For years, even as he rose to prominence playing basketball in Utah and to even more acclaim as a forward for the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma has kept his hometown of Flint, Mich., in the front of his mind. With the coronavirus outbreak spreading and worsening in recent weeks, he is taking further action now, helping to provide meals for senior citizens in the city.
Kuzma’s representative released a statement describing the program:
“The Kyle Kuzma Foundation is partnering with the Flint, MI YMCA to donate dinner for senior citizens who are impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. The program will provide dinner and a snack, seven days a week, across eight different feeding sites in Flint, to the local seniors. The program will launch on Monday, March 23, 2020, and will run for at least six weeks. It is expected to provide more than 550 meals per week.”
Kuzma grew up in Flint and attended Bentley High School in Burton, Mich., just outside of Flint. He averaged 17.9 points and 14.4 rebounds as a junior and got the notice of the coach at Rise Academy in Philadelphia, where he was recruited for prep school.
Kuzma Lamented Flint as ‘A Third-World Country’
Kuzma has made it a point to bring attention to Flint, a long-struggling industrial town about 65 miles northwest of Detroit. He has been outspoken about the Flint water crisis, which saw lead from old pipes creep into the city’s drinking water, killing 12 people and causing lasting damage. Many in Flint still won’t drink the water.
“It pretty much is a third-world country,” Kuzma said in an ESPN interview in 2018. “A lot of crime, a lot of violence. You look at the city, it’s beat down, houses are boarded up and we don’t have [clean] water still. It’s been that way ever since 2014, and that is going on four, five years. It is definitely disheartening that we continue to let a city in America do this.”
But Kuzma has been very active in helping the community. He has done extensive work supporting the Flint YMCA and has conducted basketball camps that support his Dreambuilders Foundation and helps kids in Flint get school supplies.
Kuzma has described basketball as a “bubble” that kept him away from gangs when he was growing up and he has tried to recreate that bubble for others.
At his basketball camp last summer, Kuzma said, ““This means a lot to give back to the city of Flint. This is one thing that I always loved, giving back every single year. For one, I’m really not back too often.”
A Positive in an Up-and-Down Year for Kuzma
It has, of course, been an odd year for Kuzma, as it has for everyone involved in the NBA. As a Lakers, he has had to cope with the tragic death of franchise icon Kobe Bryant in late January. At the same time, his name was being wrung through the NBA’s trade rumor mill, with L.A. fielding offers for him for the second straight year.
He has also dealt with foot and ankle injuries and a new role as a sixth man. Kuzma went from averaging 18.7 points on 15.5 shots per game last year as a starter to averaging 12.5 points on 10.9 shots as a sixth man this year. He is shooting 43.2 percent from the field and only 29.7 percent from the 3-point line.
Kuzma was embroiled in a mini-controversy earlier this week when he posted on Instagram about hand sanitizer, writing, “Now y’all finally finding out companies been taking money from us for years. This [poop emojis] don’t work!”
Hand sanitizer is one of the recommended ways to combat the spread of coronavirus.