This NBA offseason has been ridiculously entertaining based solely on the sheer amount of blockbuster signings that have taken place. In the past, there are usually just one or two significant trades or free-agent signings per offseason. Some of these past signings include Lebron James going back to the Cavaliers in 2014, Kevin Durant going to the Golden State Warriors in 2016, Kyrie Irving going to the Celtics in 2017, and Lebron going to the Lakers in 2018.
However, this offseason has given us nothing but huge free-agent signings and trades. For instance, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving went to the Brooklyn Nets instead of the New York Knicks, suggesting that Brooklyn has overtaken the Knicks as the prominent team in New York. Anthony Davis joined up with Lebron James on the Los Angeles Lakers which could easily put the Lakers back into playoff contention. Kemba Walker replaced Kyrie Irving on the Celtics with Enes Kanter coming in to fill the vacant center spot. D'Angelo Russell joined the Golden State Warriors after Kyrie took his place on the Nets. All of these moves had the NBA community bursting with excitement, frustration, and shock, especially on Twitter. Nobody knew what to expect, especially with one more free-agent left to make a decision: Kawhi "Fun Guy" Leonard.
For anyone who follows the NBA, or has at least seen Kawhi Leonard videos and memes posted on social media, knows that he's a one-of-a-kind NBA superstar. Most NBA superstars aren't afraid to show emotion on the court, talk and joke around with members of the media, or be highly active on their social media accounts. Kawhi actually does the opposite. He doesn't show much emotion on the court (even after a win). He's straightforward in his responses, and I'm not even sure that he knows how to laugh properly. These characteristics have led to people calling Kawhi a robot.
Now, I personally love Kawhi Leonard. I think his laugh is hysterical. I think his straightforward responses are priceless, and I love that his sole focus is on winning. A lot of players claim that their only focus is winning, but Kawhi is someone who visibly cuts out all the distractions in his persona and life to achieve this goal.
Realistically, Kawhi Leonard's decision of where he wants to play basketball is a massive deal for the NBA. I mean, think about the impact he had in the past year alone. He left the Spurs after suffering a season-ending injury to his quad and joined up with the Toronto Raptors. He was in a completely different country, on a team that had never reached the NBA Finals before. Not only did he help them achieve their first NBA Finals appearance, but he helped them win their first NBA championship while securing a Finals MVP for himself.
While the rest of the NBA teams were making noise in this offseason with various signings in the first few days of free agency, we didn't hear anything from Kawhi. He was staying under the radar, and all we knew was that he was meeting with teams such as the Lakers, Raptors, and Clippers. Free agency began on July 1st, and for five days, we didn't hear anything. The media was making their speculations of where he would end up, and most of the media was suggesting that he would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the same way that there is a battle between the Knicks and Nets over who is the prominent team in New York, there was a similar battle brewing between the Clippers and Lakers over who owns Los Angeles basketball. Now, the Lakers are a way more prestigious organization based on the number of championships they've won, and the legends that have played for their team. Due to this Lakers' prestige, I would argue that most of the NBA's fans, including myself, thought he would end up on the Lakers if he didn't re-sign with the Raptors.
However, on July 6th, at 2:00 AM, my phone started buzzing with a notification from ESPN that Kawhi had signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. I couldn't help but laugh. Most people would wait until daytime to announce where they are signing, but Kawhi did it at such an inconvenient time. Not only did Kawhi drop the news when most of America is asleep, but he picked a team where nobody, except Clippers fans, thought he would end up. Most of the country felt the Lakers would be the team he chose if he did decide to play basketball in California, but Kawhi, of course, did the opposite of what everyone expected. I would've paid money to see the look on the faces of Raptors and Lakers fans when they woke up in the morning and saw that he signed with the Clippers.
While some people are confused with the way that he announced his decision, I thought it fit perfectly for who he is. Firstly, he did it around 2 AM, which is conveniently the same number as his jersey. Secondly, by doing it at 2 AM, he showed that he doesn't care what other people think. If he did it during the day, he would be accommodating to everyone else because they would be awake to hear the news. However, he did it at a time where he knew that people would be sleeping. Thirdly, he picked a team that nobody thought he would go to, again, showing that he doesn't care what people think. Lastly, his decision restored balance to the NBA and actually added more teams to the list of NBA teams that he has dismantled.
There's a running joke about how Kawhi destroyed a lot of dynasties such as the Spurs, when he left, the Warriors when he beat them in this year's Finals, and the Miami Heat when he beat them in the 2014 NBA Finals. Based on this decision, he's possibly destroyed the chance for the Raptors to become a dynasty, the Lakers to become a "superteam,"and the Oklahoma City Thunder to be a playoff contender considering they traded Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook is in trade talks to leave. Kawhi Leonard single-handedly shook up the NBA, and he did it without publicly saying a word. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the way he operates.
I can't wait for the 2019 NBA season to start. The NBA landscape is entirely different now, and I would say that it's pretty evenly balanced. Most teams are currently limited to two or three superstars, and hopefully, this will allow for a more fair contention for the NBA title.