Kawhi Leonard capped off his breakout playoff campaign by taking home the Finals MVP award last night. For an unheralded 22-year-old playing on a team with NBA stars like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan, that’s got to be an incredibly surreal feeling.
In winning the award, Leonard became the second youngest player in the history of the NBA to be named a Finals MVP. You might have heard of the only other player to accomplish the feat at a younger age – some guy named Magic Johnson.
Leonard, once viewed as a defensive-minded forward with a limited offensive skill set, was a relatively unknown commodity outside of Texas prior to this year. Sure, NBA fans may have known about his ridiculously huge hands, but that’s about it. Now, after his posterizing dunks, stellar defensive play, and clutch scoring, he’s seen as one of the league’s top young players.
Despite his loud play, Leonard was his typical quiet self after winning the Bill Russell MVP award last night.
“At the moment, I was just happy," Leonard said. "Just had faith throughout the whole game, but I didn't think at all I was about to win the MVP of the Finals.”
When Tim Duncan won his first NBA Finals at age 23, Leonard was just a seven year old kid.
“I don’t think I watched the Finals when I was 7 years old,” Leonard said. “Probably just busy playing kid games, running around.”
You can probably expect to see a lot more scoring out of Leonard in the future. Why? Popovich revealed to the media yesterday that despite Leonard scoring 71 points over the final three games of the series, the Spurs coach didn’t call a single play for him. That’ll change going forward.
"I haven't called a play for him the whole playoff,” Popovich said. “I do not call his number. Everything he did is just out of the motion and out of offense. He's learned it well. In the future, obviously we'll use him a lot more on an individual basis, but it's not really our style and he appreciates that."
Here, courtesy of the NBA, are the top highlights from Leonard's MVP performance: