Kawhi Leonard is often compared to Michael Jordan for his playing style. This comparison is by no means an accident, as his coaches tell us.
Michael Jordan isn’t just the best player in league history at his peak. He’s also the archetype for the ideal wing superstar in the modern NBA. Every great player to come to the NBA in the 1990s and later has been influenced by the GOAT to some degree.
The reason for this obsession is obvious. Jordan’s approach to the game allowed him to become the NBA’s most fundamentally sound player – a crazy thing to think about, considering that he was also the league’s best athlete.
An entire generation of players – and the generations after that, truth be told – have ‘stolen’ his post moves. And perhaps Kawhi Leonard is the best in the league today at emulating some of Jordan’s mid-range skillset.
Kawhi Leonard would have his phone on his lap, watching Michael Jordan highlights
Kawhi Leonard went to college for 2 years at San Diego State University before declaring for the draft. His coaches have called unequivocally the hardest worker they’ve ever seen in action.
They also detailed his obsession with becoming a player worthy of mention alongside His Airness. A few excerpts from The Athletic’s deep-dive article on The Klaw a few years ago reveal this. Kawhi’s assistant coach at SDSU Dave Velazquez said:
“We’d be done with the game and he’d be on his phone watching Jordan on YouTube. Right away. He wasn’t texting. He was watching Jordan on YouTube. He’d watch it all day, every day.”
“Coach Fisher had a no-cellphone policy at team dinners, but Kawhi would have his phone on his lap watching Jordan highlights. He would really study his moves.”
His teammate LaBradford Franklin added to this tale:
“On his phone, his background was Michael Jordan. He would always say ‘I’m Mike. You like LeBron, you like Kobe? Yeah, they’re cool, but I’m Mike. I want to be the best, the greatest.’ And from how he carried himself, we knew he was serious. We knew that’s what he really wanted.”