(courtesy of basketballforever.com)

Drew Nate | 

Early this month the Los Angeles Clippers contemplated a less than stellar start to the season with a disappointing 1-4 record to show for their early outings. 

As of November 13, the team’s performance has shown some improvement with its current 7-4 record, however, the team still appears to be struggling to find its footing with three of its superstars sidelined for injuries. 

Counted among the missing stars is Kawhi Leonard who underwent knee surgery on his right knee during the summer to fix a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament, the result of an injury he sustained during the second round of the 2020 playoffs. It remains unclear how long it will be before Leonard can rejoin his team on the court this season. 

Ties to the inland region

One of Moreno Valley’s favorite sons, Leonard, who attended Canyon Springs High School before transferring to Martin Luther King (MLK) High School for his junior and senior years, played a key role in putting the Riverside basketball program on the map during the 2008-09 season. 

That year, the MLK Wolves’ basketball team went 30-3 and earned a No. 7 national ranking in the MaxPreps poll that year. 

Despite his surgery and being temporarily sidelined due to his injury, Leonard has remained active in his support of his community. An Inland Empire native, he has always been an advocate for his home community of Moreno Valley. 

His commitment is evidenced from the basketball camps he has hosted at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center to his partnership giveaways with Baby2Baby where he gifted one million backpacks in 2019 to students in the Moreno Valley Unified, Inglewood Unified, and Los Angeles Unified School Districts.

Leonard’s latest community investment in Moreno Valley is reflected in the “Kawhi Leonard Basketball Court” at the city’s Weston Park. The court’s grand opening celebration in late September was live streamed by Leonard’s sister on Instagram.

In late September, Moreno Valley residents celebrated the grand opening of the Kawhi Leonard Basketball Court. The event was live streamed on Instagram by Kwahi Leonard’s sister onInstagram. (source: Instagram.com)

During the event, Moreno Valley’s leaders thanked Kawhi for giving back to the city and for being there to help unveil the new court. Kawhi also spoke at the ceremony sharing, “It is about the kids and the youth. That is what I am about. Just making the youth better and stronger.”

His inspiring story

A two-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors where Kawhi played critical roles for both teams, the celebrated athlete overcame adversity early in life when he lost his father  Mark Leonard, who was shot and killed in front of his car wash in Compton when Kawhi was still in high school. The 2008 murder of his father remains unsolved and police investigators are still searching for the gunman.

Despite the tragic loss of his father, Kawhi’s achievements and accomplishments are a testament to his hard work and perseverance. His story is inspiring to youth across the world.

“By giving back to our hometown, Kawhi and I are hoping to lift up Moreno Valley’s young residents,” Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez said in a news release. “My hope is that Kawhi’s success will inspire kids across the city to let their dreams soar.”

Moreno Valley Mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez shared how he hopes Leonard’s success will inspire kids across the city to let their dreams soar.

Following the ceremony Leonard stayed at the court for a few hours taking pictures and signing autographs for his fans and young children. Leonard will likely continue to do more work within his community as his commitment to community and his family helped inspire his return to Southern California.

In an address streamed live on Instagram, Leonard directed some quick comments to the kids in attendance.

“This community means more than just a basketball court,” said Leonard on Instagram in a message to the city’s children and youth. “And I’m gonna keep working to … keep putting you on the map. It’s about the kids and the youth; that’s what I’m about. Just making the youth better, stronger. Just (preparing) them for the outside world. Because once you make it past those mountains, it’s a different story.”

In 2019, Leonard, in partnership with Baby2Baby, gifted one million backpacks to students in the Moreno Valley Unified, Inglewood Unified, and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. (source: nba.com)

Kawhi, who agreed to a four-year, $176.3 million contract with the Clippers over the summer, is focused on recovering from his injury and looks to return in upcoming months to help bring more glory to the LA Clippers by helping them secure their first NBA championship in franchise history.

Drew Nate

Drew Nate, a resident of Corona, California, reports for Black Voice News and the IE Voice where he focuses on stories within the Inland Empire and throughout California. An advocate for equity and social...