- Kawhi Leonard’s former college teammates said Leonard would trash-talk on the court using short, funny phrases.
- Leonard apparently also called himself “the board man” when he grabbed rebounds and had something of a catchphrase: “The board man gets paid.”
- There is a fascination with Leonard’s soft-spoken, subdued ways, though teammates insist he is a “regular” guy off the court.
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Kawhi Leonard is known as a man of few words, and that apparently extends to the basketball court.
In an oral history of Leonard’s time at San Diego State from The Athletic’s Jayson Jenks, Leonard’s former teammates and coaches said when he was dominating opponents on the court, he trash-talked in short, sometimes funny phrases.
DJ Gay, a guard on San Diego State told Jenks that when Leonard would score, he would just say, “Bucket. Bucket.”
Tyrone Shelley, a guard on those teams said: “Most people say it like,'”Oh, I’m about to get buckets on you.’ He was just like, “Buckets. Layup.” Just one word.”
Likewise, according to teammates, when Leonard was on defence, he would tell players they would not score on him. As he defended them, he would cut off their moves and simply say, “No.”
But Leonard’s best phrase may have come while he grabbed rebounds. According to former teammates, Leonard would call himself “the board man” and say, “The board man gets paid.”
“If I heard it once, I heard it 50 times. ‘Board man. I’m a board man,'” Aztecs assistant coach Justin Hutson told Jenks. “That’s what he said. Absolutely. ‘I’m a board man. Yeah, I’m a board man. Board man gets paid.’ He spoke in phrases like that.”
Tim Shelton, an Aztecs forward, told Jenks that Leonard, in general, spoke in short phrase and noises.
“If he joked, it would be like one or two comments, and he’d go like, ‘Yeeee.’ He’d make more sounds than he actually talked.”
There is an NBA-wide fascination with Leonard’s soft-spoken ways and subdued personality.
Leonard was turned into a meme at the start of the season when he described himself as a “fun guy,” then let out a funny laugh at his introductory press conference with the Raptors.
Raptors teammates who have gotten to know Leonard more this season have said he is a normal person who simply doesn’t like talking in public.
Raptors reserve guard Fred VanVleet told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that Leonard doesn’t like talking to media.
Kyle Lowry told reporters that Leonard is a “regular, cool dude” and laughed as he confirmed Leonard is also a “fun guy.”
When Leonard hit a series-winning buzzer-beater over the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, he was even asked about the roar he let out, a rare show of emotion. Leonard said he only likes to react in certain moments.
Gay told Jenks that the most he ever heard Leonard talk was on the basketball court. It seems wherever he is, Leonard doesn’t waste many words.
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