Much has already been made about Kawhi Leonard’s ability to stay even-keeled at all times. “Never too high, never too low”, is something that any Raptors fan who has watched this team since October has heard numerous times. There’s something more to Kawhi Leonard than his approach to basketball though; it’s his personality, and his entire demeanour.
Anyone on the team, from Danny, to Kyle, to Pascal would tell you that he’s just a normal human, but the media insists that he’s some other worldly robot, and not just because of his basketball playing ability. From his mannerisms, to his laugh, to his dancing, his computer-esque mind knows the viral world. Kawhi Leonard doesn’t care that he’s made fun of, and for that reason, nor do I, however I’m going to put a new perspective on the table.
Obviously Kawhi is human. Based on what someone who has no personal connection with him can assume, he’s an introvert. Mega celebrities like Kawhi come in all shapes and sizes, but it is rare that we see someone like that with such a private life, and no appreciation for the attention he gets. He’s just a guy who wakes up early, works as hard as anyone in the league, and quite frankly, the world, then comes home and lives his own life. Instead of constantly critiquing his choices because they’re unlike anything we’ve ever seen from an NBA superstar, and probably aren’t the choices we would make if we were in his position, we should put him on a pedestal as a symbol of hope for introverts in the world who think that they need to change who they are to achieve their dreams. Kawhi is a symbol for any quiet, or shy kid out there to chase their dreams, and to beat people to the top by simply outworking them. Instead of portraying him as a robot, portray him as an example of what we should strive to be. It might even help our case come June 30th.
This lens seems to be one that the team around him is seeing through. After the Toronto Raptors enjoyed a fairly comfortable win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, he showed the world that just like him, the Warriors are human. In the post game press conference, Joe Varden from The Athletic asked Kawhi if there was any discussion in the locker room before the game about how the 2 time defending champs are human just like everybody else. Kawhi replied, “No, we don’t have conversations like that. We know that they’re human…”
It’s a fair question since the Warriors have not lost a single playoff series since they were knocked out by a miraculous comeback from LeBron James and company in the 2016 NBA Finals. This doesn’t mean much for any other teams’ hopes, since the king himself is barely seen as a mortal. Kawhi not only talked the talk, bringing the Dubs down to our level, but he walked the walk. For a team that was virtually crowned champions the day they signed Demarcus Cousins in the summer of 2018, Kawhi instilled a winner’s belief in a fan base that knows Murphy’s Law all too well. Kawhi has brought swagger to a team that had absolutely no confidence until he came, and he did it without saying a word.
Role players on the Raptors were not afraid to take shots despite being on the greatest stage they’ve ever played on. Drake was not afraid to chirp Draymond Green and Stephen Curry. Fans were not afraid to heckle opposing players with any chance they got. The city of Toronto feels different this time around, and that’s all because of a fun guy named Kawhi. We no longer see ourselves a children playing against men. As Kawhi says, we’re all just human. The man, the myth, the fun guy, the humanizer.