It will be lost forever in the swirling tsunami of terrific basketball that was the 2013 NBA Finals.
Here we are, hours after the Miami Heat hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy over their heads, minutes after LeBron and Wade showered themselves with champagne and pizza on stage with Drake, and as with each passing second more clips of Shane Battier knocking down triples make their way across all 3 of the ESPN’s, and I haven’t heard his name mentioned once.
We’ll remember the series LeBron James had. We’ll remember the series Dwyane Wade had. We’ll even remember how Tim Duncan and Tony Parker performed, and all the outlets are pouncing on Manu Ginobili’s inconsistencies. Years later, when some guy goes off for a bajillion threes, Danny Green’s historic 2013 Finals will come up.
Kawhi Leonard, all of 21 years old, in only his second season in the NBA, had himself one hell of an NBA finals.
But when we talk about Kawhi Leonard’s 2013 NBA Finals, we won’t talk about the positives.
Kawhi Leonard averaged a double double in his first finals, 14.6 PPG and 11.1 RPG to be exact. He managed to have a huge impact on the offensive end despite hounding LeBron James for seven games. Leonard’s season averages are around 11 and 6, and while 7 games is a small sample size, the numbers show that he elevated his game in the finals. He dunked all over Mike Miller. He had 4 steals in game 3 and 2 blocks in game 4. He was a rebounding machine, collecting 14 in game 2. He was the best Spur in game 7 (19 points and 16 rebounds) and scored 16+ in three games this series. May I remind you that Leonard is primarily a defensive specialist? He only averaged 14.1 PPG at SDSU, playing against legendary defensive stalwarts such as Point Loma Nazarene, Occidental, and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Not exactly the Georgetown press or the ’96 Kentucky Wildcats
The point is, Kawhi Leonard turned in a complete performance for San Antonio. A performance that should not only be recognized, but celebrated by Spurs fans as the light at the end of the tunnel for this model of early aught greatness grows brighter.
But whenever his name is mentioned alongside the 2013 NBA Finals, he will be remembered for what he didn’t do. For the free throw he didn’t make. For the championship that he (along with some help from Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan) let slip from his grasp.
The scrolling Sportscenter topic graphic basically looks like this:
LEBRON IS GREAT
AARON HERNANDEZ MIGHT HAVE KILLED SOMEONE
DWYANE IS RESURRECTED, LONG LIVE DWYANE’S ATHLETICISM
DUNCAN MISSED A LAYUP, AND THEN THE TIP!
It seems we are obsessed with the “very good” and “very bad”. In the 2013 NBA Finals, Kawhi Leonard was “good”. Not “bad”. Not merely “okay”. “Good”. “Good” isn’t easy. “Good” doesn’t just happen. “Good” is a result of talent, hard work, and dedication. “Good”, in this case, is greatness with blemish. And while greatness undoubtedly deserves it’s time in the spotlight, I think it’s time we give some ink and some screen time to “good”.
Because for San Antonio, good is only 21 years old. Good will have plenty of opportunities to find the port of greatness. Unfortunately for us, only time will tell if Kawhi Leonard can become something more than this…