Besides being a guy who can put up 20 points and propel his team to wins, Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma’s impact has stunned even those closest to him. Kuzma’s greatest contribution might not be on the hardwood, but rather through his goodwill.
Kuzma has done everything from donating $1 million to the local YMCA in his hometown of Flint, Michigan to buying a new house for his mother and grandmother. It’s his mother, Karri, who is most aware of her son’s impact beyond basketball.
“Him being able to do that [make a $1 million donation to the YMCA], you know – even the thought of a million dollars is still crazy to me because there were years he didn’t get Christmas presents, you know what I’m saying?” Karri said during the Wizards' win in Detroit on Tuesday. “So, him just gifting that to other people – I still get emotional.”
Karri’s emotions stem partially from the financial conditions she and Kyle lived under while Kyle was growing up. To see him make it big in the NBA is made all the more overwhelming when she recalls working to make ends meet in Flint. Kuzma himself has mentioned his upbringing contributed to his knack for self-marketing and promotion.
It was just over a year ago that Kuzma purchased five acres of land and a new home for his mother and grandmother in Michigan – a special family gift for the woman he calls his biggest supporter and number one fan.
“When he got the house, I mean, it’s hard to explain,” Karri said, choked up. “That’s my first house. I’ve never had a house. When he says, ‘Here’s your limit, go look for a house,’ it was kind of like a fast thing…he kinda gave me a price range, I looked, we found a house and that was his dream.”
Kuzma has said in the past that his mother texts him before and after every game. It was pertinent that Karri attended the Wizards' game in Detroit, as Kuzma grew up a ravenous Pistons fan. Daniel Gafford’s buzzer-beating putback ultimately locked up the win for the visitors, but Kuzma thinks of games in Detroit as homecomings.
His upbringing in Flint, plus his journey through college at Utah to Los Angeles and now to the nation’s capital, have never drawn Kuzma away from his roots. Rather, Kuzma's bond remains strong with his family and his hometown.
Karri was at the center of his basketball youth and continues to be his rock today. That won’t change any time soon.
“As a parent, you always view your kid as a child regardless of their age, I think,” Karri said. “He’s still my baby even though he’s a grown man.”