Kawhi Leonard separated himself in the NBA Finals by blowing up in the last three games of the series to help the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat in five games. For his efforts throughout the series — especially Games 3-5 — Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP.
In addition to validating a lifetime of hard work, what made winning the award so special was the timing; Leonard won his first NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP on Father’s Day, six years after his father was killed.
Leonard’s dad, Mark, was shot and killed outside his car wash in Compton at the age of 43. Kawhi was 16 at the time and played in a high school game for King (Riverside, Calif.) against Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) a day later.
“It is a very special meaning for me,” Leonard said in his postgame press conference when asked about winning Finals MVP on Father’s Day. “Knowing that [my dad] is gone and being able to win a championship on Father’s Day … I’m just happy just winning a championship.”
Whether you believe him or not, Kawhi said that he wasn’t thinking about his father.
“My dad died six years ago, and I really wasn’t thinking about him that much.”
Leonard doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would share his true feelings with the media, so I’m not sure I completely buy that.
Winning on Father’s Day has to be a great feeling for him. And what’s best is that he really earned the championship and Finals MVP. He shot 61.2 percent from the field and 57.9 percent on threes during the Finals, and he averaged 17.8 points, a block and 1.6 steals per game. Most importantly, he played extremely tough defense on LeBron James.
At 22, Kawhi became the youngest Finals MVP since Magic Johnson. He has the look of a future star.