In June of 2019 the Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard was compared to NBA legend Michael Jordan. It all began, when head coach Doc Rivers voiced “He’s the most like Jordan we have seen” during an appearance on a Sports Center segment to preview the NBA Finals. This statement was directly related to Leonard’s body type and how he resembles Jordan on the court. This observation can be heavily attributed to how he dominates on offense and defense along with the fact that Leonard grew up studying Jordan’s moves.
As reported by Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints Rivers explained “Not that he is Jordan or anything like that, but he’s the most like him. Big hands, post-game, can finish, great leaper, great defender, in-between game.”
This exact statement later resulted in the Clippers being fined $50,000 for violating the anti-tampering rules set by the NBA just a little over a month before Leonard decided to sign with the Clippers.
Doc Rivers Clarifies Statement About Leonard
Before the matchup between the Clippers and Utah Jazz on Sunday, Rivers was asked if he still feels the same way he did in June having coached Leonard over the last month and seeing him execute in multiple games this season. He then proceeded to clarify his earlier comments comparing Leonard and Jordan.
As reported by Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints Rivers reveals “We were actually talking about body types and I said there’s no body type more like Michael Jordan than Kawhi and I actually said because of his hands and his length, and I did say part of his game, his in-between game, and that took a whole life.”
The Clippers then sought revenge on the Jazz during their last game topping them 105-94. Just when Leonard’s team needed him more he evoked a Jordan like show with 18-point surge shooting 4-for-15 in the fourth quarter. Leonard finished by contributing a total of 30 points throughout the battle.
Leonard Responds to Michael Jordan Comparison
Following the Clippers game Sunday, Leonard was asked to respond to the earlier comparison of him and Jordan.
As Nico Martinez of Fadeaway World reports, Leonard responded: “I came a long way to where I am right now. It is just showing my hard work is paying off.”
Referring to Jordan, Leonard shares “He’s one of the guys that everyone looks up to from a competitive standpoint and how he approached every game.” Leonard said of Jordan. “You try to nitpick what you can take from him and take it into yourself.”
There are a few specific aspects that can be pointed out in Leonards’ game that mirror those of Jordans.
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk pointed to a few occurrences in which Leonard’s game looked a bit like Jordan’s.
“During the Clippers’ win over Golden State on Oct. 24, Leonard drew comparisons to Jordan in the way that he pump-faked a defender with one hand as Jordan did at times. Then against Charlotte on Oct. 28, Leonard converted an up-and-down reverse layup off the glass against the team Jordan owns.”
It is safe to say the 6’7 forward in Leonard is living up to the standards placed on him by Rivers earlier in the year. Leonard is currently averaging 29.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists a game. He has played in six of the Clippers’ seven games this season and has scored 30 or more points in four of those matchups. The Clippers now improved to 5-2 and this probably won’t be the last time Leonard is compared to icon Michael Jordan.