Yeah, he’s Hollywood. He’s adjusted well. I think with all the hype around everyone and him, I think he’s handled it well by coming in to try and put in work every single day. He’s a student of the game. —Lakers small forward Brandon Ingram, on Kyle Kuzma
LOS ANGELES — His charming, light-skinned face is displayed on the cover of the Rolling Out Magazine’s latest All-Star issue.
Even GQ has him posing for portrait studio shots on behalf of Neiman Marcus.
It’s nothing for him to be in contact with West Coast rapper YG on a regular day or to see his 6-foot-9, 220-pound frame featured in ads for Nike House of Hoops, Dick’s Sporting Goods or A Bathing Ape.
Everything from meeting for dinner with Kobe Bryant to attending GQ parties or being invited to Michael Jordan’s birthday party at a $100 million mansion in Bel Air, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma has been there, done that in all of eight months.
Just last year, the Flint, Michigan native enjoyed NBA All-Star Weekend as a junior at the University of Utah and now he’s one of the hottest young stars in the league. He dropped 20 points and seven rebounds in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge.
“Yeah, he’s Hollywood,” laughed Brandon Ingram, Kuzma’s Lakers teammate. “He’s adjusted well. I think with all the hype around everyone and him, I think he’s handled it well by coming in to try and put in work every single day. He’s a student of the game.”
Every time he touches the ball in Staples Center, fans shower the arena with chants of “KUUUUUUZ.”
The 22-year-old has certainly arrived on the scene, seemingly out of nowhere, as the 27th pick of this year’s star-studded draft. But no matter what happens off the court, Kuzma knows basketball is what got him to this point.
He is the third-leading rookie scorer, averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, and isn’t satisfied until his name is mentioned with the all-time greats.
“I just want to have a great, long, successful career and be one of the greatest players,” Kuzma said. “That’s what drives me. I just want to be a great player. I work really hard on my game and that’s what I’m driven for.”
In addition to his Nike deal, Kuzma’s “Kuzmania” T-shirts and apparel are flying off the shelves. During All-Star weekend, he met with fans at several autograph sessions that drew roughly 1,000 people at each stop. His mother, Karri, and sister, Briana, were able to witness the excitement firsthand and recently left Los Angeles in awe of his newfound popularity.
“I’m like, Wow,” Karri explained.
Even Kuzma’s personal fashion and style is evolving as the paparazzi captures one of Los Angeles' fresh new faces.
“With his clothes, he’s doing his own styling so he doesn’t really have a stylist and he’s just putting stuff together,” Karri said. “He’s trying new things so that’s cool.”
Fellow Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has developed a brotherhood with Kuzma these past few months after going through their transition together. They’re constantly hanging out, building chemistry, and aren’t afraid to banter one another in private or through social media for good laughs.
“He definitely changed how he dresses a lot for the worse in my opinion but that’s just Kuz,” Ball said, joking.
One of Kuzma’s first big purchases after signing his rookie deal was a 2018 Porsche Panamera and a luxurious, three-bedroom apartment for his family in Grand Blanc, Michigan — a suburb of Flint.
“I found out the name was Porsche. I used to (pronounce) it Porsh but it's Porsche, but I got one of those,” Kuzma explained.
Even more so than living lavishly, Kuzma is happy to share the experience of Los Angeles’ bright lights with his family, lifelong friends from Flint, former coaches and others close to him who may never have witnessed that lifestyle firsthand.
He continues to provide opportunities back home through local holiday giveaways and AAU sponsorship until he really gets things in order to help the city. A foundation is in the works.
“A lot has changed. Coming from Flint, there's not a lot there,” Kuzma said. “Basketball has always been a safe haven for me, so I’ve been blessed to continue playing and going to Utah was a different transition from Flint.
“Going from a city that was predominately African-American to Salt Lake City was two different things. Then coming out to the bright lights of LA was a culture shock so it’s been a whirlwind for sure.”