Superstar Kawhi Leonard’s rocky departure from the San Antonio Spurs left the team in disorder and the fanbase distraught, but how do they feel now?
There’s never been a San Antonio Spurs season as awkward as 2017-18, which contained the final years of three great players in the silver and black. After the team was wiped out by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Manu Ginobili retired, Tony Parker signed with the Charlotte Hornets and after a long saga and Kawhi Leonard officially requested his trade from San Antonio.
From this moment on, the legacy that Leonard left in San Antonio was tarnished by what fans perceive to be unsavory negotiations. Represented by the infamous Uncle Dennis, hysteria was injected by Leonard’s camp from early in the process that crumbled the dignity of the team and effectively sent them into a downward spiral that’s culminated in a losing effort this year.
And yet in spite of the betrayal that the fanbase felt when Leonard turned his back on the franchise that groomed him, his stardom continued to rise once he got himself healthy enough to play. Kawhi went on to dominate the 2018-19 season as the leader of the Toronto Raptors before building his own kingdom with the LA Clippers.
Leonard spent seven seasons in silver and black and during that run, Spurs fans adored him. Kawhi was the silent assassin who was destined to take them to the promised land once the Big Three moved on, beginning with the fifth championship from that same core that started it all. The 2014 NBA Finals showcased one of the best teams that the league has ever seen, but it also served as a coming-out party for Leonard on the greatest stage there was.
He snatched his first of two Defensive Player of the Year honors the season after his Finals MVP, building a resume that many already consider Hall of Fame-worthy at just 28 years old.
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We polled Spurs fans on Twitter to see where their heads were at regarding Leonard these days and the results were about what was expected. Coming up on two years from the trade, 46.1 percent of voters are still mad at Leonard with 39.5 percent of fans citing they were mad, but got over it. The minority of the fanbase it the 14.5 percent of fans who never stopped rooting for him.
The consensus seems to be that many fans are not mad at Kawhi for wanting to leave, but rather are more frustrated with how he left. If he wanted out, he could’ve just said so instead of being destructive for a model organization on his way out the door. Instead, he stirred up drama for a team that’s known universally as the team that wants nothing to do with that.
For Spurs fans, looking back on Kawhi’s best moments can be tough given the asterisk next to his career with the team. However, Leonard had a ton of defining moments in the River City and when we look past all of the difficulties regarding his departure, there’s a lot to celebrate about his career with the silver and black.
Will he get his jersey number retired? Probably not, but maybe he’ll start getting a round of applause instead of rampant boos when he visits town in the future.