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Kyle Kuzma joined Puma in part for increased creative control, wants to pay tribute to Nipsey Hussle on sneakers

Kyle Kuzma wants to use his new platform with Puma to pay his respect to lifelong Lakers fan, rapper and Los Angeles icon Nipsey Hussle.

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Kyle Kuzma officially announced that he signed with Puma after two years as a Nike athlete. The Los Angeles Lakers forward will now have the opportunity to be one of the faces of the brand, and it sounds like that’s a goal both parties are already working towards.

In an interview with Nick DePaula of ESPN, Kuzma said that his decision to sign with Puma was motivated by the belief that he’ll play a big role in the brand’s basketball line going forward:

Kuzma is now one of the highest-earning players with the brand and a featured partner with the company, who will also be featured in brand campaigns, key product feedback sessions and have creative control over future collections.

”The No. 1 thing I was trying to look for was a little bit more control, a little bit more freedom to do certain things. Not to be restricted from an idea standpoint,” said Kuzma. “Having a brand fully commit to me and see that I have visions, too -- that could work out well for the brand and me as well. Puma was that.”

Kuzma hopes to use his platform with Puma to give back to the community, and pay honor a late Los Angeles icon in Nipsey Hussle in the process:

One of the first themes Kuzma hopes to celebrate on his sneakers will be a tribute to late rap icon Nipsey Hussle, a Los Angeles native and Lakers fan, also known for his small business empowerment and community efforts. Hussle had been a brand partner with Puma, with the company recently launching a co-branded collection with his Marathon Clothing store to benefit his ongoing foundation.

”Ever since that moment, trying to carry on that marathon and that type of symbolism, it kind of meant a lot to me,” said Kuzma, who has a “TMC” flag tattoo on his arm. “I wanted to go to Puma, not only for everything that I’ve got going on, but to do some things within this community like Nip did.”

LeBron James paid tribute to Hussle with a custom-made jersey designed by Grant Goldberg, which used elements of Hussle’s own clothing company, “The Marathon Clothing,” specifically the iconic Crenshaw logo.

Puma has yet to officially release any Kuzma products, but they unveiled a new — albeit familiar — logo at his announcement event on Wednesday:

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