The San Antonio Spurs rising star caps a stunning three game-stretch to help his side to the title.
Kawhi Leonard was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA finals, leading San Antonio’s offensive charge in three straight lopsided wins over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Leonard, who turns 23 in two weeks, couldn’t have asked for a better storyline in the NBA finals, which began with him struggling through foul trouble and sub-par performances in the first two games before leading the Spurs to their fifth championship in franchise history.
He turned his game around after a meeting with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich before game three, in which he scored a career high 29 points.
“I really struggled in game two,” Leonard said. “It was just up to myself to dig down deep and go through the adversity.”
Dig deep he did, as Leonard scored a team-high 29, 20 and 22 points in games three, four and five.
He also had 10 rebounds and two assists in Sunday’s series clinching 104-87 victory over the Heat.
As in game two, he fouled out on Sunday, but this time the Spurs were already well on their way to a victory.
“It just feels like a dream,” Leonard said. “Right now I am just celebrating the win.”
Leonard has enjoyed an incredible amount of success in his short time in the NBA. In three seasons with the Spurs he has been to the finals twice and now won the championship series’ MVP award.
“I have been progressing each year and the team has as well. Losing in the semi-finals my first year, losing in the championship my second year and now winning in my third,” said Leonard, who was given the difficult task of guarding LeBron James.
“It makes you believe in your craft and hard work.”