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Tony Parker addresses rumors he's the reason Kawhi Leonard left the Spurs: "I’m kind of the one who passed him the torch"

If anything, Parker said he made Kawhi his successor in San Antonio

To this date, the San Antonio Spurs have five championship trophies in their cabinet. The latest came in 2014 when Kawhi Leonard broke into the scene as the next big thing outside the legendary trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.

From then on, Leonard never looked back and gradually evolved into a full-fledged Spurs star, improving his numbers from 12.8 to 25.5 points per game in three seasons. But in 2018, things took a massive turn as “The Claw” incurred a quad injury that resulted in a chain of events that would soon lead to a fractious relationship with the franchise.

Plagued with controversies

In the 2017/18 season, Leonard was limited to just nine games due to a quad injury. While it was already a major setback for the Spurs, reports about the comments of some team members at the time certainly did not help, particularly the ones by Parker.

Apparently, Leonard’s injury was more complicated than everyone thought it was. As the frustration increased due to Kawhi’s seemingly lengthy rehabilitation, tension rose when Parker said that his leg injury was worse than Leonard’s.

According to renowned NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has remained “irate” about the veteran point guard’s comment in which Parker was quoted saying, ‘My quad injury was a hundred times worse.’ Woj further noted that it was “the last straw” for Leonard, who opted not to resume until the season was over and eventually requested a trade.

Parker addressed it more than once

While the truth about the severity of Leonard’s controversial injury boiled down to how the fans judged it, Parker never shied away from addressing the aftermath of his comment. He first tried to lift the lid on the matter publicly in January 2019, seven months after Leonard and Danny Green left the Spurs for the Toronto Raptors in a multi-player trade that saw San Antonio receiving DeMar DeRozan. Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick.

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According to the six-time NBA All-Star, his comment was never meant to throw shade at Kawhi, and that’s not the reason why he’s no longer with the Spurs. If anything, Parker said he made his former teammate his successor in San Antonio.

”If people think that, then they’re really wrong,” Parker said of the situation publicly for the first time via Pounding The Rock. “Because I’m definitely not the reason [why Kawhi left] . I was saying that [comment] in a positive way. The sad thing is everybody ran with this and put me as the bad guy, and I had no problem playing with Kawhi.”

”I loved playing with him,” he continued. “I’m kind of the one who passed him the torch because it was kind of my team between 2008 and 2015, and I passed the torch to him. So it was sad people tried to put me against Kawhi. It never happened like that. People like [former Spur] Danny Green and other people that knew Kawhi and could talk to them, I told them to tell him the real story.”

Despite trying to change the narrative in 2019, Parker never really managed to be free from the stigma of his infamous comment. Well, it’s hard to argue as Spurs fans have a battle cry- Kawhi, in his first and only season with the Raptors, led the team to an emphatic NBA championship for the first time in the franchise’s history.

After almost two years since he first spoke about the issue, Parker was quizzed to address it again. The four-time NBA champ stuck to his stance and even stressed that he and Leonard never had a problem all these years.

“I have no problem with Kawhi Leonard,” Parker told The Ringer in 2020 via News 4 San Antonio. “We never had an argument. When the journalist asked me if my injury was worse than Kawhi’s, I said yes because it was true. But that didn’t lessen the significance of his injury. He took over the franchise and I gave up the torch of the franchise willingly. It’s very sad that the media took one quote and made it sound like I didn’t want to play with him. He was the face of the franchise.”

“Everybody is different,” he added. “I only have good stuff to say about Kawhi. I had great years with him. We were playing unbelievable together. We won a championship together. So for me I feel very blessed I played with him all those years because he was very good for us. Then he decided to do something else and that's everybody's right.”

Whatever the truth is about the Parker-Leonard fiasco, one thing that remains a fact is that the Spurs lost a superstar in the process. For sure, some die-hard San Antonio fans are still wondering how many more championships they could’ve won had the infamous rift never happened, and Kawhi stayed.

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