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Kawhi Leonard Has Returned, and Things Aren’t So Cold and Desperate Anymore

The Spurs’ talisman is finally back from injury, and suddenly everything is amazing

Kawhi Leonard holding a basketball with his other hand on his hip Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the San Antonio Spurs were playing a game of basketball against the Golden State Warriors, and, FYI, Golden State is not an actual place you can find on a map, I just thought you should know. And during the game, a hero, and let’s call him Kawhi, had led the Spurs to a 90-point lead with five seconds to go, but then a villain, and let’s call him Zaza because that feels like a suitably villainous name, hit Kawhi with a car, and the collision broke every bone and tore every ligament in Kawhi’s body, even the ones in his eyeballs, because there are ligaments in your eyeballs. And the Warriors, no longer having to face the hero’s might or wrath, went on a 108–0 run during those final five seconds, and so they won the game, and also I didn’t mention this, but it was Game 1 of a playoff series, and so they won the series, too, instantly, and it was designated as a 4–0 affair without a care for justice, because evil is a dark, dark shadow, and bad, bad things happen in dark, dark shadows.

And so for the quarter-millennium that followed, across the entirety of the expanse of the basketball universe, things were cold and desperate. And were you to ask me to describe exactly how cold and desperate they were, I would simply shake my head and say, “There are no words, only this …” And then I would lock you in a small safe and drop that safe into the center of the ocean (probably the Pacific, though possibly the Atlantic). And then I would move the planet several hundred thousand miles farther away from the sun than it is right now so that the ocean I dropped the safe in would freeze completely. And then I would send you a text that read, “That cold and that desperate, my dude.”

But so those years passed.

And those decades passed.

And those centuries passed.

And none of it was good, not one single piece. In fact, it was all terrible, every single thing.

There was gluttony in Golden State, and offensive mayhem in Houston, and an uprising in Boston, and a god in waiting in Cleveland, and some other stuff happening in other cities that probably only those people in those particular cities care about, because you can fake sympathy but you can’t fake empathy.

But now — and get ready for this, because it is exceptional and monumental and of the utmost importance, even more important than the most important thing you can think of, which, even if you’re thinking of this thing I am about to say, would still be true, if you can even comprehend that — the hero has returned. He is back. He is really back. He is officially back, and if you don’t believe me, that’s understandable, because it has been so, so, so long since anyone has seen him that it’s almost hard to imagine he could have returned, but he did. Just watch this:

It is beauty.

It is art.

It is light.

It is perfect.

Imagine the songs they will sing about this moment. Imagine the hymns. The sonnets. The poetry. Imagine the stories that will be told, generation through generation through generation, pulled and stretched and shaped into folklore, into legend, into mythology, into fable, into saga. “I saw it,” an old man will tell a group of children sitting in a circle around him, and he will speak slowly and softly, because he is so old that it’s become painful for him to speak loudly, because it feels for him like the volume vibrates his bones, which have calcified and become mostly useless. “I watched him return when no one thought he would. I watched him return when hope was so far lost that we couldn’t even remember what it felt like, only that there was a word for it.” Some of the younger kids will make fun of him, but that’s because that’s what younger kids do, because they are idiots. (“Look at his skin,” one of them will whisper to another one. “It looks like if he was a pumpkin that someone carved a hole out of and then left out in the sun for a billion years. Have you ever seen a pumpkin fold in onto itself in infinity, like after Halloween or whatever? That’s what his face looks like.”) But listen:

It is a joyous time, I know that much.

Because Kawhi has returned.

The sunlight has begun to beat back the dark, and it has begun to warm the frost, and so things are no longer cold and desperate. And were you to ask me to describe exactly how not cold and how not desperate they are anymore, I would simply shake my head and say, “There are no words, only this …” and then I would take your hand and walk you to one of those cheapie little toddler pools that fill up with only about 10 inches of water at max, and this one would have only about 5 inches of water in it. And I would ask you to step inside of the halfway-full pool, and the water would feel a perfect temperature on your feet and ankles because we made it so. And also the pool would be surrounded by 100 lifeguards, each of whom would be a master lifeguard willing to risk his or her life to save yours. And then I would have your mother come out, and she would give you a hug like only a mother can, and she would tell you she loves you and that she’s proud of you. And then she would give you a gift, and you would open it and it’d be a brand new iPhone X. And as soon as you took it out of the box, I would send you a text that read, “That not cold and that not desperate, my dude.”

Kawhi played professional basketball for 16 minutes Tuesday night, and he had 13 points and six rebounds. It might as well have been 130 points and 60 rebounds. Everything is amazing. The NBA season has started, truly, and everything is amazing.