The Year of Kawhi: How the NBA Supervillain is Breaking the Wheel On and Off the Court
The True King of the North claims his throne with no casualties at the behest of the old and new basketball gods.
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list."-Michelle Obama
In the year 2019 of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, human rights, battles, wars, and tensions are rising higher than ocean waves during Hurricane Katrina where we repeatedly watch the Earth (or at least America) eat itself alive. No one in their right minds would have ever imagined Kawhi Leonard taking the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Finals much less an actual franchise-first NBA Championship. With the myths and memes of his Cyborg-esque qualities taking over sports media, along with his mechanic mindset towards basketball and life, Leonard is the type of player that always closed the deal on the court win or lose. It has been a hard year for the Raptors, especially with the trade of DeMar DeRozan still fresh on the minds of players and journalists alike such as Kyle Lowry and Doris Burke (the true GOAT in terms of fashion and longevity).
Coming off of an extremely uncertain off-season and an injury, Leonard was kicked out of his home by Popovich and the Spurs were forced to watch him leave as his departure signaled the end of a dynamic Spurs era. Only the higher ups could determine whether the team doctors or Leonard’s family were to be untrusted by the general public through rumored feeds via social media. Unfazed by the negative publicity, Kawhi, his team, and his agent were weighing his potential options for the upcoming season. Earlier reports had established that he had wanted to go to the Lakers to play with LeBron while teams such as the Clippers, Nets, and Knicks were more than happy to bend the knee. Instead, the Raptors became the unexpected winners of the 2018 Free Agency.
We will probably never know what actually prompted Kawhi to choose the North as his home, but wondered with the skeptical anticipation of Sansa Stark whether the North would accept him as their own. Although I did not keep up with the NBA season, I would hear whispers of various wild cards like the Bucks and the Rockets winning the hearts of the fans through Twitter. Fast-Forward a few months later and the Playoffs brought out the best out of the unlikely contesters and left the best contenders unguarded similar to the Night King after Maury’s lie detector told him that he is the father. Kawhi’s energy and performance not only allowed the Raptors to keep climbing towards the Promised Land, but survived an intense Finals with the Golden State Warriors thanks to Fred VanVleet’s MVP performance and Pascal Siakam’s titan-esque defense that would leave “Attack on Titan” shook enough to offer him a brief role in the final season.
Not only did Kawhi’s game talk for himself and his NBA persona, but his terse dialogue also became a hot topic in the media. Leonard’s unique-yet-on-brand trash talk during his College years is akin to Jordan’s clogged potty mouth that the game fell in love with years ago. Think-pieces and analyses of phrases such as “Board Man Gets Paid” were treated with more revere than the Bible and Aristotle’s musings of Philosophy themselves. When asked about the phrase during a press conference, Leonard stated “I used to say that back when I was in high school and college, just wanting to get to this league. It’s about working hard, outworking an opponent. Rebounds help you win games, big rebounds, offensive rebounds, limiting the team to one shot. That used to be our motto, some of us in college (who) were trying to get to this point.” These monumental four words not only deserve a Hall of Fame induction for its simplicity and brashness, but also deserve praise for inspiring the next generation of Black Youth. This phrase has personally gotten me through the hellish work experience in summer 2019. It provided me with the reminder to not lose myself to these corporations that dispose of us every day and gave me the confidence to bet on myself while saying “fuck it” to subtle racism and shitty paychecks.
Coincidentally, being born and raised in Los Angeles, Leonard’s spirit provides the same reassurance and security that Nipsey Hussle’s presence will grant us for as long as we keep existing in the physical form. It’s 2019 and we cannot afford to cower or kiss ass to the “powers that be” when we can just wipe the dust off and be more competitive on our Serena Williams. We deserve what’s ours and no one besides yourself has the right to make any decisions or choices for you. “Board Man Gets Paid” embodies the liberation that our ancestors experienced 450 years ago and even now as we fight back against the system. Whether we’re using our platforms to make sure people never forget the Black Lives that were killed by police or trying to provide free game on various career fields or saving money on vacations, this phrase ultimately represents Black Freedom.
If stats, plays, and numbers were not a measuring stick on greatness in the NBA, then Kawhi Leonard would be one of the greatest NBA players to ever exist on God’s Earth. Prior to joining the Raptors, his career has been that of a protagonist where he was used to saving the day. After being released from the Spurs, Leonard took on the official role of the Supervillain. He did not give a fuck about any of the 7 Billion humans here on this Earth besides his family and himself when it came time to prove us wrong in the Finals. Even after he left the North for home with Paul George, Kawhi never let the media define any aspect of him or change his narrative. He made them think that they knew all that they knew from reports and sources, but Leonard kept everyone on their toes each time. You would think the Joker is sane next to Kawhi. Unlike Thanos, he does not want to bring balance to the NBA. Instead, Kawhi exists to spread chaos in the NBA. Chaos makes the league the exciting spectacle it once embodied under the lukewarm rule of David Stern. Think about it: Who exactly in their right minds would sign with and support an extremely racist sneaker/athletic brand to just be different? This is the same guy who is currently being sued by Nike for ownership of his own “Klaw” logo / brand. Jay-Z would be the proud father crying at the games cause he’s fighting for his own brand, which could signify a potential change in the NBA in terms of how players approach independence with becoming attached to corporate brands and their likeness being used to sell tickets for games. LeBron’s decision and Kevin’s choice may have rerouted the wheel in a different direction, but Leonard’s malevolent actions have cause the wheel to start breaking into the splinters that consist of Anthony Davis’s leave to the Lakers, Kyrie’s signing to Roc Nation Sports and linking with Durant in Brooklyn, Russ’s revenge tour with the Rockets, and future generations of young stars like Zion Williamson having the privilege to freely make their own decisions as NBA players. This also could have been the catalyst for veterans such as Buddy Hields, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker negotiating the salary amounts on their contracts for the 2019–2020 season.
We should all be extremely scared of Kawhi Leonard because he gave the players and us fans the one thing that society tries to take away from us: self-prioritization. When you put you and your needs first, nothing else matters. It is a dangerous mindset due to the fact that you could end up being a mindless and emotionless being that wreak havoc on people that don’t deserve it unless necessary (Hello, Batman). In our Social Media age, self-prioritization is preached on Twitter and Instagram every other three hours if not every other day in the week. It is as if we compensate for the entitled attention we don’t receive from our peers and family on a regular basis. We are living a virtual experience while Kawhi is living the Human Experience where he just gains more from being in tune with nature rather than being in tune with other stans or other NBA players attempting to be seen as normal online. This recent Free Agency reinforces the ideology of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl / Hot Boy Summer,” where you are free to make decisions for yourself depending on how you want to define your life.
If we decided to put ourselves first in everything, then we wouldn’t get hurt by situation-ships, our skin would be clear, and we would all be able to enjoy life without having to be harassed about how we live out our individual experiences. As stated by Dreamville’s First Lady Ari Lennox and Baby Rose on the wonderful “Self Love,” “Self Love is the best love.” Once Kawhi put himself first on his own list, all Hell broke loose and players stopped caring about public/agent opinion when it came to signing the dotted line. Now, everyone is happy about the “balance,” but at what cost? We will be finding out soon enough as the NBA Season approaches its debut in the upcoming months. Regardless, Kawhi Leonard will never cease to exist since, like chaos, he is inevitable to keep the Circle of Life turning even when the wheels fall off.