Although the Silent Superstar forced a trade to the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard is embracing his stardom for a franchise that is begging for success.
The Toronto Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference quickly attaining wins to a record of 20–5. Fresh off of a nail biter loss with the Denver Nuggets, the Raptors seem poised to make a big statement going into the playoffs later on down the road. This is nothing new for the Raptors — they made a big splash in the regular season like last year with a franchise record 59 wins — but this year it just seems as if they have something different. Duh! They have a big whoppin’ superstar known as Kawhi Leonard on their roster! But what exactly does Kawhi bring to the table compared to the likes of other superstars?
Spurs’ legendary coach Gregg Popovich recently commented that although Kawhi’s basketball talent would be missed on the Spurs, “he wasn’t a leader or anything.” Criticism that Popovich nonchalantly exhibited is typically crushing to former players. To soft-spoken Kawhi, it was just “funny” to him. Superstars aren’t typically quiet and reserved. Even the stars like Russ Westbrook, that can at times seem to have a softer demeanor, elevates his personality through his unlikely choice in fashion or brutal post-game interviews. How many nicknames did Shaq give himself during his career? Why do we think that LeBron made a big show of coming to Miami? Superstardom like this usually comes with big personalities because it typically takes those type of personalities to drive players to the most elite playing level.
Kawhi isn’t like these guys.
It’s been said time and time again, the manner in which Kawhi grew to his superstardom. He played collegiately at San Diego State University where his team qualified both his freshman and sophomore years to the NCAA tournament. During his sophomore season, while he led the Aztecs in PPG, RPG, and came in second for APG, the team only advanced to the Sweet Sixteen where they were beaten by the eventual champions, UConn. Kawhi declared for the draft after the season. On draft night, through trades, Kawhi wound up on the Spurs to begin his NBA career.
The Spurs could not have been more fitting for a player like Kawhi. At the time, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu…