Basketball fans have grown up on a staple of stories related to the work ethic of the greats in the game. Kawhi Leonard deserves mention there.
It takes incredible amounts of hard work to compete with the very best at something. Entering the world of professional sports requires tons of sacrifices from other parts of a youngster’s life in order to compile a body of work and put in enough time on improving their craft.
Kawhi Leonard has certainly put in Malcolm Gladwell’s figure of 10,000 hours and then some in basketball. The results of his continued hard work at improving his skill level have been apparent with every new season.
Leonard has been in the league for 10 years now. Barring an injury-ravaged 2017-18, he’s returned from every offseason with a new tool, a new wrinkle to his game that wasn’t present in the previous year.
This attitude towards improvement can only come from a deep, burning desire to be the greatest ever. And Kawhi may not broadcast it to the media, but he definitely wants to be in the GOAT conversations. And that’s why he’s been putting the work in to get there at some point.
He was one of college basketball’s biggest phenomenons during his 2 years at SDSU. And he was still putting in WORK while in college. He had to attend classes, negotiate academics and manage the grueling NCAA basketball schedule.
Kawhi Leonard would shoot alone with just a lamp light on
His peers at SDSU describe a situation that perfectly exemplifies how much Kawhi hustled to improve himself. According to his teammate Tom Shelton and coach van Houten:
“This was before they had all these swipe cards. We had just one key that we would share to get into that gym. When you didn’t have the key available, you could put the finger under the door at Peterson Gym, and if you knew how to wiggle it right, you could push the latch up and unlock the door.”
“At first, you could get in and you had access to the lights, you had access to the hoops and everything was good. And then they started cracking down, so we started breaking in, but the lightbox would be locked.”
“So Kawhi had a lamp, and on different occasions, Kawhi would be in there late and the lightbox would be locked, so he’d bring a lamp in there. He’d put his finger under the door and unlatch it and he’d go in there and shoot with just his lamp.”
There is, after all, a reason why the board man gets paid, isn’t there?