The career arc of Kawhi Leonard is fascinating to me. To think of where he is now and how he is regarded in terms of league history all before he hit the age of 30 is pretty nuts given where he started. This is not a player who came into the league and dominated from Day 1 like a lot of other players who have the same sort of resume Kawhi has. People forget that as a 20 year old he averaged 7.9 points a game in 39 starts. Shit, he averaged under 13 a game for the first three years of his career!
But now? You could make the argument he's the best all around player in the NBA at the moment, at the very least top 3. He's turned into a Dynasty killer and a player who can carry a team to a title essentially by himself. He's still quiet, he still doesn't love the spotlight or the attention, but when he steps on the floor the man is a certified beast. Seeing as how it's his birthday I wanted to put that career resume into perspective a little bit for some stoolies out there that might not realize how rare this shit is.
Let's start off with the basics. In this history of the NBA, there have only been 12 players to win multiple Finals MVPs. There was Jordan (6), Magic (3), Shaq (3), Duncan (3), LeBron (3), Willis Reed (2), Kareem (2), Larry Legend (2), Hakeem (2), Kobe (2), Durant (2), and Kawhi (2). Of those players to win multiple Finals MVPs before turning 29, that list trims to 6 players not including Kawhi. So right off the bat Kawhi is one of 7 players in NBA history to win multiple Finals MVPs before turning 29. Not bad.
Then we narrow things down even more. In NBA history there have been 10 players who won multiple DPOY awards. That list is Dikembe (4), Ben Wallace (4), Dwight (3), Sidney Moncrief (2), Mark Eaton (2), Dennis Rodman (2), Hakeem (2), Alonzo Mourning (2), Kawhi (2), Rudy Gobert (2). Of those players to win multiple DPOY before turning 29, that list trims to 4 total not including Kawhi. Of those four, zero have won a Finals MVP let alone two.
So in terms of NBA history there has never been a player who has multiple Finals MVPs and multiple DPOYs before turning 29 years old. At least that I can find. Maybe I'm missing someone but I don't think I am. That's what makes Kawhi so unique because when you have the type of success he's had, that's usually reserved for all time great individual players. I dunno if Kawhi is that level of player. He's only a 4x All Star, and 3x All NBA player. He's not even in the top 250 in career points scored. He's 218th all time in steals. He's not in the top 250 in assists or rebounds. But if he somehow wins a title with the Clippers and is Finals MVP, he'll be the only player in NBA history with three different Finals MVPs for three different teams. He'll have brought the first ever title to two separate franchises. Where does that put him all time despite his individual statistics not coming anywhere close to the all time greats? Top 15? Top 10?
When thinking of Kawhi I keep going back to this quote
That's not bullshit. When it's all said and done I think Kawhi goes down as one of the greatest winners in league history. Especially if he snags a third and maybe fourth ring before its all said and done. He'll go down as one of the best postseason performers of this era. I mean look at this shit
He has the only Game 7 buzzer beater in NBA history which in my opinion is the second best three in playoff history (Ray's three is #1 for me). I just hope this helps paint the picture of what we're seeing when it comes to Kawhi. It's basically never happened before when you combine his accomplishments with his individual production. You would think someone with this type of success would have numbers like LeBron/MJ/Magic etc, but that's what makes Kawhi such a unique player.