Let’s be real. At this point, everyone following the basketball culture and community has their own persona as to who they think Kawhi Leonard is.
Some think he is robotic like at home, following the narrative as to how the media portrays him. Some think, including myself, that Kawhi is a humble yet funny and amusing person, only in individual encounters.
I love Kawhi because I think he embodies how every kid with NBA aspirations can represent themselves professionally and doesn’t need to all embody the personality of say Patrick Beverly or JR Smith.
Kawhi, a product of Martin Luther King High in Riverside, California was relatively unknown in highschool, as most of his throwback highschool highlights weren’t even supposed to be recorded for him – but for another player on his team who scouts were further fascinated with. Let’s move on.
Kawhi would spend the following two years as a starter at San Diego State and establish his calm and relentless defensive persona he would be known for in the NBA. After declaring for the 2011 NBA draft following his sophomore year, Kawhi focused extensively on pre draft workouts and scouts always seemed to knock him for the pettiest reasons, including skinny length.
However, Leonard would go on to silently kill many of his pre draft workouts, impressing scouts that an unknown high school baller from Cali went under everyone’s noses only a few years earlier. Now let’s get to the juice. It was the NBA draft season, and the momentum was building. Mock drafts were being published every day and the hype surrounding a young point guard out of Duke, named Kyrie Irving overshadowed many NBA hopefuls.
The Phoenix Suns, highly intrigued by Kawhi’s length and defensive intensity to get to the ball, brought him in for a one on one interview at the hotel in which the players were to stay at in 2011. Many journalists note that the Suns were wary about Kawhi, they grilled him with questions focusing more on personality rather than play and the interview quickly turned quite awkward. The Phoenix Suns, thinking they were FBI analysts crossed Kawhi off of their shortlist later that night.
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Now, the funny part is that aside from the monster workout Kawhi was displaying pre draft, it wasn’t necessarily because of his play, but because Kawhi was sweating through his suit at the pre draft interview. His palms were soaked and you could tell he was nervous. But who wouldn’t be? The Suns, would later select Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick, further allowing Kawhi to slip to the Pacers at 15, where he was later traded to San Antonio for all star George Hill.
We can only imagine what the league would have shaped up to be had Kawhi developed into the player he is with the Suns. If this had to be a lesson, it’d be that if you are not nervous, they there is a problem, as everyone expecting to earn millions would be nervous to have an individual grilling interview with people wanting to know exactly who you are as an individual, but more importantly, a player.