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The Return Of The Machine - Kawhi Leonard 3.0

by Bonny Tamperer 2 months ago in basketball
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Artificial Intelligence in the NBA.

The Return Of The Machine - Kawhi Leonard 3.0
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Kawhi Leonard looks human. He really does. Except for that laugh. That laugh nearly gave the game away. That laugh became a meme and a comedian's punchline instead of an investigation into the truth.

The truth is uncomplicated, and head smackingly obvious and it makes complete sense. You see Kawhi Leonard was designed in a lab with the notion of constructing the perfect basketballer. Emotionless, highly efficient, programmed with the midrange moves of MJ and Kobe and built with a left hand that has the ability to cause unexpected destruction on basketball heads akin to Rafael Nadal's southpaw infinity gauntlet on the tennis courts of Roland Garros.

There have been three iterations of The Kawhi. The first model was broken by Pop, not Pachulia, and the truth is they knew Pop would wear that first bot down, despite a passing request that he lighten up in practice. The second version imploded after they made it too human. Dancing and moving to LA will do that to you I guess. But now they've rebuilt him, made him stronger and faster, and this new version won't have any of those flaws.

Despite the setbacks the Kawhi experiment has been a success. Two NBA Championships and Two NBA Finals MVP Awards was seen as a victory for artificial intelligence, especially as he went onto establish himself as a perennial All NBA pick and a permanent fixture in whatever the All Star Game has become.

But missing a whole NBA season can relegate players to a footnote and they become referenced anecdotally rather than with the respect they've earned. Ultimately we humans forget, we always want something new to play with rather than the tried and tested old toy. 

Enter stage left DeMar DeRozan (Kawhi and DeMar will forever be linked, after their trade) and his 2021-22 NBA season, where he scorched NBA defences like Pyro at his absolute worst, with en fuego play after en fuego play, that could fast forward a climate crisis with the inexplicable heat that was being generated.

Last season, DeMar was the consensus number one playing at the number two (if basketball isn't positionless). Getting buckets at 27.9 points per game on 50% shooting from the field will do that for your rep. But we've been here before and just like Masai Ujiri did in Toronto, you need to unpersonalise (don't waste your time Googling that word) the task at hand, and recognise that Kawhi has all of DeMar's offensive brilliance (in arguably a less dynamic way) plus he operates like one hundred sentinels at once on the defensive end of the court.

Lest we forget, defence to Kawhi is like Itchy to Scratchy, it's a winning combination, which together just seems too damn good. Two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, which put him in the esteemed company of Hakeem Olajuwon and Dennis Rodman tell you that he's operating at a high clip on that end of the court. But more importantly it proves that defense forms a key part of Kawhi's genetically constructed DNA, and it's not a side hustle like it is for many of the NBA offensive elite showcasing their skills today. That's two way game is what makes him the most coveted basketball player on earth outside of anyone named LeBron James. Kawhi can score at will and lockdown the opposing teams best player without breaking into an artificial sweat. And even MJ broke into a sweat, but lets not go there right now. Instead, lets await our own recalibration, as the plaudits return in ode of the machine.

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About the author

Bonny Tamperer

I suspend reality when writing about sports and inject my love of popular culture into my articles and stories, which hopefully provides readers with an enjoyable perspective. My interests include The NBA, Football, Boxing and Formula One.

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