecutive game on Sunday. He accepted the challenge of guarding one of the best players in the league and made him work for every basket.
Leonard was meant to be a Spur. He doesn’t say much, doesn’t care about attention and that is how he likes it. He follows a path similar to Tim Duncan and lets his game do his talking for him. On Sunday, it spoke loud and clear as the silver and black claimed their fifth NBA title.
With someone like Leonard – who is just 22, will get better and better in the years to come. He has proven that he can handle things himself and that must make Popovich sleep easier at night.
The Spurs made Leonard who he is today, transforming him from a limited player in his rookie year to a do-it-all wing. The possibilities for small forward are endless and his game will only improve as the years go by.
As long as Leonard wears silver and black, the Spurs’ future looks to be very bright.
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