Kawhi Leonard initially entered the NBA as an offensively raw defensive stud. Over the years, the Los Angeles Clippers superstar has become one of the most complete offensive players in the league. Possessing a deadly mid-range jumper, a steady outside stroke, and a knack for throwing down nasty dunks, Leonard can pretty much do anything on the offensive side of the ball.
With his wide array of offensive moves, Leonard has made some impossible and iconic shots throughout his career. Here are Kawhi Leonard’s 10 greatest shots of all time:
10. Go-ahead triple over Cavs
Leonard spent the early years of his career as a spot-up shooter for the Spurs. The budding star proved his worth when he came up big in the clutch for San Antonio in a mid-February game during the 2012-13 season.
Down two, the Spurs had the last possession with 8.8 seconds remaining. San Antonio ran the play through Tony Parker, who drove to the bucket for a layup. His drive attracted the defenders near the hoop as he kicked it out to a wide-open Leonard for a corner triple. Leonard, a sophomore at the time, knocked down the go-ahead shot and won the game for San Antonio.
9. Could have been game-winner over the Grizzlies
Leonard had one of the best playoff games of his career in Game 4 of their 2017 first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. The former San Antonio Spurs superstar poured in a then-playoff career-high 43 points in the overtime loss and made a number of clutch shots down the stretch to give the Spurs a chance to steal Game 4 on the road.
One of his greatest shots ever came during crunch time in the fourth quarter: a Kobe Bryant/Michael Jordan-esque fadeaway right wing jumper that gave the Spurs a 96-94 lead with 12 seconds to go in the game. Leonard sized up his defender with less than 20 ticks remaining and managed to get some separation with a crafty behind-the-back dribble before pulling up for the tough fadeaway.
Below is his highlight reel from the game. The shot in discussion comes at the 3:26 mark:
The game eventually went into overtime as Grizzlies’ guard Mike Conley made a tough floater to even the game. Leonard still made some clutch buckets in the extra session, but his efforts ultimately went down the drain when Marc Gasol banked in a tough floater to win the game in OT. Despite the loss, this shot is still one of Leonard’s most memorable shots and performances of his career.
8. How hungry are you, Serge?
Leonard embarrassed one of his future teammates on this one. The budding San Antonio Spurs star chose to start off Game 6 of their Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in emphatic fashion.
Leonard got the ball near the top of the arc and spun around to free himself down the middle of the lane. He went up strong for the one-handed spike while giving shot-blocking extraordinaire and future Raptors teammate Serge Ibaka a Kodak moment to begin Game 6.
Leonard had already posterized the Congo-native in Game 4 of this series. I guess it’s safe to say Ibaka wasn’t feeling too hungry after these dunks from The Klaw.
7. Luck of the bounce over Blazers
In this early March game of the 2018-19 season, the Blazers staged a gutsy comeback effort in the fourth quarter against the Raptors. Damian Lillard completed the comeback after draining three free throws to tie the game. With both teams knotted at 117, the Raptors had the opportunity to win the game with the final possession in regulation. Toronto opted not to take their timeout and instead entrusted the ball to their superstar forward.
With 13.8 seconds remaining, Leonard dribbled down the court and sized up his defender. He drove to his spot in the corner and rose up for the contested fadeaway jumper. The ball bounced around the rim for a couple of times before dropping in the basket to cap off Leonard’s 38-point night.
This almost seems eerily identical of the shot heard around the world that eventually happened nearly two months later.
6. Game-winner over future teammate
Leonard officially became The Man in San Antonio in the 2016-17 season after Tim Duncan retired the previous summer. In a close contest in early March 2017, the Spurs found themselves trailing by one against the Indiana Pacers with 8.5 seconds remaining. San Antonio went to their superstar forward down the post with an All-NBA defender (and a future teammate at that) in Paul George pestering him.
As he muscled his way on the block against George, Leonard turned around and rose up for the mid-range fadeaway. The outstretched arms of the Pacers star didn’t seem to bother Kawhi as he hit nothing but nylon to give the Spurs the lead with 2.4 seconds remaining. San Antonio pulled off the stop on the other end to preserve the victory.
5. Poster on Giannis
2018-19 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo met his match in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals in Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was having a spectacular postseason and in Game 4 of the ECF series, the Toronto Raptors superstar gave the Milwaukee Bucks MVP a little baptism of fire.
Coming off a nice backdoor cut and a perfect bounce pass from Marc Gasol, Leonard posterized Antetokounmpo with a strong left hand flush and even got the and-1. Leonard came up limping following the hard collision. Fortunately, Leonard was able to shake off the pain and didn’t suffer any major damage.
4. Poster on Giannis… again
Yes, he posterized Antetokounmpo twice in the same series.
This particular one came in Game 6, their series-clinching game to propel them to the NBA Finals. The Raptors crowd was ready to erupt with Toronto in a furious fourth-quarter run. With less than seven minutes remaining in the final period, Kyle Lowry stole the ball and spearheaded a fastbreak opportunity for the Raptors.
Lowry surveyed the floor and saw Antetokounmpo running with him as Milwaukee’s final line of defense. He also happened to see Kawhi Leonard trailing the play. The ever-reliable and smart point guard slowed down and flipped the ball to the trailing Leonard. The Klaw rose up for the vicious left-hand jam and bodied The Greek Freak again as the Raptors crowd erupted into a frenzy.
3. “Leonard on the follow!”
The San Antonio Spurs were dominating the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals.
San Antonio erupted to a 20-point lead in the second quarter of Game 4 and looked to grab Miami by the throat. Leonard capped off the Spurs’ dominant first half with this emphatic two-handed put-back slam that took the life out of the American Airlines Arena.
Patty Mills found himself wide-open on a corner triple as a result of San Antonio’s beautiful ball movement that had plagued Miami throughout the series. The Australian missed the open trey, but Kawhi came soaring in for the strong finish.
This series became Leonard’s coming out party in the NBA as he won Finals MVP to lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA championship.
2. Game-winner and stop versus James Harden and the Rockets
Kawhi Leonard has been the best two-way superstar in the NBA for quite a while now. This was on full display in back-to-back sequences against the Houston Rockets during the 2016-17 season.
With the Spurs down one in crunch time, Leonard drained a contested top of the circle three to give his team the lead with 25 seconds to go. As soon as he hit the shot, Leonard quickly went into a defensive stance as James Harden dribbled down the court.
The Beard managed to get past The Klaw with a quick first step. It seemed like Harden had an easy layup at the cup. Leonard, however, showcased his defensive prowess with an impressive chase-down block to secure the home win for San Antonio.
1. Four bounces heard around the world
What else could it be?
This is undoubtedly the most iconic shot of Leonard’s career so far. And it happened in the most dramatic of fashions as well. Certainly, it was a fitting ending to a classic series between two Eastern Conference heavyweights.
Leonard launched an extremely difficult pull-up fade away in the right corner over the outstretched arms of Sixers star Joel Embiid, no less. The ball bounced around the rim four times before softly dropping inside the bucket to send everyone inside the Scotiabank Arena and outside at the Jurassic Park into a frenzy.
The buzzer-beating, series clincher propelled Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals and subsequently eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers from the playoffs. Of course, Leonard and the Raptors continued their magical run to win their first title in franchise history by knocking off the top-seeded Bucks in the ECF and ending the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.