Kawhi-isms: Ranking Kawhi Leonard's Best Phrases and Mantras From San Diego State

Kawhi Leonard is a man of few words. But the few words he does say find a way to leave a quality impact.
Publish date:

If you haven't read the oral history of Kawhi Leonard's time at San Diego State by Jayson Jenks of The Athletic, I would highly recommend.

Leonard's former teammates and coaches explained how he was the hardest worker they've ever seen and how on his official visit all he wanted to do was play ball.

But in addition to detailing how Kahwi is, in fact, a robot designed just to dominate at the game of basketball, his former companions with the Aztecs also broke down just what Leonard would say when he was on the court.

And it turns out, the only thing more amusing than Kawhi's laugh is what he tells you in the middle of a basketball game.

So let's breakdown the phrases and mantras Kawhi Leonard says on the court and applies to his basketball in practice to determine the best Kawhi-ism.

5. "Bucket"

To start off, make sure you're saying all of these in your head in Leonard's very low-pitched, monotone voice. Now imagine he's in the middle of ripping off 40 on you and he just calmly says "bucket" after hitting a contested three or difficult pull-up.

Former teammate D.J. Gay told The Athletic that was all Leonard had to say after scoring. "The most he talked was on the hard court, and Kawhi was not afraid to let you know that you weren't going to score on him, that you couldn’t get past him or that he would score on you. Every time the ball went through the net, he just said, 'Bucket. Bucket.' That was it."

It would drive you insane. Especially the longer the game goes and the more you get frustrated with having no answer for him defensively.

Do you think he said "Bucket" after ending the series against the 76ers? Is that what made Joel Embiid cry?

4. "Why can’t everybody just guard their own man?"

This is how you wind up as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. You just assume everybody else should have the ability to put the clamps on their assignment as you do.

"Guys coming from high school have trouble with help-side defense," former teammate Tim Shelton told The Athletic. "Kawhi made a comment to coach Hutson, who was the defensive coach at the time, and he was like, 'I don't get it, coach. Why can't they just stay in front of their man like I do? Like, why do I have to play help side?' That was his only comment I ever heard him make about defense: 'They should just be able to stay in front of their man like I do.'"

3. "Nope" and "No"

Not only does Kawhi make impossible for you to score, but he also literally tells you in the process that your attempts are futile.

"You couldn't score on him, so that's what he would say: 'Nope, nope, nope.' And when he would score on you: 'Bucket. Bucket,'" Gay told The Athletic.

"He'd be like, 'You're not scoring. You're not doing anything,'" Shelton added. "Or he'd be like, 'No, no, no.' He'd just move his feet and say, 'No.'"

2. "But they fouling me"

So on the occasions Leonard doesn't get to yell "bucket" he has an explanation for what actually happened.

"There's one thing we always laugh about as a staff, and it would always happen at practice," assistant coach Dave Velasquez told The Athletic. "He would drive in there, and he's big and people would be hitting him all the time. At practice, you don't really call that. I can't tell you how many times he would look over and go, 'But they fouling me. But they fouling me.'"

What if he had a point though?

1. "Board man gets paid"

The greatest trash talk to come out of Kawhi Leonard's mouth is in reference to rebounding. If that doesn't make you smile I don't know what could.

The man led the conference in rebounding both seasons he was there, and in the process, told everybody that would listen that he was on the verge of getting paid.

"If I heard it once, I heard it 50 times. 'Board man. I'm a board man,'" assistant coach Justin Houston told The Athletic. "That's what he said. Absolutely. 'I'm a board man. Yeah, I'm a board man. Board man gets paid.' He spoke in phrases like that."

And what wonderful phrases they are.