In the case of Michael Jordan and Kawhi Leonard, it’s merely an example of real respecting real.
Recently, at one of Michael Jordan’s Flight School basketball camps, the NBA legend got on the topic of Kawhi Leonard. He ended up discussing the biggest Kawhi question of the offseason: “Could Kawhi get buckets on Kawhi?” In response to the paradox presented by Leonard’s most recent Jordan Brand commercial, a young baller asked Jordan the unanswerable question. He responded by saying Leonard is “the best two-way player in the game right now”.
Jordan might not be wrong. Many of the NBA’s best players’ talents are focused on one side of the ball, from James Harden to Russell Westbrook to LeBron James. Leonard has proven himself year after year to be one of the most productive players in the entire league on both sides of the court.
After winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2015 and 2016, the Spurs star finished third in voting this season, in addition to his third-place MVP finish. He is the only player that media members voted onto both lists. He and Russell Westbrook are the only players to finish in the top ten in both Offensive and Defensive Win Shares this year.
It’s been a while since Jordan gave opinions on the league as strong as this one. He has mostly left the rating and ranking game to other former players since becoming involved as an owner. That he values Leonard’s old-school two-way game says a lot about Leonard’s respect around the NBA.
Like the entire Spurs organization, Leonard mostly keeps quiet and lets his performance speak for itself. He’s unlikely to respond publicly to Jordan’s comments, but the Jordan Brand ad and this proclamation are, as Spurs blog Pounding the Rock said, “worthy of him”. Mostly, this is all just a sign that Michael Jordan loves Kawhi Leonard as much as the rest of us.