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San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard moves the ball up the court against the Denver Nuggets in San Antonio, Tex., on Jan. 13, 2018.

Eric Gay/The Associated Press

Breakout series

Always considered a top defender, Leonard made his name as a two-way threat in the 2014 NBA final. He averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and two assists a game to lead the Spurs to a five-game series victory over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Leonard’s breakout performance was in Game 3 when he had a career-high 29 points on a finals-record 75.8-per-cent shooting. San Antonio won the series in five games and Leonard earned NBA final MVP honours.

Coming off injury

Leonard missed San Antonio’s first 27 games last season with a right quadriceps injury, making his debut on Dec. 12 against Dallas. On Jan. 5, he suffered a partial tear in his left shoulder against Phoenix. He missed three games, but returned on Jan. 13 and scored 19 points in a 112-80 win over Denver. Just four days later, he was ruled out to continue rehabilitating his quadriceps. Leonard was later cleared to play by Spurs medical staff, but he got a second opinion from his own doctors, and spent the all-star break consulting with a specialist. Despite a players-only meeting where he was asked by teammates to return to the lineup, he sat out the rest of the season.

L.A. state of mind

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Leonard has made it clear that he wants to play for his hometown Lakers at some point in his career. He signed a five-year deal with San Antonio that started in 2015-16, but the final year is a player option, meaning he could be a free agent after this season and potentially return home.

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Played through tragedy

Leonard was a junior at Martin Luther King High School in the Riverside neighbourhood of Los Angeles when his father was fatally shot at the car wash he owned in Compton on Jan. 18, 2008. An emotional Leonard played the next day, scoring 17 points in a loss to Compton Dominguez.

Athletic family

Leonard is not the only professional athlete in his family. His cousin Stevie Johnson is an NFL receiver who had three successive seasons of 1,000-plus yards with the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to 2012.

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