Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Apr 2, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (front) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 111-90. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (front) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 111-90. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard may have found a kindred spirit in rival Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors

Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green are friends in my head.

Every time the San Antonio Spurs play the Golden State Warriors, I automatically watch these two go at it for however long their usually short matchup lasts. The focus is usually on whomever will (attempt to) match up with Stephen Curry.

It’s only when Leonard is switched onto Green that more excitement is generated, an excitement that fades as soon as Leonard is switched to guard another Golden State player (usually Curry).

I watch The Klaw and Day-Day battle each other and am struck by how, for all of their obvious differences, they are actually more alike than either may recognize or admit.

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When Leonard makes an exciting play, his face maintains the blank expression mastered by his team captain, Tim Duncan. Green, on the other hand, talks trash, yells, and claps like he’s a high school cheerleader at a pep rally.

Green is active on social media, often making short videos as part of Bleacher Report’s Uninterrupted series or sending out tweets, when he’s not monitoring his outspoken yet entertaining mother’s Twitter account (if you’re not following Mary Babers-Green, you’re missing out).

Leonard is hard-pressed to speak to the sports media after games unless he has to and, while there are Twitter and Instagram accounts with his name on them, probably doesn’t hang out on the interwebs too often (takes away from gym time, dontcha know). He does, however, manage to find time for a cooking class.

Green embraced his newfound freedom as an NBA player with an apartment in the much-less-expensive city of Emeryville, Calif., on the outskirts of Oakland; he prefers to grocery shop at Pic n’ Pay or Walmart because he can get more bang for his megabucks. Leonard finally replaced the Chevrolet Malibu that he had in college with a 1997 Chevy Tahoe that he fixed up.

The Porsche that he owns (and purchased under duress from friends and family) is only driven on game nights, as Leonard prefers the Tahoe for nostalgic reasons.  And let’s not forget his fondness for WingStop coupons.

Mind you, Green signed an extension with the Warriors for five years and $82 million. Leonard did the same with the Spurs, but for $94 million.

Two penny pinchers with similar value contracts in professional sports? Yes, please!

Earlier in the season, an article mentioned a rivalry between Leonard and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  This may be true, but a more subtle yet equally impactful rivalry is brewing between Leonard and Green.

Like Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Duncan, though, this rivalry is one tempered by mutual respect of equally matched foes who are very similar in ways not obvious to the casual fan. Like Nowitzki and Duncan, the rivalry will only cause both to get better, even as they cheer each other on if for no other reason than to be the last two standing.

Watching Leonard and Green progress during the past season and a half have me convinced that they are indeed brothers under the skin. For all of their game differences, their career and personal trajectories have been rather similar.

Unlike their teammates, Leonard and Green didn’t grow up in the cocoons of the suburbs. Nor did either have the luxury of wealthy parents upon which to fall. Leonard’s father was murdered while Leonard was in high school in Moreno Valley, Calif., (though many media outlets state he’s from neighboring, more palatable Riverside).

Green and his siblings were raised on the rough streets of  Saginaw and East Lansing, Mich., by their mother. Leonard was selected 15th in the 2011 NBA Draft; Green was selected 35th in the 2012 draft.

Both attended state schools with good basketball programs (Leonard at San Diego State, Green at Michigan State). Both were underrated coming into the NBA. Both have way surpassed expectations. Both have achieved heights that they couldn’t have dreamed of in their respective California and Michigan. Both haven’t even sniffed the ceilings of their respective potential.

I would like to think that if they were in the same geographical proximity, they would be homies, or at least work out together once in a while.

Leonard beat out Green for 2015 Defensive Player of the Year by 16 total points. They were also in a race to be voted in by fans as a starter in the 2016 All-Star Game. At one point, Green was ahead by a mere 12,000 votes before the final voting period.

Then the Spurs Nation spoke with their fingers and mouse clicks and got Leonard in by more than 60,000 votes (Green finished fifth in voting behind the Mavericks’ Zaza Pachulia).

Green is currently second to Oklahoma City Thunders’ Russell Westbrook in triple-doubles this season, and is in the serious running for DPOY again this year. Leonard’s three-point made percentage is higher than that of Green’s three-point sniper teammate Curry.

Both Leonard and Green have supportive mothers, though Green’s is more overtly vocal and not shy about touting her youngest child’s talents or her displeasure when he is not perceived to be given his just due.

Still, despite the rivalry between Leonard and Green, Babers-Green likes Leonard and respects his hustle–which is just like her son’s.

Given that Leonard and Green will be around each other for the next 10 years or so while taking over the league, they should make it a point to set up an offseason play date or something (hey, it works for James and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat).

Leonard could fly up to Michigan to check out the new athletic facilities made possible by Green’s huge alumni donation, then they could swing down to San Diego and get in some three-a-days. Then they could jet back to San Antonio, where Leonard could treat Green to all the wings he can eat at WingStop (he may even hook  Green up with his own coupons) and give him a tour of HEB.

In between, they could exchange penny-pinching tips.

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I need this bromance to happen. Indubitably.