Originally Published: June 15, 2014
Kawhi Leonard’s series to remember
We keep wanting Kawhi Leonard to talk. To say more about himself. To explain where that motor that propelled the San Antonio Spurs to their fifth NBA Championship over the Miami Heat on Sunday evening at the AT&T Center comes from.
But as he walked away from the championship podium, the only one in the building surprised he was named the Finals MVP in a landslide vote, he said everything you need to know about who he is and what’s inside him with a hug. A deep, soulful hug with his mother, Kim Robertson.
“I’ve got tears in my eyes, I’m so proud,” Robertson said. “I’m very, very emotional. It’s not about Kawhi winning the MVP or not. I’m just so glad we won.”
Robertson has been a constant presence in San Antonio since Leonard was acquired by the Spurs in a draft day trade in 2011. Close by, keeping watch in case her son needed anything. To talk, to cry, to vent. It’s how she has been since Kawhi told her his father had been murdered as they rode home from one of his high school basketball games.
“Me and my brother were in the car,” Robertson said. “Kawhi was in the back and he just says, ‘My dad is dead.’
“I really didn’t see Kawhi suffer from it. I wanted him to. I would say, ‘Kawhi, you OK? You OK?’ But I think he just kept it in.
“I was kind of scared. You know how young men, they lose their father, who is a big figure in their life. It might turn them to do things bad. But Kawhi’s always been strong. He’s a good kid. He wants to get better and better.”
And he did. Each year better than the next. From high school to college at San Diego State and now to San Antonio where he became the second youngest Finals MVP since they started handing out the award in 1969.
That his finest hour, his crowning moment of glory came on Father’s Day was emotional in ways neither of them have the words to explain yet.
“It’s a very special meaning for me, knowing that he’s gone and I was able to win a championship on Father’s Day,” Leonard said. “But I mean, I’m just happy just winning the championship. Like I told you all, my dad died six years ago, and I really wasn’t thinking about him that much.”
Do not misread that last part. Kawhi and his father, Mark Leonard, were very close. They played basketball together, trained together, hung out all the time. Mark Leonard owned a car wash and would take his son to work all the time. On the night he was murdered, he was at that car wash, trying to get off work in time to watch Kawhi’s game that night. …
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