Those who are at all familiar with San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard know that talking is not one of his specialties. A soft-spoken and humble player, Leonard sometimes looks like a misfit in a league full of players whose constant showboating and trash-talking tactics seem second nature.
Still, as the spotlight shined on Leonard during the 2014 NBA Finals, his demeanor remained unchanged. Simply, Leonard quietly goes about his business, letting his play do the talking in even the biggest of moments. Although some may call Leonard’s shy personality his biggest weakness, it may very well be his biggest strength.
In one interview during the 2012-13 NBA season, Gregg Popovich was asked about Leonard’s reserved nature. Immediately, Popovich sarcastically responded, “He’s not too big on talking to me. I think he talked to [Tim Duncan] last week. Other than that, I have not seen him say much.” Even those who are constantly around him, including his head coach, know that it is impossible to get Leonard to speak for an extended period of time.
Some fans may mistake Leonard as complacent. However, he is anything but satisfied. As seen in his development since college, Leonard is always willing to listen, learn and improve his game. Furthermore, Leonard is never seen second-guessing coaches, teammates or even the referees. This maturity has facilitated his leap to NBA stardom, which was unthinkable when he was drafted with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With Leonard’s rise to stardom, one idea remains clear: more NBA players should attempt to mimic Leonard’s approach to basketball, speaking less and listening more.
In the NBA, Leonard’s way of going about his business is both classy and rare, so it is easily observable why he fits so perfectly in the Spurs’ organization. When Duncan retires, Leonard will certainly be prepared to take over as the face of San Antonio’s franchise, not only because of his basketball ability, but because of his ability to lead by example.
Although Leonard is not nearly as polarizing as a trash-talking Kobe Bryant or an in-your-face Michael Jordan, he has made his “brand” of basketball effective in its own way. Although he did not say much during San Antonio’s run at an NBA championship, his 2014 NBA Finals MVP Award did more than enough of the talking.