Kyle Kuzma (born July 24, 1995) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Kuzma played college basketball for the Utah Utes, and was named first-team all-conference in the Pac-12 as a junior in 2016–17. He was selected in the 2017 NBA draft in the first round with the 27th overall pick.
Kuzma described growing up in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, “as a really violent place and there’s a lot of temptation to get into the streets.” However, Kuzma saw basketball as a “safe haven”. Kuzma's parents put a small Fisher-Price basketball rim in the living room for him when he was only two years old, thus igniting his passion for basketball.
Kuzma attended Swartz Creek Community Schools then transferred to Bentley High School in Michigan where he averaged 17.9 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.4 blocks per game as a junior. Kuzma sent tapes of his shooting at the YMCA to prep schools, catching the eye of Vin Sparacio, then the head coach at Rise Academy in Philadelphia. Sparacio saw a 6'6", 175-pound, raw player who had a great feel for the game, and immediately brought him in.
As a senior, Kuzma averaged 22 points and 7 rebounds. He received offers to play with Division I schools including Connecticut, Iowa State, Tennessee, and Missouri, among others, before Kuzma decided on Utah.
Kuzma enrolled at the University of Utah in 2013. He redshirted his freshman year due to the fact that he signed late. He became a starter in his sophomore year, when he averaged 10.8 points per game. As a junior in 2016–17, he averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, which earned him first-team All-Pac-12 honors. After the season, Kuzma decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft. He graduated with a degree in sociology with one year of eligibility remaining to play in college.
Los Angeles Lakers (2017–present)
Kuzma was selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft by the Brooklyn Nets. In a draft-day trade, he was dealt along with Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Prior to the draft, Kuzma had been projected to go in the second round or even undrafted. On July 3, 2017, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Lakers.
During the seven out of eight games he played for the Lakers (starting in six of the games) in the 2017 NBA Summer League, Kuzma led the team in points scored and became a consistent presence during the event. He recorded averages of 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game and was named to the All-Summer League Second Team that year. He was also named the Summer League Championship Game MVP after recording a double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 110–98 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship match.
On November 3, 2017, in his first game as a starter, he notched his first double-double, with 21 points and 13 rebounds, in a 124–112 win over the Brooklyn Nets. On November 17, he recorded another double-double by scoring 30 points, to go with 10 rebounds, in a 122–113 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Kuzma was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October/November. In 20 games, he averaged a team-high 16.7 points while shooting 50.4 percent overall and a team-leading 37.9 percent on three-point field goals. He was the first ever NBA rookie to compile at least 330 points, 120 rebounds and 30 made three-pointers in his first 20 games. He was also just the sixth non-lottery pick to win the award in the first month of his career. On December 20, he scored a career-high 38 points on 70% shooting in a 122–116 win over Houston, ending the Rockets' 14-game winning streak. In the following game, he had a team-high 27 points in a 113–106 loss versus the Golden State Warriors to become the first Lakers rookie since Jerry West in 1961 to have scored 25 or more points in three straight games.