Lakers versus Warriors? Obviously, I choose King James and the Lakers. But as a California-lover and current resident, I was rooting for the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. They are a winning team, blessed with players like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Surrounded by many who love and actually play basketball, both at school and at home, it is no surprise that the NBA Finals are a hot topic of conversation in my life at the moment. I am constantly being asked "Warriors or Raptors?" – to which I say "Warriors." At least, that WAS my answer until now.
The reason for the difficulty in choosing between the two teams is due to a player named Kawhi Leonard—different from any other NBA player I know. He does not have social media, keeps his personal life private, yet has shown the basketball world who he is on the court. He has threatened (and might break) yet another dynasty in his career, the first being the NBA Finals in 2014 when the Spurs, his team then, defeated Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Kawhi Leonard steps on the court and demands everyone's attention. He has a rather calm presence, while also maintaining a laser focus on winning for the team.
Perhaps it is both his manner and his talent that commands the respect. He is not a man of many words, but when he does speak, he is engaging and charming. In an interview, Leonard described himself by saying he is also "a fun guy," followed by an awkward-sounding laugh that ended up going viral. His teammates have also said he has a great sense of humor. When he was looking at colleges, many had a hard time reaching him via phone. But San Diego State never gave up on him and eventually scored a star on their team that would go on to the NBA, due to his determination to get there (ESPN). There are several coaches, former players, current players, and others who say he has never failed to work hard and impress. It has and always will be his goal to keep that image, and he has done a great job of it so far.
Leonard's silent perseverance, excellent work ethic, and focus throughout the years is the reason for his talent and it is starting to pay off. Looking at NBA statistics, Leonard "is only 16 points away from becoming the sixth player in league history to score 700 points in a single postseason" (NBA). This would rank him among stars like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Allen Iverson. Potentially winning two NBA Finals MVP awards in his career (if the Raptors win the finals), he has earned himself a well-deserved spotlight. He does not let it get to him, though, as most of his life off the court, still remains private.
I respect people who earned the glory by working hard. I respect people who are loyal and listen. I respect Kawhi Leonard. He is now a household name as his fame continues to rise, and I hope he remains a leader and an example of an NBA role model.
*** P.S. As I write this article, Game 6 has yet to be played. I still remain a true Warriors fan, but if the Raptors win, the loss would certainly be less upsetting. ;)