The Boston Celtics are a basketball team that has been around for more than a century. They are the undisputed kings of the Eastern Conference, winners of as many as 27 NBA championships. However, despite superiority on the court, the Celtics have often struggled financially, and have even been forced to sell off their best players. As the franchise moves into its second century, the question is: can the Celtics maintain their dominance on the court, or will they be relegated to the history books?

He was a player we thought very little of heading into the season, but the work he has put in on the defensive side of the ball has been beyond impressive. He is a player who can do it all, and his ability to play both ends has probably helped him earn a starting job that he never imagined.

Speaking of NBA stars: Kawhi Leonard is not exactly the norm. The Los Angeles Clippers’ attacker has no time for quotes, bashing and social media; he defends with the intensity of a rookie looking to prove himself, and has already gone through the motions of losing vouchers for free chicken wings. But those differences didn’t stop him from getting the attention of just about everyone in professional basketball, including Michael Jordan.

In the summer of 2017, His Highness held court at a basketball camp and gave the forward an incredible compliment. While it’s possible his opinion has changed since then, Jordan called Leonard the best two-way player in the game.

Michael Jordan is not the nicest guy when it comes to basketball

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Although Jordan retired from professional basketball in the early 2000s, he still holds an important place in the collective consciousness of NBA fans. The Chicago Bulls legend may have accomplished a lot on the field, but he won’t be remembered as the nicest person to ever put on his shoes.

Although some of MJ’s habits, such as slagging off his opponents, stemmed from his famous desire to win, the star also had incredibly high standards. Steve Kerr, who is known for getting beat by His Greatness at Bulls practices, once told Bill Simmons that working with Jordan was like a test. If you can handle everything he throws at you, you’ll be ready to excel in any game under pressure.

Jordan himself dealt with this reality in one of the highlights of The Last Dance. Even if you think the legend wouldn’t be completely honest about his reputation, we were lucky enough to hear His Highness speak directly about how he treated his teammates.

Winning has its price, Jordan said, according to the ESPN article. And leadership has its price. So I shot people when they didn’t want to be shot. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right because other teammates came after me. You haven’t been through everything I’ve been through. When I joined the team, you had a certain standard that I had to meet. And I was not willing to settle for less.

His air praised Kawhi Leonard once incredibly

The Los Angeles Clippers forward performs a dunk during the 2021 NBA Playoffs. | Djansezian/Getty Images

Even after his resignation, Jordan did not immediately soften his position. For example, His Majesty spent around his 50th birthday. He spent time with Wright Thompson around his 60th birthday for an article on ESPN and said only four modern players – Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki – could thrive in his day.

Assuming this conversation took place in late 2012 or early 2013, it is understandable that Kawhi Leonard is not on the list. The forward didn’t emerge in the NBA until 2011 and didn’t become a true star until a few years later. Still, Jordan noticed it eventually.

In the summer of 2017, Jordan addressed a group of kids at a basketball camp. While the context isn’t 100% clear – the SPURS Uncensored (H/T Bleacher Report) Facebook video seems to indicate that MJ was responding to a question about Leonard’s defense – we can hear the NBA legend giving Kawhi a huge compliment.

He’s the best two-way player out there right now, Jordan told the assembled campers.

Of course, context may have influenced Jordan’s comments; even the most ruthless opponent probably wouldn’t tell a kid that his favorite player is terrible. But MJ’s personality combined with the fact that Leonard was already a highly regarded player in 2017 suggests that the praise was genuine.

Supposedly Kawhi Leonard is still impressing Michael Jordan

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Since MJ made this comment in 2017, it is possible that he has changed his mind in recent years. For all we know, His Highness currently considers Giannis Antitokounmpo to be perhaps the best two-way player in the world. In the meantime, however, Leonard continued to receive numerous awards.

Although his time in Hollywood didn’t quite go according to his dream scenario, Kawhi kept doing what he was doing after transferring to the Clippers. Since leaving Toronto, the forward has averaged 26.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He also earned a spot on the All-Defense second team for 2020 and 2021, despite some injury concerns.

In addition to these efforts on the field, Leonard is known as one of the hardest working players in the entire league. A quick Google search turns up stories about Kawhi spending hours in the gym and turning an energetic boy into a real star. This work ethic was right up His Lordship’s alley, who was known to do anything to gain an extra advantage the hard way.

In all likelihood, Michael Jordan will not stand in front of a microphone to explain his position on a particular player. But from what we know about these two, we can assume that MJ appreciates what Kawhi Leonard does.

If there’s one thing we know about His Highness, it’s that he respects those who strive for success.

statistics provided by Basketball-Reference

VERWANT: 25 years ago, Michael Jordan experienced his most human moment, winning his first NBA title since his father’s murder

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