Kawhi Leonard is, to many, a bona fide superstar, but Penny Hardaway has yet to adopt the same opinion.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway had four All-Star seasons during the mid-90s and is often the headliner of the All-NBA What If team. Should anyone know something about star power, it’d be him, because he was bordering on superstardom before the injuries hit.
During an appearance on Sirius XM’s Bottomline, Hardaway had some absurd comments on Kawhi Leonard.
“Superstar? No. Kawhi Leonard is not a superstar because he has no interest in being the face of the league or starring in TV commercials,” said Hardaway. “He’s a good player, but I wouldn’t consider him a superstar player.”
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I respect Hardaway’s. But this is bad. Not only is Kawhi a superstar, but he’s also the third-best player in the NBA behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. (That’s my opinion, but it’s a common sighting to see Leonard that high.) There is no better perimeter defender in the game today, and few are as integral to their team’s success as Leonard. Penny was an outstanding player, and I can’t reiterate that enough, but this is an asinine comment.
Also Read: Gregg Popovich: Kawhi Is The NBA’s Best Player
What’s more is that his justification isn’t even legitimate. He’s condemning Leonard’s stardom because of things he chooses not to do that have nothing to do with basketball. Kawhi can’t be a star because he isn’t on television? Sigh. He can’t be a star because he’s got no interest in being the face of the league? That’s not as bad, but it’s not the player who decides to become the NBA’s poster child.
LeBron James was put on magazines as a high schooler. The fans and media are always quick to anoint a high school phenom as the next Stephen Curry.
If Penny had kept it strictly to on-court play, I don’t think we’re talking about this in the light that we are. Leonard has his flaws, but he’s still able to carry the Spurs while consistently putting up huge numbers.
Hardaway’s view of superstardom is warped. Appearing on TV shouldn’t have anything to do with being a superstar. In fact, the guys in the NBA have to go out and prove that they’re worthy of commercials and endorsement deals, and Leonard has spent the six years sharpening his skill set.
Does anyone else think that a commercial starring Kawhi would be boring? He’s not a man of many words, and he’s not as charismatic as some of his contemporaries. Regardless, Leonard’s still a damn good basketball player.
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