Kawhi and Kobe

In 2016, if one were to be asked to describe Kawhi Leonard in one word, most people would say: “Defensive”. Kawhi has been described to have the fastest hands in the NBA, the most relentless man-defense, and is praised as a “rhythm destroyer” by many great players, including Kobe Bryant. Leonard has had a prominent career already as he has attained an NBA All-Rookie Team award, a Finals MVP award, two All-Defensive Team mentions, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and one All-NBA Team spot. Though he’s racking up more honors than most players do in their entire career, Kawhi’s offense hasn’t matched up to his defensive prowess. Or has it? If you’ve seen Kawhi Leonard in action recently, you’d think that Michael Jordan’s NBA spirit has found a new host in Leonard. But maybe MJ isn’t the correct comparison…

Kawhi Leonard has recently transformed his game from being not only a defensive beast, but as an offensive threat as well. From the smooth shiftiness to the aggressive driving to the nearly impossible closely contested shots, Kawhi’s game has become the near mirror image of Kobe Bryant; arguably one the greatest players to play the game, Kobe has gifted Kawhi Leonard and the entire Spurs franchise with a little bit of his Mamba Magic. After a meeting between the Spurs and the Lakers last year, Kobe stuck around after the game to have some words with the Spurs’ head coach, Gregg Popovich. Both Pop and Kobe saw the immense potential in the young Kawhi. However, though the Spurs have had phenomenal players walk through their franchise, they haven’t had an elite scorer. Because of this, Popovich asked Kobe to help implement a little bit of himself into the young star.

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Though it is unclear of what Kobe did to help Leonard, it is quite evident that Kawhi has a little bit of mamba mentality in him now. Leonard has been playing at an entirely new level offensively, embarrassing defenders and making some very Kobe-esque decisions along the way. Even Sacramento Kings superstar center Demarcus Cousins said that he saw “flashes of Kobe” in Kawhi’s game. So far this season, Kawhi is averaging a whopping 25 PPG in his 5th year in the NBA, the same as Kobe in his 6th year. With these statistics in mind, could Kawhi match Kobe’s name? Or will “Kawhi” be the new “Kobe”? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure—the fans are going to thoroughly enjoy the impact that Kawhi has for the Spurs for many years to come.

 

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