“I’m so darn blessed in my life,” Heat Forward-Center Meyers Leonard says while sitting behind the computer screen of a virtual zoom call, wearing a mask, and holding up his injured arm in a sling.
His positivity is unmatched. His kindness unparalleled. When Leonard says he aims to “Give everybody my all,” he means everybody.
The basketball star spent time eagerly answering questions well past midnight in a private press conference with University of Miami students after the Heat’s 108-94 road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite being excited to return home after a seven-game road trip, season ending injury, and time away from his team for surgery, Leonard’s attention was fully focused on the call.
Leonard lives and dies by two things: his character and his work ethic.
“I have to give back; I have to be a positive impact,” the seven-footer says with urgency, “I got wide shoulders for a reason. I’m carrying everyone with me.”
Leonard finds his voice to be a “cheat code” elevating his leadership on and off the court — one reason why he thinks the Heat signed him in the first place.
When asked what his teammates would describe him as, he bluntly answered, “One energetic S.O.B.” Though he laughed, saying he was kidding, it was clear the title had truth to it.
Leonard’s commitment to positivity never wavers. True character, he says, is defined through adversity, something he is all too familiar with.
Leonard learned to “smile through adversity” at a young age. As a kid, his family faced the passing of his father and extreme financial struggles. “I think about sleeping on the floor, no electricity, no running water.” Leonard remembers driving up to practices with squeaky cars and dripping oil, embarrassed.
When he joined the NBA, he had all he ever dreamed of: a beautiful wife, millions of dollars, his dream job, and the nicest of cars. However, Leonard was not happy, and he struggled with anxiety and depression.
As the 2021 season began, Leonard was battling to get back into the rotation. In January, he injured his shoulder. Sitting in his car after hearing the season-ending diagnosis, Leonard says, “Tears just started pouring out of my eyes. It was like a shower.”
Nonetheless, Leonard says his glass remains half full, plus some. Playing the game he loves for a living, he says he doesn’t understand “why that’s not the norm.”
Now, nine years in the NBA, Leonard says in awe, “It blows my mind how blessed I’ve been.”
Sidelined all season, Leonard could not be more confident that he is in the right place. He is committed to his crew in the 305.
“Coming here made sense because of who I am right here,” he says tapping at his heart. “I love it here.”
Even on a Zoom-quality call, his eyes lit up as he talked about his love for the Miami Heat. Leonard admires the values of the organization, the people, and how they give back amidst adversity.
In a 2021 season that is full of injury plagues and predicaments for the reigning runner ups, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra encourages the team saying, “Shooters keep shooting.” The mantra of perseverance personifies Meyers Leonard.
What’s next for Leonard? The recent purchase of a $7.75 million home may give it away. If it is up to Leonard, his next season will be spent again in South Florida with his wife, Elle, and their two-year-old Siberian Husky, Koko.
In the meantime, Leonard promises this, “I will give everything I have to the city of Miami and this organization in whatever way I can. That’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Around 12:30 a.m. Leonard hurriedly stepped away from the call to catch his flight home to Miami. He yells back to the computer as he is dragged out the door, “If you need something, please get it to Tim. I will answer your question. I promise you. I will. Thank you so much for everything. It was a pleasure.”
Whether it is his teammates, his community, or random students from the University of Miami — Meyers Leonard cares for all.