You won’t find him doing a lot of commercials, making bold predictions or even being a little outspoken. He’s one of professional sports’ quietest superstars (even his post-shot reactions are getting analyzed) but there’s nothing quiet about what he brings to the court. Collectors have also discovered Kawhi Leonard rookie cards are now among the hobby’s hottest.
The Leonard File
Leonard’s NBA story began in 2011 when he was the 15th overall pick of the Indiana Pacers who immediately traded (?!?) him to San Antonio in a draft night deal that sent George Hill to the Midwest as the prime return. Leonard would thrive for a time in San Antonio, earning the 2014 Finals MVP award. Traded to Toronto after a falling out, he quickly elevated the Raptors to a contending level franchise and appears on the doorstep of another Finals MVP award. A hard worker on both ends of the court, he’s all hoops, all the time. His often stoic demeanor has even resulted in an analysis of his on-court emotions.
“I’m trying to be one of the greatest players,” he once admitted. “So whatever level that consists of is where I want to take my game.”
Leonard’s prime years are here and what we’re witnessing is a Hall of Fame career unfolding.
The NBA’s work stoppage meant no official rookie cards of the 2011-12 draft class and while players like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard were the ones often tossed around in that discussion, Leonard has risen to become the top player in the group.
You can find 2011-12 Kawhi cards, though. Upper Deck had the collegiate license at the time and produced sets that included Leonard in his San Diego State uniform including Exquisite and SP Authentic. The cards from those products are significantly cheaper on eBay than the “official” NBA rookie cards that came a year later.
Here’s another twist: Panini did include redemption cards for autographed rookie cards of 2011-12 draftees in some products like Gold Standard, Limited and Past and Present. Those wouldn’t be delivered until early the following season but they are dated to his rookie year and show him in a Spurs uniform. At some point, you’d think those ’11-12 branded cards would be given more respect than they currently have but that hasn’t been the pattern to date.
Kawhi Leonard Rookie Cards
With labor peace in place and Leonard having been named to the All-Rookie team, there would be plenty of options for collectors when the double rookie class arrived in 2012-13. The best Kawhi Leonard rookie card, at least from a value standpoint, has proven to be from Panini’s higher-end National Treasures line. Card #114 with a jersey swatch and autograph and numbered to 199 has been one of the market’s hottest cards, with several high-grade examples selling for $10,000 to nearly $14,000 in recent weeks. In fact, all but one of the top 20 Leonard rookie cards ever sold on eBay have been from National Treasures. You can usually find a few available for sale.
A BGS 9.5 example up for auction now could threaten the record for highest priced Leonard card ever sold ($31,500 for the 1/1 Logoman patch from NT, set in 2017).
You can also find Kawhi Leonard signed cards in products like Immaculate, a high-end brand that includes some low serial-numbered autograph options. He also signed for numerous other brands such as Preferred, Prestige, Threads, Limited and others. Somewhat strangely, prices for many autographed Leonard rookie cards have remained relatively modest and would seem to be potential long-term bargains.
Of course there are plenty of non-auto Leonard rookie cards, too. Thankfully, the number of parallel cards was small compared to what’s cranked out today but there were some 1-of-1’s issued including the Select Hot Rookies Prizm, which sold for $5,750 in July of 2018.
The most popular mainstream base Leonard rookie cards are those from 2012-13 Prizm (#209) with prices depending on grade but there are numerous other issues that can still be had for just a few dollars.
You can check out a live list of the most watched Kawhi Leonard cards on eBay below.