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Kawhi Leonard = MVP

Edward Bass, Staffer

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With his performance last night against the Rockets, Kawhi Leonard established himself as a major candidate for the MVP award. His 39 points were hard earned and were certainly deserved, as he ran the show for the Spurs, coming back multiple times, eventually hitting a three with twenty seconds left and then blocking James Harden layup at the other end of the court. Leonard showed his MVP potential, as Pau Gasol puts it “he doesn’t just score 30 points”… “he is doing it at both ends of the court, which is so very important.” It’s not only Leonard’s performances on the court that should make him MVP, but his character is certainly different than most NBA stars. His humble and quiet nature make him a likable guy and a role model for kids. Even though Lebron James and Steph Curry get most of the attention, Leonard should certainly be in the conversation.

As soon as Kawhi was picked 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2011 NBA Draft, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs, with George Hill and two late round draft picks. As a Spurs fan myself, all my attention was placed on the departing George Hill. I knew nothing about Kawhi Leonard and I was sad to see Hill go. As I learned more about Kawhi, about his background and character, the more I knew he was going to be a fantastic player, because he embodies everything the Spurs are about.

San Diego State describes Leonard as “One of the top players to ever put on a SDSU uniform… A double-double machine… One of the top all-around players to play at San Diego State.” Coming out of college, Leonard would put up historic numbers for SDSU.  He finished his career by making 64 straight starts, and had 40 career double-doubles, which is the second most in school history behind Michael Cage’s 61 and tied Andrew Bogut for the most career double-doubles in Mountain West Conference (MWC) history. He also set the MWC all-time mark for career double-doubles in MWC games (21) and double-doubles in a single season in MWC games (12). In his Freshman and Sophomore years, Leonard ranked in the MWC first in rebounding and first in defensive rebounding. He was the only freshman ever to make the MWC first team all-conference and was one of the only four freshman to lead their team in scoring and rebounding in the whole of NCAA Division 1 basketball. Hands down he was a star at SDSU, but his calm and humble nature kept him under the radar during the NBA Draft.

Fresh off of winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, Leonard signed a $90 million dollar contract in July 2015. However, as the San Diego Tribune puts it, “Kawhi is a rich man, not a changed man.” Leonard does not spend his nights partying, going to clubs, staying out late.”People think we’re going out, having fun, going to parties, going to clubs. It’s not like that. We’re working hard. We go to bed early,” Taylor Cunningham, Leonard’s former high school teammate and part of his off season practice group stated. Any one of us can look up the numbers and see how much Leonard is making. As Mark Ziegler from the San Diego Tribune says, “the kid from Moreno Valley opens his fifth NBA season on Wednesday night with a $94,343,130 contract, but he doesn’t act like he has a $94,343,130 contract.” Even though most NBA stars get caught up in all the glamour, Kawhi stays on his path by just being a regular guy. He doesn’t party, spends countless hours in the gym, doesn’t waste his money on things (as he drives a ‘97 Chevrolet Suburban), and his keeps close ties with his family.

Kawhi is only 24, and has a lot of time to keep developing and becoming a great player. “My motivation wasn’t really to get a $95 million contract, you know? I’m not out here just for the money. I want to be a great player,” Leonard said. His attitude, work rate, and character set him different from the rest and it puts forth an excellent example for players to follow.

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Kawhi Leonard = MVP