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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Kawhi Leonard reflects on roller coaster of a year that led to second NBA title

Kawhi Leonard
(NBA Getty Images)

For the second time in five years, Kawhi Leonard has played a key role in denying a dynasty the opportunity to three-peat.

In 2014, as the Finals MVP on the San Antonio Spurs, he ensured the superstar trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could not three-peat. Five years later, as a Finals MVP on the Toronto Raptors, Leonard denied the superstar-studded Golden State Warriors a three-peat.

GAME 6: Player Ratings | Players react to Raptors' title

As a result, he joins the illustrious company of LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to win Finals MVP for different franchises. He also becomes the only player in league history to have multiple Finals MVPs but no regular season MVP.

However, it hasn't all been rosy for the Klaw between these two championships, especially the last couple of seasons.

"Like I said, last summer was tough," Leonard said after Game 6.

"I was still rehabbing and just trusted the process, really, with myself. I told myself I would be back. I wasn't going to come back until I could be the player I am today. I wanted to come back in the same shape and form without coming out playing five games and then re-injuring something."

"Just being able to win this championship this year is just something special for me because you know how the last year everybody was looking at me, and I stayed true to myself, and I had a great support system. And once I got here to Toronto they understood everything and kept moving from there."

MORE: Sights and sounds from Raptors' first-ever championship

In the 2018-19 regular season, Leonard averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals on 49.6 percent shooting from the field in 60 games. He then took his game to another level in the postseason, putting together a playoff run for the ages.

He dominated all facets of the game for four straight rounds, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Not to mention the iconic Game 7 buzzer-beating game-winner in the Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

In the Conference Finals, he locked down Giannis Antetokounmpo and led the Raptors to victory in the last four games of the series, including a posterizing dunk in Game 6, which pretty much sealed the Raptors' first-ever Finals appearance, leaving his tumultuous 2018-19 season as a distant memory.

"Well, just the year, last year, a lot of people were doubting me. They thought I was either faking an injury or didn't want to play for a team," said Leonard, detailing his struggles from last year.

"I know who I am as a person, I know how I feel, and always just trust yourself. And that was my goal and my focus. And that's why one of the things that I take on the floor. I don't care about what the media has to say about me or if they want me to score or whatever, 30 points, because I did the game before, I'm going to come out and play the right way, I'm not trying to make headlines."

Safe to say, Leonard wrote his own headline at Oracle Arena.

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