One offseason ago, the Toronto Raptors jettisoned star guard DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. The trade paid off beautifully, as the 3-time All-Star boosted the franchise to its first-ever NBA Finals after ousting the Bucks in six games in the conference finals.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder put up 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in the decisive Game 6, outshining Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the season, he has posted averages of 26.6 points and 7.3 boards a contest.
That kind of production leads to more than just one nickname. Let’s look at the meanings behind “The Claw/Klaw” and “Qui”?
Qui Leonard & The Claw
The Claw comes from a combination of his defensive prowess and his massive hands. He is a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient with 9.75 by 11.25 inches mitts, according to How They Play. By comparison, this is only slightly smaller than Shaquille O’Neal’s famously large ones. They are 52 percent wider than the normal person.
The Klaw is just a change of the initial nickname, just with the first letter of his first name. He has cemented his reputation many times against several of his NBA peers. Per SB Nation in 2016, he ripped a steal from Dallas’ Harrison Barnes at midcourt when he was a forward with the Spurs.
On Monday night, the Spurs forward reminded the NBA, specifically Mavericks wing Harrison Barnes, why he earned that nickname. The steal helped propel San Antonio to a win over a depleted and floundering Dallas team.
He made his biggest mark with his 2014 NBA Finals MVP performance, where he came as close as possible to being a “LeBron stopper” per Sportskeeda.
Qui Leonard doesn’t have an official explanation, but there are possibilities. One is that “qui” is the first three letters of quiet, which is a defining characteristic for the Raptors star. Bleacher Report has even called him the “Silent Superstar,” calling him the “personification of action over words.”
Leonard is notoriously quiet and to himself. “He knows everything that’s going on,” Lea, his AAU coach, says. “Once you get him in that front seat of your car and you get him alone, he’ll ask you the questions he needs to ask you. He’s quiet, just watching. Just looking at everything, but his teammates and people like to be around him.”
Teammates and coaches vow that Leonard has come out of his shell somewhat to be vocal enough on the court to issue commands and be noticed. Surprisingly, Leonard’s personality is most often on display in the Spurs’ annual H-E-B grocery store commercials, where he has become the breakout star.
The only other one I can think of is if “qui” is pronounced in French, it sounds like “qwi.” This is close to how some could pronounce Kawhi if they didn’t know any better (ka-wai is the actual way).
Qui “The Claw” Leonard will tip off against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.