SAN ANTONIO – Former San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, recently traded to the NBA's Toronto Raptors, has written a letter thanking his former team, the city of San Antonio and its fan base.
Shams Charania, an NBA reporter for Yahoo Sports, tweeted the full statement Thursday morning.
"I have been going back and forth the last few weeks trying to figure out the right things to say, and it comes down to two simple words: THANK YOU!" Leonard wrote.
In the seven paragraph letter, Leonard finally gives some insight into his feelings following his departure from the only NBA team he's ever played for.
Kawhi specifically thanks head coach Gregg Popovich for helping him with his growth as a player.
"THANK YOU Pop I’ll always be grateful for my growth under your guidance," he said.
Leonard, through his advisers, demanded a trade over the summer. His departure and fallout from the only NBA franchise he's ever played has remained a bit of a mystery.
The deal to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, however, ended a nearly yearlong saga that involved a reported tense relationship between the Spurs and the player once believed to be the future face of the franchise.
"Kawhi worked very hard to become the player that he is, our staff worked very hard to help him get there and we wish him all the best as he moves on to Toronto,” Popovich said following the trade.
Last season, Leonard missed the preseason and the first 27 games of the season with an injury that was described by the Spurs as quadriceps tendinopathy.
He would return in the month of December, but was shut down a month later after playing in only nine games. He would never again return to the Spurs lineup.
While with the Spurs, Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP in 2014 and won back-to-back league Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was also in the top three of league MVP voting twice.
Here's the Kawhi letter in its entirety:
I have been going back and forth the last few weeks trying to
figure out the right things to say, and it comes down to two
simple words: THANK YOU!
My family and I want to say THANK YOU to the entire
Spurs organization and the people and fans of San Antonio.
THANK YOU to every one of my teammates I’ve played with
over my seven years in the NBA.
THANK YOU Pop I’ll always be grateful for my growth under
THANK YOU to the fans! There is not a more passionate or
dedicated fan base than what I’ve witnessed in San Antonio.
Through all the ups and downs – I’m glad there were many more
ups! – I’ll never forget what we have shared and accomplished
While I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my career, I’ll
always remember the city and the people of San Antonio!
– Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard releases first statements since trade to Toronto, saying goodbye to San Antonio and the Spurs: pic.twitter.com/XxSUEwbrQ6— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 9, 2018