Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2018. Kawhi has since been traded to the Toronto Raptors.
NBA superstar drives a 20-year-old Chevy
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. The star forward is in his third year of a $94 million five-year max contract with the San Antonio Spurs, a perennial NBA title contender. Kawhi is an NBA champion, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the 2014 Finals MVP. And he still drives the 1997 Chevy Tahoe he had in high school.
Kawhi’s 20-year-old SUV is affectionately nicknamed Gas Guzzler. “It runs,” Leonard told Sports Illustrated, “and it’s paid off.” The old Tahoe is a perfect illustration of Kawhi’s reserved and humble personality. He is notoriously quiet — a notable trait in a league whose superstars are iconic global celebrities adept at media relations and personal branding.
In 2015, right after his $94-million contract kicked in, Kawhi reportedly panicked after misplacing his Wingstop coupons. Wingstop, who happily sponsors the 6’8 Southern California native, quickly sent him more coupons to support his chicken habit.
Kawhi has been sidelined for most of the 2017-18 season with a mysterious quadriceps injury, but is still slated to earn around $18 million with the Spurs. Most pro athletes making even a fraction of Kawhi’s salary splurge on luxury rides, but the Silent Superstar is the most frugal athlete in the country.
Or is he? Check out some other humble pro athletes who’ve been spotted with exceptionally unexceptional cars:
Alfred Morris: 1991 Mazda 626
Veteran NFL running back Alfred Morris made news in 2013 when he had his 1991 Mazda sedan refurbished. He’s an NFL star who can drive whatever supercar he likes, but he sticks by his old Mazda, which he calls “The Bentley.” While playing at Florida Atlantic University, Morris bought The Bentley for $2 from his pastor. He’s driven it ever since, alternating between the 626 and a road bike for his daily commute. A full factory restoration from Mazda returned the manual car to its former glory, complete with a couple modern upgrades. When the car was returned, the grateful Morris said, “I’m just going to sit in the parking lot and listen to it.”
Dan Norris: 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia
The Detroit Tigers’ young pitcher earned a $2 million signing bonus when he was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB draft, but spends his offseasons living in “Shaggy,” his ‘78 VW Microbus Westfalia. He used his signing bonus to buy the van, which has always been his dream car. He cooks his meals with a propane stove, gets power from solar panels he’s installed on the roof, and lives simply. Norris shares his vanlife on social media, and was even the subject of a short Vice documentary.
John Urschel: 2013 Nissan Versa
For three years, Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel was the smartest player in the NFL. He played college ball at Penn State, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics, and announced his retirement last year to pursue a Ph.D. at MIT. He has published peer-reviewed articles in mathematics journals and is an advanced stats columnist for The Players’ Tribune. He also drives a 2013 Nissan Versa, which he bought used after getting drafted by the Ravens in 2014. Urschel says the tiny compact is big enough to fit inside, but at 6’3 and 305 pounds, probably not much more can squeeze in the Versa.
Kirk Cousins: 2000 GMC Savana
The Washington Football Team’s star quarterback Kirk Cousins is also a smart cookie. He makes over $20 million a year, but drives a 2000 GMC Savana van that he and his wife bought from his Grandma. He’s since made a couple upgrades to the dented conversion van, but he likes how the low-key ride looks in an NFL team’s parking lot. Cousins and Alfred Morris were teammates for a time, and the GMC and Morris’s Mazda together got many chuckles from reporters and other players. “I would say sometimes our swagger is having no swagger,” said Cousins. “And you’ve got to save every dollar even though you’re making a good salary. You never know what’s going to happen.”