Update: The quote originally attributed to Hardaway was an incomplete misquote of his thoughts on whether Leonard is a superstar or not. The full audio released by SiriusXM NBA shows that Hardaway felt Kawhi Leonard is a superstar in his own way, just not always in a traditional sense with his lack of outward personality and relative lack of marketing nationally.
“I love Kawhi,” Hardaway said. “Actually, you know what, I can give Kawhi superstar. Because, he’s just not a guy that likes commercials, he’s not a guy that wants to be the face of the league. He just wants to get his work done. He don’t want to talk, but that’s what goes along with being a superstar, though. But he would be a superstar to me, for sure, because he handles his own with anybody in the league.”
Kawhi Leonard did not claim the 2016-2017 NBA MVP award, but the San Antonio Spurs forward put together a season that would have garnered him the honor in many seasons. Leonard continued to be a transcendent force on the defensive end while vastly improving his overall offensive profile, and that combination was a devastating one for a player that is almost universally accepted as one of the top ten basketball players on the planet.
However, there seems to be a debate brewing about labeling Leonard a “superstar” and former All-NBA guard Penny Hardaway recently weighed in with an interesting take. In appearing on SiriusXM’s NBA Radio show Bottomline, Hardaway said the following about Leonard.
It is hard to ignore the absence of basketball-related opinion in this statement as, well, Leonard is absolutely tremendous on the floor. The 26-year-old is certainly known for being a stoic figure on and off the floor and he does not bring the traditional superstar persona to the table. With that said, it isn’t as if Leonard isn’t portrayed as one in some areas (including a Jordan Brand commercial) and his willingness to sell shoes or widgets isn’t particularly relevant in the grand scheme of things.
Hardaway’s opinion isn’t entirely invalid if framed through the prism of “superstar” serving as a term that includes overall gravity in the marketplace rather than actual basketball impact. If the viewpoint is based on Leonard’s ability on the basketball floor, though, it doesn’t make a ton of sense.