Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the second time after his team's championship win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. Leonard, who also won the award in 2014 while playing for the San Antonio Spurs, joins basketball greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to win Finals MVP with two different franchises.
Playing in his first season with Toronto, Leonard averaged 28.5 points during the best-of-seven Finals, leading the Raptors to a 4-2 series upset of two-time defending champions Golden State. Playing against a Warriors team with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the NBA's most feared shooters, Leonard dazzled in the spotlight and left his rivals in the shade.
The focal point of the Raptors offence throughout the Finals, he took the playmaking responsibilities on his shoulders and shrugged off Golden State's efforts to slow him down. The Raptors became a legitimate contender when they acquired Leonard from San Antonio last July, though when he arrived he was coming off a season in which he missed all but nine games with a quadriceps issue.
With no assurances that he would re-sign with the team beyond 2019, it was a high-risk trade for Toronto. The rewards, however, have been huge. Leonard led the team in scoring all season and carried them to their first final in the franchise's 24-year history.
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