Kawhi Leonard doesn't like attention. He does not like to talk. He just quietly does his job. In this respect (as well as his two-way brilliance on the court), the 22-year-old is the perfect man to succeed Tim Duncan as the face of the San Antonio Spurs. The transition has been underway for a while, but it might have accelerated Sunday, as Leonard was named the 2013-2014 NBA Finals MVP.
The presentation after Game 5 was a rare and, frankly, beautiful display of emotion from Leonard. As ABC's Stuart Scott noted, he is the youngest Finals MVP since 1999, when Duncan won the award. He was quiet in the first two games, and then he erupted.
"We have conversations throughout the year that are mostly one-way because Kawhi's a really quiet young man," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "But he listens and he's a great learner and super-competitive, and has a drive to be the best that's really uncommon in our league. He walks the walk. He is there early, he's there late. He wants more. He wants me and the coaches to push him.
"So I just talked to him about not being in that deferment or that defer sort of stage," he continued. "To hell with Tony, to hell with Timmy, to hell with Manu, you play the game, you are the man, you're part of the engine that makes us go. It starts with his defense and his rebounding, and he's starting to feel his oats offensively, obviously.
"I haven't called a play for him the whole playoff. I do not call his number. Everything he did is just out of the motion and out of offense. He's learned it well. In the future, obviously we'll use him a lot more on an individual basis, but it's not really our style and he appreciates that."
Leonard averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in the series, shooting 61.2 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. In the last three games, all Spurs wins, he scored 71 points on 24-for-35 shooting while serving as the primary defender on LeBron James. Leonard was the obvious choice. The only surprise was him yelling at the podium.
“At the moment, I was just happy," Leonard said. "Just had faith throughout the whole game, but I didn't think at all I was about to win the MVP of the Finals.”
“I'm honored to be on his team right now ‘cause he's gonna be great for years to come and I'm gonna hold [onto] him as long as I can," Duncan said.