On Sunday night, Kawhi Leonard hit one of the most iconic shots in all of basketball history, becoming the first player ever to win a Game 7 with a buzzer beater.
Shooting over the towering presence of Joel Embiid, after sprinting around fleet-footed Ben Simmons, Leonard’s high arching shot dramatically hit the front rim, bounced high up in the air, then danced softly around the rim as the crowd breathlessly watched, praying for a miracle.
The shot was a sight to behold:
But in the months prior to this epic close to an epic series, Kawhi had been doing a lot of praying himself. “I prayed every day,” he said of how he got through last season’s turmoil, in which he only played 9 games and was summarily run out of San Antonio, a place he’d hoped to finish his career in, only to be traded to the Raptors.
He was asked after the game if, during the lowest points of last year, he had any doubts about the future.
‘Yeah. Last year was a very down year for me. Was going through a lot, with everything that was going on,” Kawhi explained, referencing the injury and team change. “You know, God is good. I prayed every day, ended up getting healthy and now I’m playing basketball. You can see what He does for you.”
Leonard is a man of few words and is notorious for his work ethic, frugality and character. He kept driving his Chevy Malibu when entering the NBA because it was “good on gas.” He lived with his mom during his early NBA career because he was only 19 and she wanted him to focus on basketball.
Mom said she didn’t want him worrying about where to get meals, doing laundry and all the other day-to-day things most new players adjust to when leaving home and living on their own. Reading between the lines, perhaps this wise mom wanted to shield her son from the dangers and temptations of being a young, newly wealthy, professional athlete.
She didn’t seem to have to do much prodding. Leonard is, after all, the same guy who spent his college days getting up at 5am to work out before class. Success in the NBA — and a near $100 million contract — hasn’t changed him one bit.
Given that Kawhi is a man of very few words, it speaks volumes that out of everything he could’ve said in that situation, he pointed people towards God.
He is good in every situation, indeed.