一个来自圣地牙哥州立大学15号秀是如何变成了联盟中的最佳攻防双面手和潜在的MVP的? 对于Kawhi这种悄无声息间的提高，本文作者Nathaniel Friedman做了深入思考。
How did a No. 15 pick from San Diego State become the best two-way player in the league and a potential MVP? Nathaniel Friedman reflects on the quiet，almost invisible ascendance of Kawhi.
在当今的NBA联盟中，以自我为中心的那种球员几乎绝迹了。联盟中的精英球员不只是迴避自我主义的想法，同时，他们每个人都非常渴望自己变成更全面，更有价值的球员。现在看来，多年来被人诟病传球过多，没有完全展现自信的LeBron James，其实是超越了时代发展的存在。MVP 候选人Russell Westbrook和James Harden，一个彷彿化身助攻狂魔，一个则是得分越来越多，已然变成超级得分手的控卫。在金州勇士队，Stephen Curry，Kevin Durant和Klay Thompson三人则昇华到一定的境界，让自己更出色。
In today’s NBA，egoists are an endangered species. The league’s best players haven’t just eschewed a me-first attitude，they’ve each fully embraced the idea of themselves as pieces of larger，more meaningful wholes. It turns out that LeBron James，who over the years has been criticized for passing too much or not being sufficiently assertive，was ahead of his time. MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden are a hellion who gleefully gives up the ball and a high-volume scorer turned mega-productive point guard，respectively. In Golden State，Steph Curry，Kevin Durant，and Klay Thompson have turned sublimation into a springboard for individual brilliance.
But when it comes to self-effacement，no one can match Kawhi Leonard，the Spurs wing who over the last few weeks has begun to get some MVP consideration. Leonard is widely，almost perfunctorily，recognized as the league’s consummate two-way player. He’s won DPOY two years running and is the unquestioned focus of a Spurs team that，true to form，has quietly amassed the second-best record in the NBA. We’ve been yammering on (myself included) about a Warriors-Cavs Finals for so long that we scarcely noticed San Antonio，who at this point has to be considered a legit contender. Given all this，it’s no surprise that with the playoffs looming，Kawhi is getting his rightful due even as he refuses to carry himself with the slightest bit of superstar swagger. Leonard is so remote，so dedicated that he’s often characterized as robotic，a machine who only occasionally bothers to get in touch with his feelings.
No question，Kawhi is understated，even muted，a trait that hinges on his remarkable humility. He’s one of the most unlikely success stories in recent memory；drafted 15th overall out of San Diego State，he was the quintessential under-the-radar Spurs pick. Even they projected him as a defensive specialist，perhaps the next incarnation of Bruce Bowen. That would’ve been enough to make for another stealthy San Antonio draft triumph but almost from the beginning，Leonard exceeded expectations. He earned playing time during his 2011-12 rookie year with his defense；by the time the playoffs rolled around，he’d become a decent option at the other end of the floor. Unlike other ascendant second-rounders，who often play chip on their shoulder，Leonard rapidly improved because that’s what professionals do.
This trajectory has become Leonard’s signature. Kawhi has molded his game with a discipline that mirrors his highly efficient style of play，improving every season even when you think he’s maxed out his talent. The trick is that，with Leonard，the equation has never been as simple as following through on potential. He’s a player who，through sheer craft and attention to detail，has evolved into a superstar. Leonard doesn’t stun you with his resourcefulness or creativity. Instead，he consistently raises the bar for himself through a series of gradual breakthroughs. And each time Kawi resets his game，it leaps up a level. Nowhere is this more evident than in his recent scoring explosion. Up until this season，Leonard had scored over 30 points only 7 times. So far，he’s at 23 on the year—this from a guy who had to be convinced by Gregg Popovich that scoring was a selfless，team-oriented act，not a mark of selfishness.
Leonard is a natural-born Spur，a player who fits effortlessly into a system and believes unconditionally in an idealized，utterly seamless version of basketball that —if always a far-off horizon—has been the inspiration the five Popovich titles. Leonard has often been cast as a system player and to be sure，he once had holes in his offensive game that were masked by the Spurs’ framework. Leonard is also the kind of steadfast，low-key personality that balks at in any way stepping out of line，respecting common purpose so much that he’s been reluctant to assert himself too much. This year，though，his game is now so complete that he would be at this level no matter where he was. The system clearly has become a springboard，not a constraint.
Like Tim Duncan before him，Leonard has become a player who isn’t amplified by Popovich’s team concept—he excels in a way that expands its capabilities. Where Leonard was once scripted，he’s now surprisingly resourceful. His newfound willingness to create and knock down long shots has transformed his game and opened things up for the Spurs. Leonard came into the league fairly unformed. He hasn’t rarified things，he’s built himself up from scratch and backed into his current role，hedging against anything that could be construed as egoism.
那并不是妄自菲薄，也不仅仅是性格所致。Kawhi Leonard真心真意地把篮球理解为一种个人价值无足轻重的运动，这与一个相当有用的观念有明显区别，那种理念认为，伟大的球员关键时刻更乐意自己发挥。即使Leonard如今可以自己接管比赛，随时都能展现他的影响力，但他也很少感到欣喜若狂，志得意满或表现出任何一种情感。他这种情况常常同时被人称讚和嘲讽。但这种看法缺乏根据: Kawhi Leonard不是一台正在学习表达情感的机器，他让我们明白: 儘管他能掌控全场，完全不为自己着想也是完全可能的。这是一种更高层的篮球意识，对Loenard来说，这已经变成他的目标。
There’s no false modesty there. Nor is it simply a matter of temperament. Kawhi Leonard really，truly，honesty understands basketball as a sport where the individual is rendered nearly moot，a view that could not be more at odds with the fairly useful idea that at key moments，great players are more than willing to go for theirs. Despite himself，Leonard can now take over games，putting his stamp on every possession while only rarely evincing joy，pride，or any emotion whatsoever. He’s often both praised and lightly ridiculed as robotic. This view misses the point: Kawhi Leonard isn’t a machine learning to feel，he’s teaching us all that it’s possible to completely dispense with the 「I」 even with the entire game at his fingertips，a higher form of basketball consciousness that for Leonard，has become an end in itself.
Kawhi’s emergence has been gradual；he’s always been always deferential to San Antonio’s system and takes naturally to their organizational culture. There were always glimmers he wasn’t merely very good，the next great Spur，or a perennial All-Star，but was instead someone truly special and singular；these had ramped up over the years to the point that they became a kind of tease. His game is now fully-realized and what we’re seeing is bits and pieces of supreme，outward confidence，like Kawhi is flirting with the idea of feeling himself. It’s maybe the next necessary step in his development. But because it’s Leonard，you can rest assured he’ll never go too far—and that，as with all things Kawhi，it will be just another way to fulfill a promise to his team and by extension，to basketball as a sport.