Skip to content

Kawhi Leonard named Finals MVP after Toronto Raptors capture first NBA championship

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Kawhi Leonard capped his stellar postseason by being named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player

Kawhi Leonard capped his superb postseason by being named Finals Most Valuable Player after the Toronto Raptors captured their first NBA championship with a 4-2 series win over the Golden State Warriors.

Toronto Raptors 4-2 Golden State Warriors

The Raptors forward was awarded the Bill Russell trophy for the second time in his career following the Raptors title-clinching 114-110 Game 6 victory at Oracle Arena.

It is the second time Leonard has been the recipient of the Finals MVP award in his career. He won his first as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.

Follow Sky Sports NBA on Twitter
Follow Sky Sports NBA on Twitter

See the NBA's best plays and stay up to date with the latest news

Leonard joins basketball greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to win Finals MVP with two different franchises.

Leonard averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the Finals. He scored 732 total points in the Raptors playoff campaign, only Michael Jordan (759 - 1992) and LeBron James (748 - 2018) have amassed more points in a single postseason.

He arguably ended any debate about who the best two-way player in the sport is at this moment.

"This is what I play basketball for," Leonard said. "This is what I work out for."

Also See:

The King of the North, as they've been calling Leonard in Toronto, was King of the Playoffs.

"I think he's the best two-way basketball player in the NBA," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. "He just goes. You know, I've seen some stuff from him this year that you just say, 'Wow.' You do. You say, 'Wow.' You appreciate the work that he's put in. He works extremely hard at his game and works extremely hard on his body. And he loves this basketball thing. Loves it."

Perhaps never more so than Thursday night.

After missing most of last season with a leg injury, after having his commitment questioned, after getting traded to Toronto, Leonard returned to basketball's mountaintop. He thrust both arms high into the air when it was over, letting out a scream of joy. He even allowed himself a tiny smile when he hoisted the MVP trophy.

Kawhi Leonard shoots despite strong defense from Andre Iguodala
Image: Leonard shoots despite strong defense from Andre Iguodala

"He's just a competitor," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "We respect that, for sure. He's shown that again this entire playoff run."

Giannis Antetokounmpo will probably win the NBA's MVP award in a couple of weeks. James Harden and Paul George are the other finalists. And while all three of those players had marvelous regular seasons, the postseason was Leonard's personal showcase.

Leonard finished with 14 games of 30 points or more in these playoffs. The only players with more in a single postseason are Jordan (16 in 1992), Hakeem Olajuwon (16 in 1995) and Kobe Bryant (15 in 2009).

"Without a doubt, the best thing about this thing is that somehow I wound up on the sideline getting to watch this guy play up close," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who won an NBA title in his first season as a head coach in the league. "It's really cool."

Get NBA news on your phone
Get NBA news on your phone

Want the latest NBA news, features and highlights on your phone? Find out more

Leonard was the unquestioned leader. When the Raptors lost Game 2 of the NBA Finals at home and surrendered home-court advantage in the series, Nurse walked into a very glum locker room and reminded his team that it merely needed to win either Game 3 or Game 4 at Oracle Arena to reclaim control of the series.

Some nodded in agreement. Leonard was not one of them, saying, "Let's go get both." They got both.

And then, on their return trip to Oracle for Game 6, they got one more. They closed Oracle with a title-clincher.

Leonard rarely opens up about anything. He doesn't talk about his private life. He hardly ever discusses the murder of his father, which happened when Leonard was playing in high school. He scored 17 points in a game the day after his father was shot and killed, perhaps the ultimate proof that he's always been capable of blocking out everything else when he steps onto a court.

"Once it happened, I thought about it a lot," Leonard said. "But as I got older, I pretty much just really stopped thinking about it. I think it just gave me a sense and feel that life and basketball are two different things and just really enjoy your time and moments.

"Like I always say, this is basketball; just go out there and have fun. These are going to be the best years of my life, playing this game."

The best year yet just happened.

And with Leonard just entering his prime, there might be much more to come.

Want to watch the NBA but don't have Sky Sports? Get the Sky Sports Action and Arena pack, click here.

Around Sky