NBA star Kawhi Leonard sues Nike over rights to his logo

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By Janelle Griffith and Ali Gostanian  with NBC News U.S. News
Image: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.   -   Copyright  Gregory Shamus Getty Images

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard is suing Nike for rights to a logo that he says he created.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Leonard said that in 2011, after being drafted to the NBA, he "authored a unique logo that included elements that were meaningful and unique to him."

Leonard, 27, who will face the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, California, on Wednesday night in Game 3 of the title series, had an endorsement contract with Nike until 2018. He is now the face of footwear and apparel company New Balance.

"Leonard traced his notably large hand, and, inside the hand, drew stylized versions of his initials 'KL' and the number that he had worn for much of his career, '2,'" the lawsuit states. "The drawing Leonard authored was an extension and continuation of drawings he had been creating since early in his college career."

He signed with Nike in 2011 and, according to the lawsuit, allowed the company "to use on certain merchandise the logo he created while Leonard continued to use the logo on non-Nike goods."

In the lawsuit, Leonard said Nike filed a copyright application for the logo "unbeknownst" to him and "without his consent" and that earlier this year, the footwear and apparel company told him to stop using it.

Nike told NBC News the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Leonard is asking the court to decide that he is the author of the logo and that Nike fraudulently registered it for copyright.

Leonard will become a free agent later this month. The Raptors and Warriors are tied at a game a piece.