Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James had their share of clashes over the years, but Leonard’s move to the LA Clippers elevated their rivalry to a new level.
Long before they played for the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James unknowingly started one of the NBA’s best rivalries in the 2013 NBA Finals. The Miami Heat won that series over the San Antonio Spurs in seven games as James took home his second consecutive Finals MVP award and averaged 23.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game.
The pair met once again in the Finals the very next season, as San Antonio got their revenge and won the series four games to one. Leonard stopped any chance of a Miami Heat three-peat and received the Finals MVP award at just 22 years old. The forward averaged 17.8 points per game on 61.2 percent shooting and played some incredible defense as he averaged 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
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This rivalry cooled down for a few years as Leonard and James changed teams several times, but once the 2019-20 season started, the competition ignited once again. Leonard signed with the LA Clippers and shared the same arena as James and the Lakers, which only rejuvenated their old rivalry.
The duo faced off in three out of a possible four matchups this season before the NBA got suspended. Leonard and the Clippers took the season series for the moment at two games to one, as he and James battled it out each game. However, the head to head stats between the two are very intriguing.
In those three games this season, Leonard averaged 30.7 points on 53.5 percent field goal shooting and 38.1 percent 3-point shooting. The 28-year-old also grabbed 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
James’ stats look much different as the forward averaged 23 points on 38.3 percent field goal shooting and a vile 21.7 percent shooting from behind the arc. James topped Leonard with nine rebounds and nine assists per game in those matchups, however.
Leonard and the Clippers led the season series before the suspension, but the real test was yet to occur. As the top two seeds in the Western Conference, many speculated that there could be an LA Clippers versus Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference Finals soon. However, the possibility of this is currently in jeopardy for clear reasons.
Still, given how this season played out between Leonard and James, is it enough to be claimed the best rivalry in the NBA? For only this season, the answer is undoubtedly yes. However, given the recent history between James and Stephen Curry meeting in four of the last five Finals, the edge goes to them as the best rivalry overall.
With both Leonard and James set to be in Los Angeles for the next few years, this matchup has the potential to become the best very quickly. Facing each other a minimum of four games a year, this rivalry in LA could become one of the best when it is said and done.
Kawhi Leonard has the advantage all-time when it comes to head-to-head victories over James, as he totaled 15 wins but has lost nine. This number includes an 8-4 record in the regular season and 7-5 record in the postseason.
LeBron James, on the other hand, holds the statistical advantage over Leonard in their career meetings. The four-time league MVP averaged 25.9 points compared to Leonard’s 19.9, 6.8 assists compared to 2.5, and the pair remain tied at 8.2 rebounds each.
With Leonard holding the edge in head to head wins while leBron leads Kawhi in statistics, both players have an advantage over the other when the Clippers and Lakers face off. Given their extensive past and exciting future, this is going to be an exciting matchup for years to come.