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Defining Moments of the NBA Season: Don’t Ask Kawhi About His Christmas Plans

Or anything, really

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The NBA is on hold for the foreseeable future. To help fill the void, we’re looking back at the defining moments of the 65-ish games of the 2019-20 season so far.

Kawhi Leonard has tweeted four times. He first joined the online hellscape in June of 2014, presumably to bask in the cyberglow of his first championship and Finals MVP, but he didn’t post anything until January of 2015—a photo made to look like a painting of the Spurs’ visit to the Obama White House in celebration of that 2014 title. Leonard is smiling, handing President Obama a basketball autographed by the entire Spurs team. Assistant coach Chip Engelland is there in the background beaming. Patty Mills looks like he’s having a vision of how he will one day die.

The second tweet came a few months later, a blurry picture of him mid-swing at Topgolf San Antonio (“You don’t have to be a golfer to have fun at @topgolfsat!”). The third was on July 6, 2015, a photo of a custom hover board with his old logo all over it. His final tweet was the very next day, a retweet of San Diego State University’s Facilities and Game Operations account. They wanted to let their followers know Leonard had stopped by his old stomping grounds. A picture accompanied that post, too. It was also blurry.

His Twitter is still active. I doubt he knows. He follows six accounts: Jamal Crawford, the Spurs, H-E-B (a chain of grocery stores in Texas), IMPACT SPORTS, Jordan Brand, and Wingstop San Antonio. He has never liked a tweet. He has never replied to one. Does he even remember his password? Did he know it in the first place? He has a Facebook page. The profile picture is a poster for the Kawhi Leonard Skills Camp that will take place August 7 through 9, 2012. He doesn’t have an Instagram. He doesn’t have a YouTube channel. He doesn’t have a television show or an internet show or a podcast. He dodges personal questions with the speed and agility of a jaguar. He is not interested in people knowing him. So, it came as no surprise this past December when, during a media scrum, this happened:

Reporter: What’s Christmas Eve look like in the Leonard household?

Leonard: Private. I don’t discuss that with you guys.

I support Leonard completely shutting down any and all attempts at trying to understand him. Knowledge is power and it’s always important to know more about yourself than anyone else does. If the interaction above seemed at all familiar, it’s because something similarly beautiful happened last year when he was a Raptor.

Reporter: So, merry Christmas. Um, can you talk about your favorite Christmas moment?

Leonard: Not right now.

I’m especially fond of this response as it seems to suggest that there would be a time in the future when Leonard would actually answer this question—which, of course he won’t. He is not going to give you his Rosebud. He is not going to give you his reasons.

It’s hard not to be impressed by his commitment to quietness. The illusion of access is everywhere these days, with carefully crafted platitudes acting as windows into the “authentic,” “real” athlete. Nice to have somebody just be like, “No. You don’t get to know me like that.” It’s somehow comforting to know that, and while I love watching Trae Young play, Leonard’s not going to post a shot of himself dribbling a basketball with the caption “Poetry In Motion.”

Sometimes I like to picture Leonard as professional basketball’s Ron Swanson, chucking his computer into a dumpster because, after attempting to buy a handcrafted mahogany wood model of a B-25 Mitchell Panchito, April Ludgate informed him Google Earth exists.

A lot has been said about how Leonard doesn’t say anything. People have been obsessed with his proclivity for silence for as long as he’s been in the league. To understate it, he’s been tough to get a bead on. There are around 218,000 results when you Google “Kawhi Leonard quiet.” In the “People also ask” section of the first page of results, the second question listed is “Does Kawhi Leonard have emotions?” Also, this:

I’m pretty sure the answer is yes. More examples. From a now-surreal-to-reread Bleacher Report profile by Jonathan Abrams, here’s Justin Hutson, an assistant coach of Leonard’s when he was at San Diego State, talking about Leonard like he’s a spy or something:

“He was a guy you had to go find [in recruiting] because he wasn’t always going to pick up his phone. He was not easy to get in touch with, not easy to read, but he was genuine with me. So if you continue to work and call and go see him and text, he appreciated that.”

On February 13, 2013, in his second year in San Antonio, Leonard hit a game-winning 3 against the Cavs with a couple seconds left on the clock. Dion Waiters (who’s just different) had collapsed down on a Tony Parker drive and left Leonard all alone in the right corner. Kawhi stuck it clean. The only part of his body language suggesting he was excited was the tiny bit of extra juice he added to the high-five he gave Manu on his way to the bench. After the game, during media availability, the discussion again turned to Leonard’s lack of volume. Popovich got to answer questions about it. I’ll front-load this with stuff that has nothing to do with Leonard because it’s just good, surly Pop, but the Leonard chatter comes near the end.

Reporter 1: How big is it going into the All-Star break with a win like that?

Popovich: How big is it? How do I measure that?

Reporter 1: I’m asking you.

Pop: On what scale? Is it like 1 through 10?

Reporter 1: 10.

Pop: Uh, 1. It’s just another game.

Reporter 2: Is there a conscious effort to make Kawhi Leonard involved with, you know, being a leader on this team?

Pop: Uh, no. We have enough leaders already.

Reporter 2: Do you think he’ll be there at some point?

Pop: I think so. He just got here.

Reporter 3: Do you have to teach him to speak first?

Pop: Um, he’s not too big on talking to me. I think he talked to Timmy last week. Other than that I haven’t seen him say much lately.

This is true dedication to doing whatever’s necessary to reveal as little as possible about one’s self. I appreciate the approach. We could all use more peace and quiet. Francis Bacon once said, “Silence is the virtue of fools.” I don’t like to disagree with people who have cool names—and certainly, you know, props to the scientific method—but I honestly think that’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. I’m more in line with da Vinci on the issue. He said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” If that’s true, Leonard’s the king of the world.

Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.