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How Kawhi Leonard got the ‘Fun Guy’ nickname

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is the rare NBA superstar who doesn’t seem all that interested in promoting his brand on a daily basis. It’s not accurate to say he’s disinterested in marketing himself considering his ambitions to play in Los Angeles (though he does hail from Southern California), but Leonard—who is not on social media—lets his play do the (public) talking.

Leonard’s curtness has often generated ironic Twitter fodder—especially after a famously simple self-assessment at a press conference during training camp with the Toronto Raptors in 2018.

“I’m a fun guy,” Leonard said when asked what he wants people to know about him. “Obviously, I love the game of basketball. I mean there’s more questions you have to ask me in order for me to tell you about myself.”

The on-brand quote combined with the iconic befuddling laugh was quickly memed.

Leonard’s statement encapsulated his public persona, and New Balance creatively capitalized, essentially launching a campaign centered around his “boringness”, complete with “Fun Guy” shirts. The messages in his commercials are meant to evoke his matter-of-fact manner of speaking.

The “Fun Guy” nickname may be endearingly sarcastic, though Leonard does seem to be a genuinely…fun guy.

Clippers’ teammate Paul George insisted “He actually does talk. He’s a fun guy. The legend’s true.”

Kyle Lowry echoed George’s sentiments, pointing out “How awesome of a person he is” and noted “how funny he is.” Raptors forward OG Anunoby called Leonard “a fun guy,” as well.

Clippers’ sixth man Lou Williams revealed that Leonard “talks the most” in their group chat. “I don’t know where he got pegged as this guy that doesn’t talk or whatever. I think he’s trolling a little bit when does that.”

Shtick or not, Leonard self-pegged his taciturn reputation, though maybe it’s not surprising considering his Spurs routes. Gregg Popovich has playfully trolled the media for years, while Tim Duncan is apparently a clown behind-the-scenes but rarely displayed that to the media.

At the Raptors championship parade, he brought the season full-circle by poking fun at his training camp soundbites.

Of course, one Leonard viral moment from the days after Leonard’s second title stands out above the rest (which, remarkably, New Balance hasn’t put on a shirt yet):