Although the speculation regarding LeBron James‘ approval of the Anthony Davis trade from the New Orleans Pelicans had a profound impact on the Los Angeles Lakers’ underwhelming performance during the 2018-19 NBA season, Kyle Kuzma still managed to remain as one of the few bright spots.
The admiration for James among the young core was well-documented early on and Kuzma was no different. It is safe to say that he was just as shocked as his teammates were to hear his name was tied to trade rumors.
All the noise surrounding the team’s attempts to trade for Davis left those like Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram in a precarious position for the rest of the season. Regardless, the 24-year-old still found a way to go about business as usual after the deal initially fell through.
According to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Kuzma credits his upbringing for keeping him focused during the rough times:
“I can only speak for myself—I’ve dealt with a lot, and I’ve handled a lot,” Kuzma says. “The biggest thing was early childhood, making it out of Flint [Michigan]. A lot of people don’t make it out. It’s a super violent place. It’s hard to really make it to 21 where I’m from. I made it out. That’s the hardest thing a kid can go through.”
Kuzma added that James was hardly the only player he had looked up to growing up.
Kuzma also doesn’t count James as his only idol. “I had a lot,” he says. “Kobe. Melo. Bron. MJ. Shaq.”
Kuzma has overcome his fair share of trials and tribulations to emerge as one of the most promising, young players in the NBA. Yet, he was still faced with another potential turning point in his career when he was made available and it would be understandable if there were still some feelings of discontent.
Fortunately, Kuzma has seemingly embraced being left as the last man standing from the young core that he had been a part of to start his career. There is good reason for him to be excited after being expected to play an integral role for a championship contender now that the dust has cleared and Davis is with the Lakers.
Kuzma will surely endure a new set of challenges moving forward, but he has proven capable of handling both the mental and physical grind that comes with playing in the NBA.