LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are two of the best players in the game. And yes, they've had more than their fair share of battles. Having met in the Finals multiple times, things came to a head this past season.
With Bron's team out of playoff contention, Kawhi was the one who lifted the trophy and, in a lot of people's minds, took the throne from the King.
And, according to new information by Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, there is a lot of animosity between the All-NBA superstars.
An Eastern Conference general manager, his identity concealed because the league prohibits executives from discussing other teams’ players, agrees that the James-Leonard rivalry is apparent to him, even if the combatants won’t come right out and say it.
“I would say there’s mutual respect but that there’s an appropriate level of fear as well,” the GM says. “They know each other are really talented. But there’s not a lot of admiration. I don’t see them going out to dinner.”
"When you had a guy like LeBron come in [to town], you could tell Kawhi wanted to make a name for himself and show the world he was up there [with James]," Anderson says. "I would've been shocked if he went to the Lakers. I don't take him for the kind of guy who wants to play with the best; he wants to prove he's the best. If there's anybody in the league ready to step up to LeBron, it's Kawhi."
Apparently, Kawhi has never been cut from a different cloth than the rest of James' competitors.
No one disputes, however, that Leonard was the driving force behind the Toronto Raptors’ title last season. And although he didn’t have to go through James, another Eastern Conference GM is convinced the psychological advantage James enjoys against everyone else doesn’t apply to Leonard. At least not in Leonard’s mind.
“Kawhi knows, ‘Oh, I can get him,'” the GM says. “And LeBron knows he knows.”
LeBron and Kawhi are set to face off on Christmas day for what will likely be an NBA playoff preview.
As two of the best teams in the West, the path through a Championship passes through them. No doubt, the series of battles to come will be a sight to behold.