Kawhi Leonard couldn’t be on the court Thursday night when the Clippers opened the season against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, but the man was neither out of sight nor out of mind.
On the contrary: A couple of hours before tip-off, the two-time NBA Finals MVP was, not surprisingly, part of the league’s much-anticipated reveal, included among 11 active players named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
A two-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard was voted a part of the prestigious collection of talent across eras, a grouping of the “75 Greatest Players” without regard to position. The list was voted on by a panel of current and former NBA players, coaches, general managers and team and league executives, as well as WNBA legends, sportswriters and broadcasters.
Leonard – who is sidelined indefinitely while he rehabs following July 13 surgery to repair his torn right anterior cruciate ligament – was the 15th overall draft pick out of San Diego State in 2011. In 576 games through 10 NBA seasons the stoic, 6-foot-7 small forward has piled up accolades that also include five All-Star Game appearances and one All-Star Game MVP.
He’s made an All-NBA team five times, and an NBA All-Defensive team seven times. And he was the league’s steals leader in 2014-15, when he had 148 of his 1,013 career takeaways (compared to 933 turnovers).
His career averages thus far: 19.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals.
“I just talked to Kawhi 10 minutes ago about it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said, via Zoom, before tip-off Thursday. “Just telling him congratulations and that’s huge. From being a 15th (overall) pick to being top 75, that means a lot. It’s a tribute to his hard work and dedication and things that he’s been able to achieve in his career.”
Leonard, 30, grew up in Moreno Valley and attended Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School and he was honored alongside Reggie Miller, another Inland Empire great who starred at Riverside Poly and then UCLA.
When Miller learned of his selection live on TNT, he was stunned.
“Whoa!” Miller exclaimed. “Seriously, I, OK. Wow.
“We all know this is very subjective and I look at that list and you’re gonna get into who didn’t make the list and there’s great players on the list,” Miller continued. “I wasn’t gonna be upset if I wasn’t because I would put my résumé up against anyone, but who’s on that list right now, they absolutely – I’m a little shaken right now, because I wasn’t expecting to be on that list, truthfully.”
— NBA (@NBA) October 21, 2021
KAWHI MAKING MORE MOVES
The day before he claimed his spot beside the NBA’s greats, Leonard was pictured boarding a team flight to San Francisco with his teammates, most of whom were wearing “Clip Gang or Don’t Bang” shirts or sweatshirts – supporting Leonard’s prospective new line of attire.
Leonard reportedly filed a trademark for “CLIP GANG” on Oct. 11, indicating that he planned to sell a CLIP GANG-branded line of clothing, similar to the hoodie that created a good deal of social media buzz after he wore it to the Intuit Dome’s groundbreaking ceremony last month in Inglewood.
Leonard also has an … album dropping Thursday night. Called “Culture Jam,” the NBA star – who made an unexpected cameo dancing in a Drake video this summer – is a co-executive producer on the project, which will feature artists including NBA YoungBoy, Lil Uzi Vert, Gunna, Rod Wave, Polo G, NLE Choppa, A Boogie, Wale, Yung Bleu, Ty Dolla Sign and others.
What’s more, Leonard has partnered with Anheuser-Busch for a line of X2 Performance “clean” energy drinks that will be distributed in the L.A. area. Leonard is a shareholder in the company, it said in a news release Thursday.
Kawhi Leonard Presents: Culture Jam The Album Vol. 1 (Part 1) TONIGHT 9pm pst/ 12am est pic.twitter.com/Vz2nGrxkPX
— Culture Jam (@culturejam) October 21, 2021
From the inbox: “Anheuser-Busch’s AB ONE Partners with X2 Performance, Bringing Its Clean, Healthy Energy Drinks to Everyday Athletes…
“Partnership delivers distribution for X2’s line of drinks in the hometown market of X2 partner, Clipper Kawhi Leonard.” pic.twitter.com/9TbZ8ABiNM
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) October 21, 2021
Everyone sporting the clip gang or don’t bang gear. Nice!! https://t.co/MlkeuKCQUm
— Jesse Beer (@TheJesseBeer) October 21, 2021
Kawhi Leonard has filed a trademark for “CLIP GANG.”
The filing, made on Oct 11, indicates that Kawhi will sell a CLIP GANG-branded line of clothing.
— Josh Gerben (@JoshGerben) October 15, 2021