Few members of the Los Angeles Lakers right now, if any, are as popular as Kyle Kuzma. The soon-to-be sophomore forward made a huge impression in his debut campaign, and has quickly become one of the most beloved members of the team’s young core.
However, it wasn’t so long ago that Kuzma was a relatively anonymous presence at Utah, where he stood out but was hardly a national or worldwide celebrity.
As he was watching some high school students in China battle it out for a local championship recently, it sounds like Kuzma was thinking about how short of a leap he had to make from being semi-famous in Utah to being legitimately famous among NBA fans, while also complimenting the state of Chinese basketball right now (via China Daily):
“Honestly, I’m really impressed,” said the 22-year-old, who is visiting China for the first time as part of the NBA Cares program.
”I kind of see the elite aspect of it. Kids are trying to become professional athletes. Potentially, NBA, CBA or anywhere else. The talent gap isn’t that far away.
”The biggest thing is working hard. Chinese culture is also about hard work. For me, that’s what I dig into and that’s the biggest reason why I made it in the NBA.”
Kuzma’s hard work paid off with a spot on the All-Rookie first team, and given his mostly unheralded beginnings, it’s not surprising he can relate to a bunch of youth players almost no one has ever heard of, and was apparently enthusiastic enough about the event to be cheering the students on in Mandarin.
It’s cool to see players like Kuzma not forget their roots and give their time back to people like them, and stuff like this will only continue to make Kuzma more beloved by Lakers fans, of which there are plenty in China thanks to the popularity of Kobe Bryant. If Kuzma can capitalize on that, then it would be just one more way he’s emulated Bryant during his young career.