Kawhi Leonard made a career decision that altered the future of pro sports.
It was 2006, not 2019. Leonard was a ninth-grade DB and WR in Riverside, Calif. And the biggest NBA free agent today might've changed the course of pro football forever with his decision not to play it any longer.
"I was good," Leonard told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. "I probably could have gone to the NFL. I just hated practice."
Leonard's listed height (6-foot-7) is two inches taller than Calvin Johnson's. He's only nine pounds lighter than Megatron was. His 11.25-inch hands and rebounding ability would've made him a go-to target as a wideout -- or like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and other hoops stars before him -- as a super athletic tight end.
Offense isn't The Klaw's first love, though. He's known as a lockdown NBA defender and that would've translated to safety or cornerback.
Just read this 2016 profile by Lee Jenkins in Sports Illustrated. It reads like something out of Darrelle Revis' personal workout plan:
"(Spurs head coach Gregg) Popovich informed Leonard that his defense would determine his minutes. (San Diego State University strength coach Randy) Shelton, who also trains professional football players, treated Leonard like a shutdown corner. Shelton made him backpedal through speed ladders, wiggling his hips and cycling his feet, as if shadowing a receiver running post patterns. In his second season, Leonard averaged more than 30 minutes as he began to anticipate sets and diagnose pick-and-rolls. "I look at film," (Leonard) explains, "but more than watching individual players, I'm trying to watch a team's whole offensive scheme. I'm trying to know their tendencies so I can... guess. That's what it comes down to, really, making the best guess. I'm trying to change up their scheme."
Here's another guess: No quarterback would've wanted to deal with Leonard's 7-foot-3 wingspan and change-of-direction ability after DB training. They're all fortunate the two-time defensive player of the year won that recognition in the NBA, not the NFL.
Alas, Leonard stuck by the choice he made as a ninth grader. He ended up a two-time NBA Finals MVP. But in a parallel universe, Leonard could dominate headlines by swapping 53-man rosters instead of a 13-man one.