San Antonio, Texas - Former San Diego State men’s basketball standout Kawhi Leonard earned the 2014 Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award on Sunday night, leading the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA championship over the Miami Heat, 104-87, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It’s the franchise’s fifth title and the first for Leonard, who became the youngest Finals MVP since Tim Duncan in 1999.
The third-year forward scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Sunday’s series-clinching victory, and averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in the series. Leonard also shot 58 percent from three-point range in the Finals and drew the defensive assignment of defending former league MVP LeBron James for the majority of the five games.
“It’s just a great group of guys supporting me,” Leonard said. “They said I have the talent, and they told me I just have to be aggressive to win this series. They pushed me. It’s all surreal to me right now.”
Leonard, a 2011 Associated Press Second-Team All-American at SDSU, is the only player on either Finals roster from a Mountain West institution, and is joined by Heat forward Juan Howard as the only Finals participants with Steve Fisher ties. Howard played under Fisher while at Michigan, and is currently one of the two assistant coaches for player development for Miami.
The 22-year-old forward was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the first time in his career on June 2, and became the seventh player in San Antonio franchise history to be voted to the team. Leonard’s 1.73 steals per games ranked 10th in the league during the 2013-14 regular season, as he also averaged a career-best 6.2 rebounds along with 0.76 blocks.