Stephen Jackson, LaMarcus Aldridge On Kawhi Leonard’s Spurs Exit: “Not Everybody Wants To Learn What’s In Africa”
When the Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl and a 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the 2018 offseason, it marked the end of the Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio Spurs saga, which definitely was one of the weirdest NBA stories in recent history.
During his last season in San Antonio, even though he was medically cleared, Kawhi Leonard still chose to be out and went weeks without communicating with the team. In the playoffs, while other injured stars were attending their team’s games, supporting them from the sidelines, Leonard was nowhere to be seen. Then, after the season, Kawhi asked for a trade.
The situation was irreversible and the relationship between Leonard, coach Gregg Popovich, and the Spurs, irreparable. The entire drama reportedly also dated back to Gregg Popovich being more than just a basketball coach, trying to educate his players on other global topics such as geography, history, politics and ethics.
According to LaMarcus Aldridge and Stephen Jackson, two former teammates of Kawhi Leonard at the Spurs, Kawhi strongly opposed the ‘Popovich education’:
Stephen Jackson: “He’s trying to make you a better person, but he’s going to put you in a lot of situations to test you. He did it to me, he did it to Kawhi, he did it to a lot of other people, but Kawhi couldn’t take that sh*t. That’s just what it was. We want to hoop, we don’t want to be in a corner, we want iso, we don’t want to run pick-and-roll.
That was Kawhi. He really wanted to hoop. When the injury stuff came down, how they didn’t fight for him in public… Tony had an injury, and Tony was out for a long time, and Kawhi never said nothing. When Kawhi was out, Tony was like, ‘I had the same injury, and I came back,’ questioning if he’s really hurt on national TV. That pushed him right out the door.”
LaMarcus Aldridge: “I’m not going to speak for anybody, but he didn’t want to do all the other s**t that Pop did, too, the learning sh*t. He just wanted to hoop. Not everybody wants to learn about what’s in Africa or learn the maps. He just wanted to hoop. I don’t say it’s right or wrong, he just didn’t want to do that.”