The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be an attractive free agent destination this summer, thanks in no small part to the selections they made in last year’s draft. Not only are their young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart talented, but the relationships they’ve formed off the court have helped build a culture that players want to be a part of.
A symbol of that team chemistry has been the constant back and forth on social media, usually between However, after a season’s worth of seemingly harmless roasting between the three rising stars, Lakers management recently decided to step in after a line was crossed.
How did something so innocent get so serious so fast? To find out, we are going to go back and take a look at where this all began, dating back to before the season even tipped off.
Before Ball and Kuzma were drafted by the same team, they had limited knowledge of each other. Ball grew up in the suburbs of Chino Hills, CA, while Kuzma grew up in the streets of Flint, Michigan. However, they did face off once during Ball’s lone season at UCLA. According to Ball, Kuzma’s performance wasn’t all that memorable.
“In college he wasn’t that good, to be honest,” Ball said of Kuzma in September. “I don’t even remember him when we played him, but now I’m happy he’s on my team.”
And that’s how it all started: with innocent and playful jabs here and there, usually proceeded with a compliment. It wasn’t until the regular season started to kick into high gear that the insults started becoming more harsh and frequent, but it was still nothing to be concerned about.
More often than not, it was one making fun other other for the way they dressed and frankly, that was the easiest way to go for this particular group.
On one side, you have Ball, who wears $50 t-shirts from his family owned clothing line and sports his own shoes, which can be had for the small price of $495 ($695 for a signed pair).
On the other side, you have Kuzma, who takes risks with his outfits, the most notable being this fur coat he wore early in the season.
So this is happening in the Lakers locker room. “Rookie duties,” Julius Randle says. pic.twitter.com/viDkfWEfCF— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 27, 2018
When he wasn’t stepping out dressed to the nines, he was wearing his infamous Nike fleece.
They also had no problem making fun of each other’s physical appearances. This is where Hart would often join in on the fun.
Boy your big “daddy can I use your dress clothes. I got senior pics today” pic.twitter.com/90qca05uBm— Josh Hart (@joshhart) May 10, 2018
Who has the worst hairline/hair out of the group?— kuz (@kylekuzma) May 10, 2018
A.) @ZO2_ sporting the “my pops my barber bro!” Haircut.
B.) @MELOD1P with the “El debarge”
Is it @joshhart with the “what the hell you got going on?” Fro. pic.twitter.com/xQkoDXRHmD
Feelings might have been hurt, but not to the point where anyone from the team’s higher ups felt the need to step in. It wasn’t until recently did the boundaries start to get pushed a little further, arguably too far.
Increasingly personal jabs
While Kuzma was in China last month to help the country celebrate the 2018 NBA Finals, he posted a picture on Twitter that might have gone over some people’s heads if they weren’t paying attention, but there’s little doubt it caught Ball’s attention.
Of course, the picture is making light of when Lonzo’s younger brother, LiAngelo, was detained in China for stealing sunglasses. While things ended up working out for the Ball family, it’s easy to understand why Ball might have felt Kuzma crossed a line bringing up his family, even though Kuzma and Lonzo’s youngest brother, LaMelo, have traded good natured shots in the past.
If that didn’t set Ball off, Kuzma released a minute-long video going in on Lonzo to commemorate Kuzma being named “Player Hater of the Year” by Bleacher Report. Was it funny? Yes, but was it a little too mean? You can decide for yourself.
Ball couldn’t stand idly by as Kuzma compared his face to a “deep dish pepperoni pizza,” so he released a whole diss trac targeted at Kuzma titled “Kylie Kuzma.”
As diss raps written by basketball players go, the song wasn’t terrible, however, a line in the rap stood out especially due to the sensitive subject matter.
“Big Baller Brand getting bread, lil Kuz is getting crumbs
We’re thumbing through that money, look at you, ya’ll playing with your thumbs
Don’t know who your daddy is, boy your ass is getting sonned”
For those that aren’t familiar, Kuzma has never met his biological father. While it’s possible Ball got the okay from Kuzma before putting that line in the song, it drew enough criticism on social media for the Lakers’ management to feel the need to step in.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Lakers have asked Ball and Kuzma to “tone it down” with roasting each other on social media.
Trolling their own team?
The adults had spoken, and potential generational difference-generated confusion aside, the talk already seems to be paying dividends, as Kuzma and Hart were seen playing extra nice on Twitter on Thursday. A little too nice, one might say.
Lakers management: Hey, guys. We're gonna need you to tone it down on social media.— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) June 14, 2018
Lakers players: pic.twitter.com/EKgb7z6WFp
Whether or not they’re being disingenuous (they super are), it’s clear boundaries have been set. Hopefully this doesn’t put an abrupt end to what was one of the more enjoyable parts of the young guys’ first season together. Unless LeBron James takes serious offense to having his face photoshopped onto a corn dog, there’s no harm in joking around as long as lines aren’t crossed, and it’s great that the Hart and Kuzma were able to spin things and poke a bit of fun at the whole (possibly blown out of proportion) situation.
If you’d like to roast Christian Rivas on Twitter, you can follow him at @RadRivas.