Kyle Kuzma’s new Wizards contract a goal achieved, a promise fulfilled — Andscape
LAS VEGAS – Washington Wizards star Kyle Kuzma was asked during his recent news conference which luxury item he planned to buy after signing a four-year, $102 million contract.
With his mother nearby, the new face of the Wizards said he was very content.
“I got everything I need, honestly,” Kuzma said from Thomas & Mack Center on July 8.
Kuzma’s new lucrative contract, however, did allow him the luxury of sending his mother to an early retirement.
Karri Kuzma has worked in the dental industry for 15 years as an office manager. Last year, the Flint, Michigan, area native began working remotely for a dental implant company as a prospective agent advocate. The Wizards forward told his mother in August 2022 that he wanted her to retire after he signed his next contract. And after her son signed his contract last week, the 50-year-old plans on giving her two-week notice by week’s end.
“It’s at this point that I realize how much of a blessing this is all been. I’ve always known it. But I think that this is the part that actually woke me up from what felt like a dream this whole time,” Karri Kuzma told Andscape.
So, what is next for Karri Kuzma being retired so young?
She will take control of the Kyle Kuzma Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on impacting the lives of children, young adults, and families though sports, education and life lessons. On Jan. 18, Kuzma donated $1 million to his hometown YMCA of Greater Flint that “helped shape my life, who I am today.” She also plans to remain living in the Flint area where she will continue working part time as a massage therapist.
Karri Kuzma said her pending retirement hits home what her son’s generational wealth means to the family.
“I know he’s blessed, but for me personally, who gets to retire when I’m 50?” Karri Kuzma said. “And that was the moment for me when I was just like, ‘Oh, like, I’m truly blessed and, like, I appreciate it more than anything to not have to like clock in, clock out …
“I’m supposed to start working for his foundation fully in August. That’s retiring without retiring because I’m still gonna work for him. But doing something for somebody you love is not working.”
It was fitting that Kuzma’s news conference was at the Thomas & Mack Center during NBA summer league considering that was where he first started making a name for himself in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kuzma was taken 27th overall out of the University of Utah by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. The Los Angeles Lakers acquired his rights on draft day and Kuzma averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals in the 2017 NBA summer league, where he was named MVP after logging 30 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game. That Lakers NBA summer league title roster included Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, Alex Caruso, Thomas Bryant and P.J. Dozier.
“Well, my first summer league game, I was nervous, man,” Kuzma said to Andscape. “I came off the bench and I had like nine points, four rebounds against the [Los Angeles] Clippers. The first half I was very nervous. The second half I actually played a lot. We came back, but we still lost. But that second half gave me confidence. And then the following game against Boston, I had 30-something and it was a sold-out game. And then from there it was just I was just running with it. A great time.
“Playing for the Lakers in summer league, that was probably the greatest summer league team ever. Every time we would sell out Thomas & Mack. Coming from Utah, that was crazy.”
Kuzma set a goal as a rookie to make more than $100 million in career earnings as an NBA player. Such a goal may have seemed lofty for most at the time, as his rookie salary was $1.4 million.
“When I got drafted, that was my goal,” Kuzma said. “I didn’t know what route my career was going to take. But throughout my career I just wanted to make a $100 million.”
The 2018 All-NBA Rookie first-team selection averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds during his first season with the Lakers. Kuzma was a 2020 NBA champion with the Lakers and averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds with the franchise from 2018 to 2021. On Dec. 20, 2020, he signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension with the Lakers. Even so, the Lakers traded Kuzma to the Wizards on Aug. 6, 2021, as part of a deal for Russell Westbrook.
In his second season in Washington, Kuzma averaged a career-high 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game during the 2022-23 campaign. Then-Wizards president and general manager Tommy Sheppard was relieved of his duties on April 19. He was replaced by Michael Winger as president and Will Dawkins as general manager on June 8. On June 24, the Wizards’ traded their second all-time leading scorer Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns.
“It’s a business. Respectfully, it was probably best for both parties to go different ways being somewhere for so long,” Kuzma said of Beal. “He’s one of the greatest players in Washington history. And obviously with the new regime coming in, they want to make a new identity. And for him he was like, ‘I want to go somewhere where I can compete.’ So, it just worked out for both parties, but it is a great opportunity for him.”
Kuzma became a free agent on June 20 after declining his $13 million player option for the 2023-24 season. Washington also acquired guard Jordan Poole from the Golden State Warriors on July 6. And ultimately by re-signing with Washington on July 7, Kuzma became the current face of the franchise in the nation’s capital.
Kuzma says he is ready for the responsibility that comes with being the face of the rebuilding Wizards. The 27-year-old added that it’s important for him to not only be a great player, but an important leader who is willing to sacrifice.
“It’s dope. That’s all I wanted. I’m hyped,” Kuzma said. “It’s just a great feeling. How many people in their lifetime can say they’re the face of the franchise? Someone that can help steer the direction of franchise for years to come. Yeah. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, I’m just extremely grateful for it.”
Karri Kuzma was challenged financially when she raised Kyle, his half-sister Briana, and his half-brother Andre, but those days are over thanks to her oldest child. When his new contract concludes after the 2026-27 season, Kuzma will have surpassed his $100 million goal by netting a total of $124.5 million. The co-founder of the plant-based sports drink Barcode also plans on to buy more real estate and starting the process of buying some restaurant chain stores.
“I will probably reflect after Las Vegas [Summer League],” Kuzma said. “Obviously, I have a lot of friends and family and tequila to get to.”
Said Karri Kuzma: “It’s kind of strange. I did envision it. But everything kind of happens in its own terms, and at its own speed. And as far as his contract, I don’t know if I envisioned that. But yeah, he definitely deserves it.”
Kuzma, his soon-to-be-retired mother and his girlfriend, model Winnie Harlow, celebrated the new contract while attending the Usher concert at the Park MGM on July 7. Karri Kuzma said they remained in their seats long after Usher’s last song as they got emotional thinking about the Wizards star’s journey to the big contract.
She was brought to tears after Harlow praised her son for his NBA accomplishments.
“We were all drinking … And so, we just were kind of talking and then she was giving him those flowers and then it just got emotional,” Karri Kuzma said. “So, all that just kind of came out.”
Said Kuzma: “It was great, man. She was just crying, having the time of her life … It was just a great feeling. We’ve been through our whole journey and our relationship. Very special to be in this situation.”