Kawhi Leonard once revealed that he was a Sixers fan growing up without offering much elaboration. During a post-game press conference, Farbod Esnaashari — a writer for Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation All Clippers — got Kawhi to reveal the reason behind his Allen Iverson fandom.
“Just seeing that team with the Sixers, bringing them to the finals and carrying them by himself,” Leonard said. “That just resonated with me. His will not to give up.”Kawhi Leonard
While having a different type of game, Leonard and Iverson share the same mentality to the game. They played with great effort on both sides of the ball and want to do whatever it takes to win.
Iverson was a more flashy player, with his signature crossover utilized by almost all ball-handlers today. He could contort himself to get around defenders at the rim. On the other hand, Leonard’s moves are a bit stiffer. However, he makes up for it with a high release point on his shot. His mid-range game is also immaculate.
Leonard mentioned Iverson’s off-ball defense. Both excel in the passing lanes and getting deflections. Of course, Leonard’s giant hands and wingspan give him a natural advantage over Iverson, but the instincts are there.
Comparing Leonard’s 2019 Finals and Iverson’s 2001 Finals
Allen Iverson and Kawhi Leonard took the lion-share of the offensive load for their respective championship teams. The Sixers coach, Larry Brown, popularized the “Iverson Cut,” where Iverson would cut across two screeners at the elbow to the wings. Teams often utilize this set to get their wing players an advantage before they touch the ball. From there, Iverson would attack off a ball screen and slash to the basket.
Leonard got his points through post-ups and turnarounds. He would get deep position and raise for jumpers.
Regarding their finals appearances, they both faced dynasties. Iverson couldn’t overcome the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, but he could take a game off the duo. For Leonard, he put an end to the Warriors’ dynasty, but it was after devastating injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
While Iverson may not have had the same level of success as Leonard in the NBA, his younger generation’s influence is truly profound. From his fashion off the court, ball handling, and mentality, his influence will last for a long time.