Cheering fans are reflected in the sunglasses from Toronto Raptors & # 39; Kawhi Leonard during the team's NBA Basketball Championship parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP)
He was the Fun Guy. The board member who was paid. He overcame the injury and regained his rightful place as one of the best basketball players in the world. He conquered the NBA world for the second time and brought a championship to Canada. And then he joined the Los Angeles Clippers, ready to start over.
"What does it do, baby?"
For Kawhi Leonard, there is finally an answer to his notorious question in 2019: he did everything without talking much.
Leonard is the 2019 The Associated Press male athlete and has conveniently received a voice from AP sports editors and AP beat writers. He is the fifth NBA player to win the award, along with Larry Bird (1986), triple recipient Michael Jordan (1991 to 1993), triple recipient LeBron James (2013, 2016, 2018) and Stephen Curry (2015) , The award has been given annually since 1931, and Simone Biles was announced on Thursday as the recipient of the women for 2019.
Leonard was MVP for the second time in the NBA final and led Toronto to his first championship – five years after he wiped his fingerprints on both trophies with the San Antonio Spurs for the first time. He left the Raptors for the Clippers in the summer, returned to his home country of Southern California and turned the historically depressing franchise into one of the league's top teams.
"The trip was fun," said Leonard earlier this month on his return trip to Toronto, summarizing his year with the Raptors. "I had a great time."
It's no secret now that Leonard is a man with a few words.
He is not a man of few achievements.
In the vote, he received more than twice as many votes as the other 18 voters. Baltimore Raven's quarterback Lamar Jackson came second, followed by Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chief, tennis star Rafael Nadal and reigning Milwaukee Bucks' NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"Kawhi is pretty stable," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, Leonard's former Spurs coach. "He's not a great speaker. He's not trying to find the limelight or anything like that. He's just a good guy who wanted to be good."
Somewhere along the way he got great.
Leonard was the best player in last season's playoffs after going through a regular season in which he missed 22 games, mainly because of the so-called "load management", the fancy term for nights when he rested had to. Leonard missed much of the 2017/18 season with the Spurs due to a complicated leg problem, and the NBA said last month that he still had "an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee".
He sometimes limped in the playoffs, but it didn't matter. In the postseason he scored an average of 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds. His 732 points in last year's playoffs were the third most common of all NBA playoff years. In peak times, he scored the most points – 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead Toronto past Milwaukee in the fifth game of the Eastern Conference finals, and 17 points in the fourth quarter of the fourth game of the NBA Golden State final for the To bring raptors to the top of the title.
And of course he did "The Shot": The jump from the corner with four rebounds against Philadelphia in game 7 of the second round.
"Without a doubt," Raptors coach Nick Nurse considered during the playoff run, "the best thing about it is that I somehow ended up on the sidelines to see this guy up close."
Leonard performed at this high level, even if he was dealing with a big distraction. During the NBA final, it became known that Leonard had filed a federal lawsuit against Nike, alleging that the shoe and clothing giant had prevented him from using a logo that he believed to be his.
"There are a lot of people who say," Look, I'll find a way to win, and in a seven-game series I'll end up getting the best out of you. "Miami's Jimmy Butler, who was with Philadelphia last season and saw exactly what made Leonard tick." But he's definitely up there. Your respect grows. Push, pull, whatever he has to do. … he will find a way. "
During the playoffs, Leonard's quote "I'm a funny guy" that he offered when he arrived in Toronto became a meme and a slogan. This was how his board member was paid. And after the Raptors won the title, Serge Ibaka's video of Leonard went viral – they were in a car on the way to the parade and Ibaka kept him ready for the next unforgettable saying.
"Fun guy, what's up baby?" Asked Ibaka.
The answer was the classic Leonard. In a nutshell.
"I play for fun and to be the best player I can be," said Leonard. "I'm happy with myself and what I've done in my career, and I'll just keep going." It's not about being famous or wanting more fame than these guys. It's about playing basketball and having fun on the floor. "
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