Kyle Kuzma's journey hasn't been easy, although sometimes he makes it look like it is.
In reality, the path from the streets of Flint, Michigan, to the bright lights of Los Angeles took the second-year forward down a winding road that included thousands of miles, a lot of sweat and one enduring dream to play in the NBA.
More than 2,000 miles away from the city that raised him, he has found a place to call home with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 23-year-old found his way not to L.A. after high school but to Salt Lake City, where a bright-eyed but lightly-recruited Kuzma spent three seasons as a member of the Utah Utes basketball team.
"It's been a big, wild journey coming from Flint, from not really getting recruited to kind of fighting and clawing my way to the Division I level," Kuzma said. "Once I got there, I faced a lot of adversity by not playing right away and had to fight for everything."
He averaged just eight minutes per game as a freshman in 2014-15 and two years later earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors. One season after that and he had become one of the hottest rookies in the NBA—earning Rookie of the Month honors in December, participating in the annual Rising Stars Game at NBA All-Star Weekend and ending the season as an all-rookie first team selection.
It was Kuzma's vision in motion. From garnering little attention to gracefully becoming one of the top rookie scorers in Lakers history, he attributes his success to the adversity he’s faced along the way.
The first-year jitters are out of the way now and Kuzma's abilities, confidence and growing comfort on the court have made him one of the newfound leaders on this Lakers team. Still early in the season, he ranks as the team's second-leading scorer and serves as an integral piece beside superstar off-season acquisition LeBron James.
"Day by day, I come in and lead by example by being consistent in my work ethic so that I can contribute on a consistent basis," he said. "I feel really at peace when I have the ball, when I'm able to attack closeouts and get in the paint and score. That's where I'm most comfortable."
With one season under his belt but still a lot of room for growth, Kuzma's gained clarity and perspective on areas of his game that he can develop next. "I understand a little bit more. I'm learning how to play with pace on the offensive end, knowing when to attack and when not to, trying to take wiser shots and my field goal percentage has really benefitted from that."
Now in his second season, Kuzma has come into his own as a professional athlete. His obligations not only include a packed NBA schedule, but also sponsorship agreements, community and fan interactions, and his own passions.
Included in this is his love of fashion, which he uses to add a little flavor to his off-the-court life. With an eye for bar-raising and innovative things to wear, the 6-foot-9 Kuzma has grown fond of the Off-White tees, classic Gucci pieces and Mike Amiri jeans. Not only does he love his free expression in regards to fashion, but also what it does to his self-assurance when prepping for a game.
"You know, it's a statement for how you feel," he said. "For me, walking into an arena dressed nice, looking good, makes me feel very confident before games. It allows me to come out and compete at a high level."
The disappointments, the uncertainty, the persistence, and yes, the fashion – it's all part of being a pro.
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On Tuesday October 30, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, and Svi Mykhailiuk changed out of their Lakers gear, and into costume to treat 50 LAUSD fifth graders to a Halloween party at the UCLA Health Training Center.
"Growing up, I loved Halloween," Ball said. "It [was] awesome to have kids, who for whatever reason, don't have a safe place to trick-or-treat, come in here and have a safe environment and have fun with us today."
The 50 fifth graders that attended were selected specifically by LAUSD as students in need, that may not have otherwise had a safe place to have Halloween or enjoy trick or treating.
Lakers Fans, check out Lakers Gameday Presented by Delta Air Lines on Lakers.com for everything you need to know about each Lakers game this season! Get in-depth scouting reports, updated injury reports, complete coverage and more.
Be sure to check out the Assistant Coach game preview video, available on the Gameday tracker page!
U.S. military living and stationed in Southern California were invited to participate in basketball skills clinics with the help of the Los Angeles Lakers before three of this year's games. A special partnership between the Lakers and Pechanga Resort & Casino created the "Hoops for Troops" program in 2015.
The program returned starting Sunday, Sept. 30 for another successful year, offering the chance for 50 U.S. Armed Forces servicemen and women to receive tips from former Lakers legends Robert Horry, James Worthy and Metta World Peace on shooting, dribbling and other skills. With their families able to watch the clinics from the stadium stands, military members in the one-hour clinics received free t-shirts, tickets to a Lakers game, and amazing lifetime memories.
On Saturday, Oct 13 coaches from Boys & Girls Clubs across Southern California met at the UCLA Health Training Center for a clinic in preparation for the 2018-19 Junior Lakers season. The Lakers approach youth basketball with two goals: making young players better at basketball, and teaching values to make them better people.
For the past 4 seasons, the Lakers have partnered with Boys & Girls clubs and UCLA Health to bring those values to over 100,000 kids in Los Angeles.
The Junior Lakers program focuses on values of hard work, team work and dedication to pursing excellence on and off the court, and such was the discussion orchestrated by the Positive Coaching Alliance at the clinic.
The South Bay Lakers, the NBA G League affiliate of the Lakers, have kicked off their 2018-19 season! Fans have many oppourtunities to catch the team in action on their home court at UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, the practice facility for the Los Angeles Lakers.
South Bay Lakers games give fans the chance to see emerging players like Isaac Bonga up close in a high energy environment. Make sure you're at the game by finding tickets here. To get a look at the gameday experience at South Bay home games, click here.
The Lakers City Edition Jerseys for the 2018-19 season are finally here! This season's edition celebrates Magic Johnson and the Lakers Showtime era. Designed by three-time MVP Winner Magic Johnson, this Los Angeles Lakers City Edition Jersey honors the team's glitz and glamour—on and off the court. Get yours now at the Lakers Team Store.
He has also made history in his early days with the Lakers, passing Dirk Nowitzki as the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history.
But LeBron hasn't been at it alone. It has been a team effort, best exemplified when four Lakers – James, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram – all scored 20-plus points in a wild victory over Minnesota.
And the Lakers' defense has collectively improved as well, with the purple and gold shutting down a sizzling Sacramento squad that entered the game averaging the league's fourth-most points, and left with only 86.
The biggest factors in the Lakers' defensive success have been the centers. JaVale McGee has been excellent all year, ranking third in the NBA in blocks and keeping things fun by dressing up as the Grinch for Halloween.
And the Lakers doubled down on rim protection by signing veteran Tyson Chandler, who has been nothing short of outstanding on the defensive side thus far.