Age Ain’t Nothin But a #: Kawhi Leonard

They say “youth is wasted on the young,” but countless examples prove experience and* what you do with it can truly conquer every obstacle. We’re profiling some of the young and #winning professionals whose success stories are not only inspiring, but a blueprint for every ‘come up’ and comeback out there.

Young Pro: Kawhi Leonard, 24

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five

Known For, & Crushing: Professional Athlete for the NBA San Antonio Spurs
The Blueprint: Use your pain, EXCUSES, don’t be afraid to change…
#Winning: 2013-2014 NBA Champion, Championship MVP (handed to him by 11x NBA Champion Bill Russell), 2014 & 2015 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, dubbed the “future of the franchise” by coach Gregg Popovich

[Sports Illustrated, Chris Mannix, 2014]

[Sports Illustrated, Chris Mannix, 2014]


At 6’7 230lbs (with an 11&3/4 inch hand measurement?!) this Compton, CA native has came a long way from hustling after school to any open court, being California’s “Mr. Basketball” as a high school senior, an impressive two years at San Diego State, through to his 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Where we might add 12+ teams passed him up, seemingly “because they didn’t think he’d be a good player.”


“Had these teams looked at more than Leonard’s scoring,” critics say the decision would have been obvious as he’s proved one of the most productive and efficient players on the court. He’s continued to evolve through every struggle; including the death of his father who was killed at his car wash business in 2008. He reportedly even played a game through that, and though he won’t talk about it much, has allowed it to shape his resolve and motivation.

-- former college coach Steve Fisher @San Diego State University

[Former college coach Steve Fisher @ San Diego State]

As far as his progression in the league, don’t ignore Kawhi was drafted during the NBA’s lock-out year, meaning he was not able to practice, meet or work with the Spurs coaching staff regularly. Thus, having to execute plays and handle himself on the spot during games—and deliver.

[Kawhi as a starting player alongside Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli of the NBA Spurs]

[Kawhi as a starter alongside Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of the NBA Spurs]

Not letting that be a reason, he focused hours working on his game. He also agreed to completely adjust the style and follow through of his shooting arm, to resemble Kobe Bryant’s–one of the most fundamentally sound in league. This would take a ton of reconditioning, re-envisioning and re-learning himself beyond regular practice and has since proved a huge payoff.

kawhi kobe

“Wanting to change your shot is very personal,” says Engelland. “A lot of players don’t want to do it. Kawhi agreed right away.” — Chip Engelland, Spurs shooting coach

He’s now described as one of the most complete young players in the league, not only in scoring and rebounding but a strong defender against the league’s top stars like Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Though you’ll be pressed to see Kawhi doing a lot of media, he’s definitely at the beginning of a legendary career.


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