In the early portion of Leonard's career, Popovich nurtured his talent, culminating in the San Diego State product's star-making performance in the 2014 Finals. They enjoyed several years as one of the league's most formidable player-coach duos, with Leonard helping lengthen San Antonio's dynasty.
But Leonard's disillusionment with the Spurs led to his eventual exit. He and Popovich mended fences years later, setting up the strange events of Wednesday's game between Los Angeles and San Antonio.
With the Clippers up 48-39 with just over three minutes left in the first half, Leonard went to the line to take free throws. As Spurs fans rained boos upon him, Popovich took a microphone and asked the crowd to stop.
"Excuse me for a second. Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play? It's got no class. It's not who we are," Popovich said. "Knock off the booing."
The highly unusual interlude, which had more in common with past events in college basketball than anything in the NBA, did little to discourage San Antonio's fans—who booed Leonard even harder on his second shot.