The real superstars
How do you become an NBA superstar? What makes you different from just being a regular star? There are many factors to it. The number of championship rings, All-Star appearances, stats, All-NBA Team selections, MVPs, Finals MVP, and how big your salary is could help differentiate a superstar from a real star. Those in the max deal territory can be categorized as superstars simply because they are paid like one.
In an interview, Shaquille O’Neal named who he thinks are the real superstars in the league.
The host then asked if LeBron James and Kevin Durant could be considered superstars, to which Shaq agreed. But when the host asked about Kawhi, Shaq claimed he didn’t know and fired back if she would put Kawhi on her list. “There was a time that like yeah, he’s a superstar. He’s a star for sure. I think right now; I’d say star.”
All of Shaq’s picks won Finals MVP, MVP, and at least an NBA championship. Plus, they are all on a max deal. Leonard is a 2-time champion, 5-time All-Star, and one of the youngest to win the finals MVP in 2014. So why does Shaq think he is not a superstar in the NBA?
Is Kawhi Leonard a superstar?
If a player can’t play, regardless of if he is a superstar or a role player, he can’t contribute. Kawhi Leonard, when healthy, is a superstar; there’s no debate on that. But he’s been sidelined by a torn ACL since the 2021 playoffs. We’re not sure how much of a superstar remains in him when he returns, but there’s no reason to believe he would decline that much.
Availability issues are probably ONeal’s reasons why he’s skeptical about considering Kawhi a superstar. The former Spurs forward have been hounded by load management controversies in his career. Some criticize him for opting to rest in games. Others applaud him for trying to think long-term. Until he addresses those concerns by playing and being available consistently, Shaq probably won’t change his mind about Leonard.
If Kawhi watched the interview, he could use the Shaq shade as motivation next season. As mentioned by the host, there was a time when Leonard and the L.A. Clippers were dominating the league. And fans have bigger expectations now that Leonard is expected to join Paul George and rumored new Clipper John Wall. But knowing Kawhi, he would instead let his game do the talking than engage in a back-and-forth with Shaq.
Come to think of it, the least superstar thing about Kawhi is his introverted, low-key nature. If he's not on the court, he's not in our basketball consciousness. We hope that changes soon.