As the dust settled on San Antonio’s 2014 drubbing of the Miami Heat — no team had ever beaten another in the NBA Finals by over 15 points in each victory — the Spurs went absolutely ballistic when 22-year-old Small Forward Kawhi Leonard, the third-year player who the team had traded for on draft night back in 2011, was awarded the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award. Kawhi, who also achieved the rarest of all NBA feats — a Shaq-given nickname — during that year’s playoff run (Sugar K, as in Sugar K Leonard), averaged 17.8 points, six and a half rebounds, and over one block and one steal a game during the five game series.
For fans of team basketball, as well as fans of arbitrary narratives, this was awesome. They got to watch San Antonio slay the dragons of individual superstardom and top heavy rosters on the backs of some really gorgeous ball movement and exquisite scoring. When Miami strode out to a commanding lead in the opening minutes of Game Five, the crowd resembled 18,000 children that had all discovered the Santa Claus deception at once.
All of which made the eventual Spurs comeback that much more satisfying, and when Manu Ginobili turned back the clock for a rim rattling slam dunk, or when Patty Mills, folk hero of Australian basketball lore, came out of the myth of San Antonio’s Bench to drop 14 third-quarter points and really bury Miami, it was Kawhi Leonard that provided the measured hand when Tim Duncan was on the bench and Tony Parker was missing everything in site. So, without further adieu, here’s where Leonard slots in on the Top 5 Youngest Finals MVP’s of all time.