With the dust still settling after the bombastic Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers trade, and the uncertainty of what comes next that lingers, there is one thing that has been made evident during this process — Kyle Kuzma is a survivor.
Although his perceived basketball standing varies from future bonafide star to inefficient and one-dimensional chucker depending on who you ask, Kuzma, the popular scoring forward, has outlasted three lottery picks (four, if you count D’Angelo Russell — which may change) several fan favorites and multiple Magic Johnson gifs to stand as the sole remaining young guy after a tumultuous rebuild era for the Lakers.
That’s an impressive feat for a player previously taken 27th overall. And despite getting backlash from segments of Lakers’ fans who would have preferred the team keep the likes of Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram instead in the Davis swap, Kuzma has secured his current spot by not only being the beneficiary of luck, but by simply playing the game on and off the court.
Like Joel and Ellie in the videogame “The Last of Us,” Kuzma has proved to be aptly resourceful even within the most dire of situations. Although not to the extent of warding off cannibalistic beings with bandaged weaponry, the Michigan native did see the danger laying in plain sight within the franchise as they headed into what is expected to be a major offseason shakeup, and prepared accordingly.
Last month, Kuzma strolled into Chicago draped in a bold purple blazer with a shiny gold “Hand of the King” pin over his breast pocket while serving as the team’s 2019 NBA Draft lottery representative (a potential first sign of where he stood on the young core hierarchy chain) at the annual event. The Lakers would go on to jump into the No. 4 spot that night, clearing the way for the monumental trade for Davis to finally occur.
Although the team-centric color attire and not so subtle nod to LeBron James with his visible accessory was realistically not a major deciding factor to why he survived the inevitable trade, it did exemplify an awareness of the politics that go beyond the basketball court by the 23-year-old that was hard to ignore.
In the aftermath of the trade, some have pointed to things like that as the reason Kuzma is still around, and there is little denying that Kuzma badly wants to be a Laker. That isn’t to say Ball, Ingram or Hart did not, but there is a clear distinction in the multitude of efforts Kuzma has made to remain in Los Angeles that helped pave the way for it to remain his permanent residence.