National Basketball Association superstar Kawhi Leonard of Riverside, CA was named the 2019 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Friday. Leonard was the star small forward for the Toronto Raptors when they won the 2019 NBA Finals, their first NBA Finals championship win in the history of the franchise.
Leonard beat out Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo of Athens, Greece, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson of Pompano Beach, FL, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes of Tyler, TX and tennis legend Rafael Nadal of Manacor, Spain. It is the second straight year that a basketball player won the award as LeBron James of Akron, Ohio won the award while with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.
In an interesting twist, since James received the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 2018 and Leonard received the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year honor in 2019, both players are now playing professional basketball in Los Angeles. James is with the Lakers and Leonard is with the Clippers.
During the 2018-19 NBA regular season, Leonard was an all-star and averaged a career high 26.6 points per game for the Raptors. He also had 7.3 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game.
In the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Leonard was known for making a game winning shot in game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals in a 92-90 Raptors win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Leonard was simply masterful in the postseason. He averaged 30.5 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game in 24 playoff games for Toronto. Leonard also won his second career NBA Finals most valuable player award. His first came with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
While with the Clippers to begin the 2019-20 NBA regular season, Leonard is averaging 25.6 points per game, a career high 7.8 rebounds per game and a career high 5.1 assists per game. He left the Raptors and signed with the Clippers as a free agent on July 9.
The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year was gymnast Simone Biles of Columbus, OH. At the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics in Stuttgart, Germany in October, Biles won five gold medals. She placed first for the United States in the women’s team competition, and also won the women’s individual all-around, women’s vault, women’s balance beam and women’s floor exercise.