Do you believe in destiny?
In a cruel twist of fate for the San Antonio Spurs and fortune for the Raptors, it appears Kawhi Leonard‘s first thoughts toward a life away from the storied Texas franchise began during his stay in Toronto for the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend.
According to a report from Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News, Leonard and those who traveled with him grew jealous of how some all-stars used private luxury cars for their excursions while others used standard transportation provided by the NBA.
The first cracks in the low-maintenance veneer came in 2016, when Leonard made his first All-Star game — in Toronto of all places.
Leonard and his traveling companions noticed other All-Stars — notably Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook — were using private luxury cars to get around, instead of the standard transportation provided by the NBA. They wanted the star treatment, too.
– Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News.
The former Finals MVP was making his first all-star game appearance and scored 17 points as a starter in a lopsided 196-173 win for the West over the East.
Leonard finished that 2015-16 campaign averaging 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.8 steals and a block over 72 games. The Spurs finished 67-15 and lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games in the second round of the playoffs. It was also Tim Duncan’s final season.
The report went on to suggest that Leonard’s desire for fame further increased on a trip to China in August of 2017, where his personal team — including the now infamous Dennis Robertson a.k.a. Uncle Dennis — began to recognize the potential for a truly global brand after seeing countless fans in his jersey.
“I was surprised at how many Spurs fans there were, for me not ever going out there,” Leonard said after returning to the United States. “It’s just shocking to see how big they support the NBA.”
Leonard and his advisors have since rejected a $20 million offer from the Jordan brand to extend his association with them and ruled out the possibility of a five-year, $221-million extension by making the move from San Antonio to Toronto.
It appears Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster & Co. will have to roll out the red carpet, Bentleys, and parking spots to keep Leonard around beyond the 2018-19 season.