As one of the true NBA superstars, Kawhi Leonard rookie cards are on the move with room to grow. He may not have the same charisma or flash as Steph Curry, or the overall dominance of LeBron James, but Leonard is a force to be reckoned with.
After a strong start to his NBA career that included a title and Finals MVP Award with the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors ahead of the 2018-19 season. That worked out well for Leonard and the Raptors as he helped the team win their first NBA title and added his second Finals MVP Award.
On the other hand, the Kawhi Leonard rookie cards moved a bit more slowly because of the NBA lockout. Collectors had to wait for 2012-13 basketball sets to find official rookies even though Leonard was selected in the 2011 NBA Draft.
This ranked list of the best Kawhi Leonard rookie cards aims to identify some of the top options available. Card value was the main criteria but other aspects were taken into account as well, including design and rarity.
The list below covers mostly the high-end cards but you can visit our full Kawhi Leonard rookie card checklist for additional RC options.
Top Kawhi Leonard Rookie Cards
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11. 2012-13 Panini Prizm Kawhi Leonard RC #209
Prizm NBA is basically Panini's flagship basketball set, so it tends to get a lot of attention from collectors. Among the Kawhi Leonard rookie cards, 2012-13 Prizm Basketball is the best base option. Unlike the more recent sets, there are only a few parallels, including base Prizms, retail-only Green, and Gold (#/10). Prices for the Gem Mint 10s can push as high as some of his most popular autograph rookies.
10. 2012-13 Panini Threads Kawhi Leonard RC #163 Autograph
Leonard's rookie signature in 2012-13 Threads NBA makes the list more because of the card design than anything else. Hard-signed on a wood-like surface, the card is fairly unique. The only thing to watch out for is ink bleeding from the signature. Despite the lack of numbering, they aren't all that easy to find.
9. 2012-13 Panini Contenders Kawhi Leonard RC #263 Autograph
As far as sticker autographs go, the 2012-13 Contenders Basketball card for Kawhi Leonard is not very remarkable. Still, it has proven to be very popular and relatively plentiful. Leonard also has a signed relic card in the Substantial Signatures insert that is numbered to 149.
8. 2012-13 Panini Limited Kawhi Leonard RC #174 Autograph #/349
Another Kawhi Leonard rookie card that pushes the norm a bit is found in 2012-13 Panini Limited Basketball. Issued as a redemption, the die-cut acetate card resembles the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award trophy. The on-card autograph provides a huge boost.
7. 2012-13 Panini Select Kawhi Leonard RC #178 Autograph #/199, #250 Auto Jersey #/249
2012-13 Select Basketball offers two different autographs for Leonard in the base set. While they are both done on stickers, reasonable print runs and the Prizm shine make this a key choice.
6. 2012-13 Panini Gold Standard Kawhi Leonard RC #259 Autograph Jersey
Hardly a sleeper at this point, the 2012-13 Gold Standard NBA card for Leonard has all the hallmarks of a top rookie except for the limited print run. This card is a very worthy substitute if you can't afford the five cards below.
5. 2012-13 Panini Preferred Kawhi Leonard RC #319 Auto Jersey #/99, #401 Autograph #/99, #501 Autograph #/99
2012-13 Preferred Basketball is basically '12-13 Crown Royale. This is made very clear when you see the trio of Kawhi Leonard rookie cards in the main set. All hard-signed and numbered to 99, choices include Rookie Silhouettes, the classic Crown Royale crown die-cut, and the pyramid-shaped Panini's Choice Award. If you have to pick one and money doesn't matter, go with the Rookie Silhouettes.
4. 2011-12 Exquisite Collection Rookie Signatures Kawhi Leonard #65 Autograph #/199
Collectors might forget that Kawhi Leonard was drafted in 2011 but his Panini rookie cards did not show up until the 2012-13 season because of the NBA lockout. That's where Upper Deck's 2011-12 Exquisite Collection Basketball comes into play. Although a college brand at this point, the Exquisite name still carries a lot of weight in collecting. Limited to 199 copies, Leonard is part of the Rookie Signatures line and he is shown as a member of the San Diego State Aztecs. There is also a Gold Holofoil parallel numbered to 25.
3. 2012-13 Immaculate Collection Kawhi Leonard RC #112 Autograph Jersey #/99
While impressive in its own right, the 2012-13 Immaculate Basketball card could swap places with Exquisite. It edges ahead on the list based on the rarity. With the on-card signature, patch and just 99 copies, this is one of the best Kawhi Leonard rookies out there.
2. 2012-13 Panini Flawless Kawhi Leonard RC #11 Autograph #/25
Given the extreme rarity, the 2012-13 Flawless Basketball card is not one that pops up too often. As such, it does not get the same kind of exposure as Immaculate or NT. Leonard is not in the base gem set but he did sign for the Rookie Autographs insert that features the high-end stylings of the brand.
1. 2012-13 National Treasures Kawhi Leonard RC #114 Autograph Jersey #/199
And the top Kawhi Leonard rookie card is from 2012-13 National Treasures Basketball. Shocking, I know. Even with the high print run (at least for NT), this is the Leonard card to have. These cards start in the thousands with high-grades pushing into the five-figure range.