Boris Diaw was once one of the game’s great athletes

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Boris Diaw is in the Finals MVP conversation for the Spurs this year because of the way he’s facilitated that slick ball movement that’s been so unstoppable on San Antonio’s way to taking a 3-1 lead in the series.

He’s rarely regarded as being very athletic, and in fact, for the majority of his career, it’s been quite the opposite.

But there was a time when Diaw was one of the game’s most gifted athletes, with the leaping ability to match.

From Marc Stein and Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com:

One of the more surprising aspects of the Diaw story is the way that his biggest fans — before they start dissecting the way he’s sneaked up on the Heat this week — are so keen to remind you that they once gushed over his athletic gifts. …

“Boris walks into the gym one day wearing flip-flops and holding his customary cappuccino, which was a staple for him every morning,” [Cavaliers GM David Griffin, formerly a member of the Phoenix front office] recalled. “It was during pre-draft workouts, so he sees the Vertec [machine] and asks what it is.

“We tell him it measures your vertical leap by determining how many of the bars you can touch. He asks what’s the highest anyone has ever gone, and we tell him Amare’ [Stoudemire] cleared the entire rack.

“Boris puts down the cappuccino, takes off his flip-flops and clears the entire rack on the first try. Then he calmly puts his flip-flops back on, picks up his cappuccino and walks away, saying, ‘That was not difficult.'”

These days, Diaw is as crafty as they come in getting to the hoop, and has an extremely high IQ that allows him to see the game unfolding a step or two ahead of his competition. It’s what allows for his spectacular passing that’s been a big key for the Spurs during this postseason.

No one is confusing Diaw with leapers like Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James with whom he shares the Finals floor. But apparently, there was a time near the beginning of his carer when that might have been the case.