6’7, 230 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan and huge hands, Kawhi is as close to a perfect body for basketball as is. He is tall enough to guard almost any position, but not too tall to hamper his quickness and agility.
You may think Giannis would be the ultimate basketball athlete, but his size will always make him a liability while dribbling and shooting. The mechanics of it are clumsy in a way that can only be improved so much. Just watch some tape from this year’s Conference Finals. When they needed it, Kawhi just locked Giannis down.
Ok, so it may work on leaner guys, but how can Kawhi deal with bigger, stronger players so well? Power. Lots of it. We usually correlate size and strength. The bigger the guy, the stronger he is. Then you read articles that change that perception a bit.
For instance, after several ankle injuries, Steph changed the way he walks, runs, shoots – everything. His coaches had him remove emphasis from his ankles to his hips, and developed leg strength. He went from deadlifting 200 pounds to 400 pounds (twice his body weight) – only the 6’11, 265-pound Festus Ezeli deadlifted more.
Same goes for Kawhi. He may not be the biggest guy in the gym, but the most likely is the strongest one. When we focus on arm and shoulder size, the secret is in cores strength and hip flexibility. Ok, and then some muscle size comes in hand. Especially if you’re going to be breaking equipment. (via Tom Haberstroh, NBC Sports)
Stories about Leonard’s Herculean strength have long been whispered about around the league. There’s a machine in the San Antonio Spurs’ weight room that staffers referred to as “The Yo-Yo.” An athlete stands on a metal platform and straps into a harness around the midsection, which is attached by a thick wire that connects the harness to a steel wheel underneath the base. The athlete then performs a squat, anchored by the steel wheel that pulls the athlete down, making it more difficult to stand upright from a deep squat. (Hence, “The Yo-Yo.”)
For most pro athletes, this is a grueling exercise, like a super squat. But after several repetitions on “The Yo-Yo,” it was clear that this wasn’t a challenge for Leonard. Under close observation of strength coaches and teammates, Leonard took it to another level. The trainers added a steel plate that would create a downward force of two times Leonard’s body weight, which at the time was around 250 pounds.
Leonard kept going, with relative ease. Then suddenly, Leonard stopped. The room turned silent as Leonard looked down at his feet. He cracked the metal platform. He literally broke the machine. Said one Spurs staffer who witnessed it that day: “Too strong for it.”
That explains the smirk when Paul George tried to defend him in the post.