If Spurs Clinch On Sunday, It Will Be Bittersweet For Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs have been dominant during the past two games in Miami, and Kawhi Leonard has played a huge part in both of their blowout wins. After scoring just 18 points in the first two games of the series, he put up 29 points in Game 3 and was the best player on the court in last night’s win. The Spurs are now up 3-1 in the series and have a chance to clinch on Sunday, which is also Father’s Day. If they do, it will be bittersweet for the Spurs forward after what happened six years prior.

After last night’s game, everyone was in a rush to praise Kawhi’s performance, and deservedly so:


But I was also made aware about the importance of Father’s Day for the Spurs’ rising star:


By way of Eric Sondheimer of The Los Angeles Times, Mark Leonard — Kawhi’s father — was shot and killed in 2008 at the car wash he owned in Compton, CA. He was 43 years old at the time of the shooting. Six years later, no arrest has been made in connection with the murder. Kawhi was a high schooler at the time. The night after his father’s death, he played for Riverside King despite a heavy heart:

The 6-foot-7 junior forward managed to score 17 points for King in a 68-60 loss, then broke down and cried in his mother’s arms, releasing all his emotions from learning 24 hours earlier that his father had been shot to death.

It was a scene with so much sorrow and distress that I turned my head and walked away, not wanting to violate a private moment played out in public near the west tunnel at Pauley.

A few years after the incident, Kawhi spoke with Jeff Goodman of FOX Sports about his father’s passing:

“I’m not sure what happened,” Leonard said. “I really don’t know anything other than someone random came to the car wash and shot him.”

Three years have passed and no one has been arrested in the murder. Frank Salerno of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department told the Los Angeles Times that the case likely will go unsolved because of a lack of cooperation among potential witnesses.

“I think it’s better for me not knowing who it is,” Leonard said.

When asked what his father would think about his stellar play at San Diego State, which eventually landed him with the Spurs, Kawhi simply replied, “I think he’d be proud of me.”

If the Spurs can clinch the title on Sunday, expect the usually stoic Kawhi Leonard to become a bit emotional, and for good reason. It will be a wonderful accomplishment for a player in just his third NBA season, but more importantly, it will be a chance to make his father proud once more.

What do you think?

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