Kawhi Leonard added to his already ample list of career accomplishments on February 16, 2020, when he took home the league’s newly renamed Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award. Leonard’s journey from disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star to Toronto Raptor champion to Los Angeles Clippers superstar has been well-documented, but after winning the All-Star award, many are wondering what is next for the NBA’s silent superstar.
The Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP goes to…
The NBA All-Star weekend provided many tributes to the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant, including moving tributes, a scoring and jersey system celebrating their on-court legacies, and countless testimonies from participants across the weekend.
It was a celebration that was both moving and hard to watch, but things got back to where both Kobe and Gianna presumably would have wanted it to go — the basketball court.
The new format, which treated the first three quarters as individual competitions before combining the scores and making it a race to who could score 24 more than the leading team’s score after three, was met with ire upon announcement. Once fans and players got used to the score, however, things got competitive.
Several stars showed up, from LeBron James to Chris Paul, but it was Kawhi Leonard who eventually took home the MVP after leading Team LeBron to the victory. This helped cap off a year that has been dominated by Leonard both as a Raptor and a Clipper, and it very well may continue to do so.
Where will Kawhi Leonard go from here?
With All-Star weekend behind him, anyone who has followed Leonard knows that he is not likely to care about the award he received past the tribute to Kobe Bryant and the brief moment of glory it gave him. Leonard cares about one thing and one thing only, and that is winning a championship. He already has two Championships and Finals MVPs, but that does not mean that Leonard is content with stopping.
The league’s race to the NBA Finals is already in full effect, with the race being more wide open than it has been in many years. Leonard and the Clippers, while often dominant, have let it be known that they are not going to fully step on the gas until it is necessary.
With two of basketball’s biggest superstars and one of the deepest benches in the NBA, their five-game deficit to the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers might not mean much come April, May, or June.
Leonard has forged a career that’s already unlike any other that the league has ever seen. Although it was not long ago that the Clippers were a joke across the NBA, Leonard is looking to do what Lob City could not and bring a banner to Staples Center that doesn’t belong to the Lakers. He will, however, have to defeat some stellar competition to do so.
What’s standing in Kawhi Leonard’s way?
For the first time in NBA history, many believe that the league’s title can go to either of Los Angeles’s teams. The Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis has proven too much for most of the NBA, although Leonard and company have had success in both of their meetings, thus far.
With the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder looking good two-thirds of the way through, the race out west is stunning.
If Leonard can make his way through the Western Conference, however, the Finals might not be any easier. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks entered the All-Star break with only eight losses on the season, and Leonard’s former team, the reigning NBA Champion Raptors have shown that they are still a force to be reckoned without their one-year rental of Leonard.
Leonard is in his prime, already has two rings and Finals MVPs, and now added an All-Star MVP to his trophy case. Where he goes from here is anybody’s guess, but if he has shown us one thing through his first years in the NBA, it’s that he’ll never be content with what has already happened. He’s already looking forward to what’s next.