Kawhi Leonard is basically a sphinx. The San Antonio Spurs forward is a silent, statue-like figure built like a mythological creature who presents a riddle with his defense, and if you can’t answer it, he destroys you. Trying to interview Leonard is like trying to interview a computer program. It’s not just that he refuses to suffer fools, it’s that there’s just nothing there. You ask him a technical question about pick and roll coverage, and he distills it into basically “I just tried to make him work.” You ask him about the emotional experience of wins and losses on the biggest stage of basketball and he’ll reply with “I didn’t really feel anything.”
There’s just nothing there, no water to pull from the earth, no matter how deep you drill.
For all intents and purposes, Kawhi Leonard does not live like a typical NBA player, according to a story published by Sports Illustrated .
Leonard, 24, who has been playing for the San Antonio Spurs since 2011, averages 21 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. He also was named the Finals MVP in 2014, Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and earned the unofficial title of best two-way player in the NBA this season.
But even with his impressive record, the understated Leonard apparently chooses not to let his fame and his $94 million contract go to his head according to SI’s Lee Jenkins. Although the quiet star allegedly owns a Porsche, Leonard’s vehicle of choice is his rehabbed ’97 Chevy Tahoe, which is nicknamed “Gas Guzzler.” Leonard said that he drove the Gas Guzzler across Southern California’s Inland Empire when he was a teenager.
“It runs, and it’s paid off,” Leonard told Jenkins.
As a sponsor of Wingstop, Leonard loves feeding his “Mango Habanero addiction,” Jenkins noted. So when the basketball star panicked after he lost his stash of free wings coupons that the restaurant had sent him last winter, Wingstop gladly replaced the coupons for him.
“You’d think we were talking about a starving journeyman in the D-League,” Randy Shelton, San Diego State’s strength and conditioning coach who trains Leonard every off-season, told Jenkins.
Growing up in California, math was Leonard’s favorite school subject, and he “could lose himself in geometry homework,” according to Jenkins. When Leonard was 7 years old, he informed his pediatrician that his goal was to play in the NBA.
“Do you know how many kids come in this office and say that?” the doctor told him, according to Sports Illustrated.
But Leonard was determined to become a professional in the game he loved.
“I could be on the court for two hours and it felt like 10 minutes,” he told Jenkins. “I don’t like to bring attention to myself. I don’t like to make a scene.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Jenkins that the unassuming Leonard was one of those rare athletes who recognized the importance in distinguishing between “greatness” and “stardom.”
“He wants the greatness badly,” Popovich said. “He doesn’t give a damn about the stardom.”