Whether Kawhi Leonard is actually unhappy with the San Antonio Spurs or if the Los Angeles Lakers have a real chance to trade for him will be topics of debate all offseason, fueled by every single update or report on the situation.
Things aren’t looking so good for San Antonio on that front. Amid worries from the Spurs that Leonard’s agents are trying to get him to a larger market, his representatives are apparently not the only ones who aren’t happy with Leonard’s current workplace.
In fact, according to Scott Davis of Business Insider, Leonard’s family thinks that playing for the Spurs has made his own individual brand less lucrative:
A league source told Business Insider that Leonard’s agency and family have never been fond of Texas and feel that San Antonio, a small market, has hurt Leonard’s marketability when it comes to sponsors. The same source said Leonard’s shy personality is more to blame for his inability to get more sponsorships than San Antonio’s market size.
However, it sounds like the Spurs (or someone close to them), might disagree with the notion that playing in San Antonio has kept Leonard’s brand from being as big as other ballers’.
The source with knowledge of the Spurs disputed that claim. The person was never aware that Leonard’s camp was ever unhappy with San Antonio.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Playing for the Spurs — who almost seem to revel in how niche and closed off they are, led by Gregg Popovich’s one-word shutdowns of media questions he doesn’t like — has almost certainly kept Leonard from being as marketable as he would in a larger market with more fans like the Lakers.
However, the source that believes Leonard’s own quietness has also hurt him probably isn’t wrong either. More so than even their games, there has been a rise in how a cult of personality leads fans to players in recent years, whether they’re drawn by the borderline-psychotic competitiveness of Kobe Bryant or the playfulness of Joel Embiid.
Leonard has never taken the time to market himself or make himself interesting beyond being a quiet guy who is really freaking good at basketball. His camp would likely argue that the court is all that should matter, but as we’ve seen with how popular Lonzo Ball was before he even stepped foot on an NBA floor, someone has to make an effort to make a player interesting as well.
Ball, another quiet guy, had the benefit of his father to do the heavy lifting on the branding and controversy front for him. Leonard and his family have never truly tried to make an impact there, and so maybe as much as pointing the finger at the small-market Spurs, they should look at themselves for not trying to create a following for Leonard off the court.
Or just try and get him to the Lakers. That might work too.