While he might not have the pop culture standing of LeBron James and Steph Curry, it’s impossible to argue with Kawhi Leonard’s talent. During his nine years in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers forward has gone from a defensive stopper into a legitimate star. His resume can stack up against virtually anyone in the association.
So how did Leonard take his game to the next level? According to Patrick Beverley, the Clippers star has an incredibly simple key to success.
Kawhi Leonard’s rise to NBA stardom
During the early stages of his career, Kawhi Leonard had all the physical tools needed for NBA success. In recent years, however, the forward has blossomed into a legitimate NBA star.
Leonard played his college ball at San Diego State and made an immediate impact with the Aztecs. During his freshman season, the forward averaged 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per outing, claiming the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year title. After an even stronger sophomore campaign, Kawhi entered into the 2011 NBA draft.
The Indianapolis Pacers selected Leonard with the 15th overall pick, but promptly traded him to the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich saw potential in the forward’s lockdown defense, tenacious rebounding, and overall length. The head coach proved to be prophetic.
With each passing season, Leonard’s overall game improved. He helped the Spurs win the 2014 NBA championship, taking home Finals MVP honors in the process; he then claimed back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year titles in 2015 and 2016.
While Kawhi has had some injury issues over the years, his offensive game has grown by leaps and bounds. In Toronto, the forward proved of carrying a team to the promised land; these days, Leonard averages more than 26 points per night while still doing the little things that helped him break into the league.
Patrick Beverley shares a simple key to success
When you’re a professional basketball player, there’s no limit to the time and money you can devote to the game. According to Patrick Beverley, though, Kawhi Leonard doesn’t need anything special to improve. The Clippers forward simply relies on the sweat of his brow.
With the NBA shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Beverley wanted to make sure he stayed in shape. He decided to link up with Kawhi Leonard, but ended up getting more than he bargained for.
“The repetition of the same thing,” Beverley explained on J.J. Redick’s podcast. “And I thought I was a guy who worked hard. I know I’m a guy who worked hard. When I left there, working hard was a very different mindset than what I had. … Seeing that man work out, working out with that man was a whole different level. [It] changed my whole life, changed my whole game.”
J.J. Redick also had plenty of praise for Leonard, calling him a machine and noting that he’s “never felt a stronger human being in [his] life.”
Kawhi Leonard can add to his legacy this postseason
Thanks to that relentless work ethic and repetition, Kawhi Leonard has grown into one of the NBA’s biggest talents. While no one is doubts the forward’s skillset anymore, he can add another embellishment to his resume this summer.
During the 2019 offseason, Leonard and Paul George joined the Los Angeles Clippers, hoping to help the franchise steal some of the spotlight away from the Lakers. While there have been some issues along the way—both stars have missed time due to injury and didn’t take the floor together until November—the acquisitions have paid off. When the NBA suspended the season, the Clippers sat in second place in the Western Conference; 538 gives the club a 24% chance of winning the title, only trailing the Lakers.
If Kawhi Leonard is able to win another NBA title with his third franchise, there will be no question about his status as one of the association’s modern greats. Based on Patrick Beverley’s report, it certainly sounds like the forward will be ready for the home stretch of the 2019-20 season.