— Jordan (@Jumpman23) September 9, 2016
Kawhi Leonard’s a different sort of NBA superstar, taciturn at times to a point that almost seems aloof. His coldhearted defensive acumen and dangerously evolving offensive game have seen him in short order become the undisputed best player on the league’s most successful franchise of the last twenty years, and the terrifying thing is he probably hasn’t even hit his peak yet.
When marketing mega-star athletes the correct utilization of their personalities is usually a big part of the pitch. You’ve got your charismatic goofballs (Shaq, Dwight), your model citizens (Steph Curry), your humble homegrown heroes (Dirk, Reggie Miller), your fanatically intense shooting-guards standing 6-foot-6 who won all their rings under Phil Jackson (Michael, Kobe) and a host of other variations. Kawhi’s personality and nature is more subtle, one perhaps not naturally comfortable with the idea of foisting products.
But Leonard’s starring turn in this commercial for the Jordan XXXI is perfect and takes all the potential shortcomings of Kawhi’s introverted personality and simply flips the script, makes his dour silences into strength. As the ball flies towards the hoop, Kawhi almost seems to be floating, rising up to deflect the ball through sheer will. It’s not about flying anymore, it’s about subverting gravity itself, conquering physics in new crafty and understated ways. A whole generation wanted to be the next Jordan but there could be only one. Kawhi’s a completely different sort of legend in the making, and this video both understands and embraces that reality.
It is fitting of course, that Kawhi Leonard is completely silent. How could it be any other way?