Kyle Kuzma surprised many people by becoming a first-round pick for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017 and producing at a level far above what was expected to earn all-Rookie First Team honors. But Kuzma isn’t just using his NBA opportunity to succeed as a basketball player — he’s also using his celebrity to advocate for his hometown of Flint, Michigan, which has been without clean water since 2014.
In an interview with MTV News, Kuzma detailed how important Flint is to him, and the responsibility he feels to continue to give back. He credited LeBron James with providing an example for how to use his power to effect change.
MTV News: Your teammate, LeBron James, has been a powerful source for change in Ohio. He’s helped rebuild schools and start community programs. Does he ever talk to you and other teammates about that?
Kuzma: LeBron does a great job of leading by example on and off the floor. Obviously, he’s a great basketball player, but one of his best qualities is his philanthropy and what he does for his community back in Akron, and what he does on the whole for communities is very commendable. For a guy to have as much as he has, he still cares about the people and never lets a stone go unturned, in terms of being an activist and speaking on important things. As a young guy, and a young man of color, in this country, it’s very important to see. He’s an excellent north star to look at and try to get to.
Kuzma has taken advantage of learning from James as a basketball player in the past, especially when James was injured, though it’s really inspiring to know that James has impacted him in life as well. Kuzma held a free basketball camp for kids in Flint last summer and hopes to continue to make an impact in his community, as detailed in the following exchange:
MTV News: “You launched a summer basketball program for children in Flint, which you said was intended to create hope, to spread positivity, to make the children feel important. Working with kids can have vast, unexpected rewards for the kids, for the community, and for you. So what have the kids taught you?
Kuzma: [Laughs] The kids taught me... that no matter what, you’re always going to be a role model. People are looking up to you, so that means you have to hold your weight and also hold your character. What you do on a daily basis and what you stand for, what your reputation is, it matters. There are people out there in the world that really care about you, and what you do and look up to you.
Kuzma is a fan favorite for his personality, and his fantastic facial reactions at the NBA Draft Lottery, but his generosity and philanthropy are significantly more praise-worthy qualities. Whatever happens for Kuzma on the basketball court, he has already accomplished quite a bit as an NBA player.