Later tonight, the San Antonio Spurs could be celebrating their fifth championship in franchise history. With a win, Tim Duncan will be cementing his legacy as one of the top 10 players of all-time, Gregg Popovich will climb higher up the coaching pantheon and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will have another accomplishment to add to their Hall of Fame careers. But the story with implications for the future is with a Spurs victory tonight or even within the next week is that Kawhi Leonard appears to have finally made the leap. After a breakout performance in last year’s Finals that was followed by an ok regular season, he finally seems ready to be the man that carries the Spurs dynasty (because hell yes, they are a dynasty) into 2020s.
Oh, and he happens to be a Jordan Brand guy. Imagine that…
Leonard is no stranger to repping the biggest brands in the sneaker world. Even before he came to the Riverwalk, Leonard was already something of a sneaker celebrity in San Diego State, wearing Jordan retros like the Infrared 6 or the Space Jam 11 not to mention some Kobe 6s as well. When he made it to the NBA, he would be a regular on our nightly recaps for his Foamposites and Air Flight Ones.
After the Finals last season, it was clear that Leonard was somebody that people needed to keep an eye out for. Sure, he doesn’t have the bombastic personality that LeBron James has, but he has the quiet and cool demeanor of his teammate Duncan, who has his fair share of endorsements. And in an age where idiots around the world think that the NBA is full of chest-thumping, me-first fools (mostly soccer, NHL and baseball fans with an inferiority complex), Leonard and the Spurs are the antithesis of that. You can almost see him being slotted into the spot that Ray Allen currently occupies as Jordan Brand’s distinguished gentleman. Sure, the way Allen’s going he might not retire until 2025, but you can see Leonard being the guy the brand recognizes as the one they bring out when it’s winning time.
True to Leonard’s nature, he quietly signed with Jordan Brand this season and has been rocking the Air Jordan XX8 SE for much of the season with a few exclusive colorways sprinkled along the way. In a bit of cruel irony, the Jordan Melo M10 got some run during the playoffs thanks to Leonard in the earlier rounds since the guy who calls that his signature shoe couldn’t even make the playoffs int he pathetic Eastern Conference.
Ever since Michael Jordan retired, no player has won the NBA Finals MVP rocking Jordans. Meanwhile, Nike, adidas, Converse and even AND1 can all lay claim to having one of their athletes hold up their trophy. Has it hurt Jordan Brand’s bottom line that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook have yet to taste a championship? Not yet, but there will come a time when a generation of people will look at those Jordans and wonder what the hell the fuss is about because they’re never on the feet of athletes that win championships. Kawhi Leonard has as good a chance as anybody to change that perception starting tonight.