Kawhi Anthony Leonard (/kəˈwaɪ/, born June 29, 1991) is an American professional basketball player for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played two seasons of college basketball for San Diego State University before being selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers. He was then traded to San Antonio on draft night. Leonard won an NBA championship with the Spurs in 2014 and was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. He is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, having won in 2015 and 2016.
Leonard attended Canyon Springs High School before transferring to Martin Luther King High School his junior year. In Leonard’s senior year, he and Tony Snell led the King High Wolves to a 30–3 record. Leonard averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.0 blocks per game that year and won California Mr. Basketball.[
Considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, Leonard was listed as the No. 8 small forward and the No. 48 player in the nation in 2009.
Freshman season (2009–2010)
As a freshman at San Diego State, Leonard averaged 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.Leonard helped lead the Aztecs to a 25–9 record and the Mountain West Conference (MWC) tournament title. SDSU received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament but lost to Tennessee 62–59 in the first round as Leonard recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds. Leonard led the MWC in rebounding and was named MWC freshman of the year, first team All-MWC, and the 2010 MWC Tournament MVP.
Sophomore season (2010–2011)
In Leonard’s sophomore season, he averaged 15.7 points and 10.4 rebounds as the Aztecs finished with a 34–3 record and won back-to-back conference tournament championships. Leonard and San Diego State would once again make the NCAA tournament. This time, SDSU would advance to the Sweet 16 where they lost to eventual national champion UConn. Leonard was named to the Second Team All-America and would forgo his final two seasons at San Diego State to enter the 2011 NBA draft.
Leonard was selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers but was traded that night to the San Antonio Spurs along with the rights to Erazem Lorbek and Davis Bertans in exchange for George Hill. On December 10, 2011, following the conclusion of the NBA lockout, he signed a multi-year deal with the Spurs.
Leonard and teammate Tiago Splitter were selected to play in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge as members of Team Chuck. Although he suited up for the event, he did not play due to a calf strain. After starter Richard Jefferson was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson, Leonard was promoted to the starting small forward position while Jackson served as his backup.
At season’s end, Leonard placed fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the 2012 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
In the summer of 2012, Leonard was among several NBA up-and-comers chosen to play for the 2012 USA men’s basketball Select Team. They trained with the Olympic team which featured Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and others.
On October 26, 2012, the Spurs exercised the team option on Leonard, re-signing him through the 2013–14 season.
Leonard was selected to play for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge where he was once again drafted to Team Chuck. He recorded 20 points and 7 rebounds as Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq for the second straight year 163–135.
The San Antonio Spurs advanced to the NBA Finals where they faced the Miami Heat. Leonard averaged 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds during the Finals as the Spurs lost the series in seven games.
On April 6, 2014, Leonard scored a season-high 26 points in the Spurs’ 112–92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He finished the season averaging 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals while shooting 52.2% from the field. Leonard helped the Spurs to a 62–20 record – the number one seed in the NBA – and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the first time.
The Spurs and the Miami Heat met once again in the NBA Finals. On June 10, 2014, in Game 3 of the series, Leonard scored a then career-high 29 points in a 111–92 victory. San Antonio went on to win the series 4–1. Leonard averaged 17.8 points on 61% shooting and was named NBA Finals MVP.He was the third-youngest player to win the award (22 years and 351 days), behind only Magic Johnson—who won in both 1980 (20 years and 278 days) and 1982 (22 years and 298 days).Leonard was also only the sixth player, and the first since Chauncey Billups in 2004, to win Finals MVP in a season in which they were not an All-Star.
After missing the final six preseason games and the season opener against the Dallas Mavericks due to an infection in his right eye caused by conjunctivitis, Leonard made his season debut against the Phoenix Suns on October 31 despite still suffering from blurry vision. He continued to play through the blurred vision and on November 10, 2014, he scored a season-high 26 points in the Spurs’ 89–85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Following a three-game stint on the sidelines between December 17 and December 20, Leonard had an injection in his injured right hand on December 22 and was ruled out indefinitely. He returned to action on January 16, 2015 after missing 15 games, recording 20 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals to lead the Spurs to a 110–96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
On April 5, Leonard recorded 26 points and a career-high 7 steals in a 107–92 win over the Golden State Warriors. On April 23, Leonard was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win both NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP. The next day, he scored a playoff career-high 32 points in a Game 3 first-round playoff series victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Spurs went on to lose the series in seven games.
On July 16, 2015, Leonard re-signed with the Spurs to a five-year, $90 million contract. On October 28, he scored a then career-high 32 points in a 112–106 season opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.On December 3, he scored 27 points and made a career-high seven three-pointers in a 103–83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. On January 21, 2016, he was named as a starter to the Western Conference team for the 2016 All-Star Game, earning his first All-Star selection and became the sixth Spurs player in franchise history to be selected as an All-Star starter, joining George Gervin, Larry Kenon, Alvin Robertson, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
On March 23, 2016, Leonard had another 32-point outing in a 112–88 win over the Miami Heat, helping the Spurs extend their franchise-record home winning streak to 45 games (dating to 2014–15 season). On April 2, he set a new career high with 33 points in a 102–95 win over the Toronto Raptors, helping the Spurs set a franchise record with their 64th victory. The Spurs topped their 63-win season in 2005–06 and extended their NBA-record home winning streak to start the season to 39 games. Leonard helped the Spurs finish second in the Western Conference with a 67–15 record, and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors for a second straight year, becoming the first non-center to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons since Dennis Rodman in 1989–90 and 1990–91. Additionally, he finished runner-up in the MVP voting behind Stephen Curry.
In Game 3 of the Spurs’ first-round playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies, Leonard helped the Spurs go up 3–0 with a 32-point performance, tying his playoff career high. After sweeping the Grizzlies, the Spurs moved on to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round. In Game 3 of the series against the Thunder, Leonard helped the Spurs go up 2–1 with 31 points and 11 rebounds. However, the Spurs went on to lose the next three games, bowing out of the playoffs with a 4–2 defeat.
In the Spurs’ season opener on October 25, 2016, Leonard recorded a career-high 35 points and five steals in a 129–100 win over the Golden State Warriors. Two days later, he recorded 30 points and five steals in a 102–94 win over the Sacramento Kings, becoming the first player to have 65 points and 10 steals in the first two games of a season since 1979. On December 6, he scored 31 points to help the Spurs improve to 13–0 on the road with a 105–91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On January 14, 2017, he set a new career high with 38 points in a 108–105 loss to the Phoenix Suns, becoming the first Spur to record three consecutive 30-point games since Tony Parker in 2012. Leonard’s performance registered as his 11th 30-point game of the season, which is the most by a Spurs player through the first 40 games of the season since 1995–96, when David Robinson put together 13 30-point outings. Three days later, he scored 34 points against the Timberwolves for his fourth straight 30-point game. He became the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the first half of a season since Tim Duncan in 2003. On January 19, he was named a starter for the Western Conference All-Star team in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and had 34 points against the Denver Nuggets for his fifth straight 30-point performance. Two days later, he set a new career high with 41 points in a 118–115 overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the first San Antonio player to score at least 30 in six straight games since Mike Mitchell in 1986. He subsequently earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors for games played Monday, January 16 through Sunday, January 22.
On February 13, 2017, Leonard made 13 of 23 shots including two three-pointers and finished with 32 points, six rebounds and four steals in a 110–106 win over the Indiana Pacers. It was his fifth straight 30-point game. With their 42nd victory of the season coming against the Pacers, the Spurs extended their streak of consecutive winning seasons to a league-record 20. On March 6, 2017, he was named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, February 27 through Sunday, March 5. Leonard led the Spurs to a 3–0 week behind averages of 32.0 points (second in the West), 9.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a league-best 4.0 steals. Hours after being named Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career, Leonard scored 39 points to lead the Spurs to a 112–110 win over the Houston Rockets. It was his 91st straight game scoring in double figures, matching San Antonio’s longest streak since Tim Duncan did so in 2002–03.
On April 15, 2017, Leonard matched his postseason high with 32 points in a 111–82 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Two days later, in Game 2, Leonard had a postseason career-high 37 points and added 11 rebounds in a 96–82 win over Memphis to take a 2–0 series lead. In Game 4 of the series in Memphis, Leonard had another postseason personal best with 43 points in a 110–108 overtime loss; the loss tied the series at 2–2. Behind a 29-point effort from Leonard in Game 6, the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating Memphis 103–96 to take the series 4–2. The Spurs went on to advance to the Western Conference Finals with a 4–2 triumph over the Houston Rockets in the second round, despite playing without Leonard in Game 6 due to an ankle injury. In the third quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, against the Golden State Warriors, Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot after attempting a field goal and re-aggravated his existing ankle injury. He exited the game with 26 points and sat out the remainder of the series as the Spurs lost to the Warriors in four games. Leonard finished the season with averages of 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game in the regular season, and 27.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals for the playoffs. He was subsequently selected to the All-NBA First Team for the second time in his career, as well as earning All-Defensive First Team honors for the third time in three years.
Leonard’s 2017–18 season was overshadowed by an injury, and by ensuing disputes between Leonard and the Spurs regarding the handling of that injury. He missed the first 27 games of the season with a right quadriceps injury, making his season debut on December 12, 2017, against the Dallas Mavericks. On December 26, 2017, in just his fifth game of the season, Leonard scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting in a 109–97 win over the Brooklyn Nets. On January 2, 2018, he set a new season high with 25 points in a 100–91 win over the New York Knicks. Three days later, in a game against the Phoenix Suns, Leonard suffered a partial tear in his left shoulder. He returned to action on January 13 after missing three games and scored 19 points in a 112–80 win over the Denver Nuggets. Four days later, however, he was ruled out for an indefinite period of time to continue his rehabilitation process from right quadriceps tendinopathy. Leonard was subsequently cleared to play by the Spurs medical staff, but he solicited a second opinion from his own doctors.
In March, the Spurs held a players-only meeting in which Leonard’s teammates reportedly asked him to return to the court; the meeting was described as “tense and emotional”. Leonard did not play again in 2018.
In June 2018, reports surfaced claiming that Leonard had requested a trade from the Spurs; this followed months of allegations that there was growing tension between Leonard’s camp and the Spurs stemming from a disagreement over his injury rehabilitation process. A month later, on July 18, Leonard and teammate Danny Green were traded to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl and a protected 2019 first round draft pick. In his debut for the Raptors in their season opener on October 17, Leonard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a 116–104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two days later, he had 31 points and 10 rebounds in a 113–101 win over the Boston Celtics. On October 24, he scored 35 points in a 112–105 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, helping the Raptors start the season 5–0.