Kawhi Leonard’s infamous 2017 WCF Game 1 injury, as told by Zaza Pachulia
Spurs fans will never forget the infamous play that involved Pachulia and Kawhi in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Western Conference Finals. The Spurs were up by 25 points in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi went up for a 3-pointer and Pachulia closed in to challenge the shot.
Kawhi, however, landed on Pachulia’s foot, causing him to sprain his ankle.
Leonard left the game and did not return for the rest of the series, which the Spurs eventually lost, 4-0. The Warriors won the title that season.
Zaza openly talked about the incident on the Runnin’ Plays podcast. He said he and his family got death threats from angry Spurs fans because of it, but he also maintained that it was just an unfortunate accident.
“Let’s come up with how many times that situation has happened. Prior to that, after that. A lot! It’s part of the game. Especially now that so many threes are taken statistically if you look at it. Way more threes than 10 years ago, 20 years ago. That means, of course, one of the schemes defensively is you don’t want to give easy three-point shots,” Pachulia said.
Pachulia, who played 16 seasons in the NBA and became a consultant for the Warriors after his playing days, added he understood why so many people talked about it because it affected a lot of things. However, he also threw a subtle jab at the media for blowing up the entire incident, which made his situation worse.
“If you look at the Eastern and Western Conference, the media had nothing to talk about. Cleveland was sweeping everybody in the first three rounds, we were sweeping everybody as well. We ended that NBA Playoffs, 16-1,” Zaza Pachulia added. “So I guess that was something the media found and said ‘OK, let’s talk about this, let’s make it more interesting, let’s sell the news.’ We all know what kind of world we’re living in. It’s about selling information.”
The 36-year-old revealed that he reached out to Kawhi Leonard after the incident by sending a text message. The then-Spurs star, however, did not respond.
“(I texted) Listen, it definitely was not on purpose and hopefully you can get back sooner on the court. I wanted him to know from me because there were so many words out there. I really felt bad. I’m an athlete too. My kids are playing (sports). I don’t want anybody to go through it.”
Zaza Pachulia also mentioned that it’s crazy that nobody talks about how Kawhi already rolled his ankle two minutes before their incident. He admitted that he was saddened to hear his fellow NBA players say he injured the Spurs star on purpose.
“Fans can say whatever they want. I can’t argue with them, I can’t fight with them whether it was an accident or was it done on purpose. But for the professionals, for the people who play this game, talking about how I did it on purpose, it’s kind of sad that. It’s just basketball. We’re just trying to entertain people. We’re all human beings, we’re all trying to be role models to many kids. We have different backgrounds and we represent different countries.”
Pachulia, however, emphasized he has already moved on and implored fans to stay classy and just enjoy basketball.