San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the entire NBA. He can defend a team's best offensive player with his huge 6'7 frame while shouldering a lot of the Spurs' scoring load by himself. It’s up for debate where Leonard falls in the pecking order of the NBA’s best players, but Michael Jordan has him at the top.
During Jordan's Flight School summer basketball camp, he said Leonard, a Jordan brand client, is “the best two-way player in the game right now” and is “probably the best in the game." One of the kids asked the six-time NBA champion if Leonard could score a basket on himself, a famous question that arose after Leonard's Jordan Brand commercial dropped. Jordan replied, “I don’t know, I assume not.”
However, Jordan isn't the first NBA legend who has high praise for Leonard. Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith called Leonard the second-best player in the NBA in April. And Barkley has previously referred to Leonard as the best "two-way" player.
“Kids you need to watch Kawhi Leonard and learn from him,” O’Neal said. “This guy right here is a bona fide superstar. A lot of people don’t say it, but I’m saying it here right now. Kawhi Leonard is the second-best player in the league.”
Barkley agreed with O'Neal and said this: “LeBron’s the best player in the world, but that kid right there — offense, defense, he does it all.”
Leonard probably knows by now that he's gaining a lot of respect from current and past NBA stars, which he should. He's a two-time All-Star, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, and has taken home the league's Defensive Player of the Year award twice.
When Leonard came out of San Diego State in 2011, he was known for his defensive prowess and athleticism. He needed time to develop into a scorer, and he did exactly that. Leonard averaged 7.9 points in his rookie campaign.
From there, he increased his scoring average every season. Leonard averaged 25.5 points per game last season, good for ninth in the league. He connected on 48 percent of his shots from the field and drained 38 percent of his three-point attempts.
Leonard, 26, is the leader of this Spurs team, but he isn't a boisterous player. He's always calm, cool, and collected on the court. You will rarely see him lash out on officials or players.
After the Spurs defeated the Grizzles in the playoffs last season, head coach Greg Popovich said Leonard is the "best player in the league right now." “He’s the best two-way player and does it all with such class. It’s impressive.”
Leonard has now received praise from legends like Barkley, Smith, O'Neal, Popovich, and now Jordan? Quite a list.