Denzel Washington recalls watching Kawhi Leonard play after father's death

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In January of 2008, actor Denzel Washington witnessed a stellar performance from a young Kawhi Leonard -- a performance so unforgettable, he brought it up recently on "The Bill Simmons Podcast."

Washington said he thought Leonard was drawing from the pain of his loss, having just learned of his father's passing 24 hours before the game.

Years later, Washington came to find that the incredible performance was no unique feat from the Spurs star.

The Oscar-winning actor recently appeared on "The Bill Simmons Podcast" where the pair discussed Washington's latest project, "Equalizer 2," time filming with Ray Allen, preparing for "Remember the Titans" and his love for the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.

As the pair discussed Washington's fascination with the newest Laker, LeBron James, Simmons asked what other players he enjoyed watching. Washington said Kawhi Leonard.

Washington said that he'd frequent his son's basketball games and happened to stay for an especially memorable King Riverside match.

"(My son) had a game and there was a second game and it was a school called King Riverside that was playing a team -- I think from Atlanta -- and I remember because that night they said, 'There's a young man who's playing tonight whose father had been killed,'" Washington said. "We had a moment of silence for him, and the kid's name was Kawhi Leonard, and he had about 29 points and 27 rebounds and I figured, 'Wow this kid is inspired by losing his dad.' And what a game. And no one knew, 'Oh no, he'll be able to do that for the next 20 years.'"

Washington's memory of the game wasn't exactly accurate as King Riverside took on Compton Dominguez that evening and Leonard scored 17 points for his team, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Leonard, the Times reported, was informed his father, Mark Leonard, had been shot to death 24 hours before the game on Jan. 19, 2008.

Mark Leonard owned a car wash, and on the night he was fatally shot, ABC News reported he was trying to get out on time to see his son play.

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