Kyle Kuzma knows what it's like to be oppressed.
Despite his millions of dollars made as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kuzma has still experienced his fair share of racism after growing up as a biracial kid in Flint, Michigan. They are experiences, where at the time he couldn't speak on them, that have shaped him into the basketball player he is today and the man he hopes to become.
But now, Kuzma is done being silent.
He's done sticking to just sports and is finally using his platform to speak out on the issues that effect this country so greatly. He has a voice, a powerful and respected one at that, and now he's finally using it after not being able to growing up.
After growing up in Flint, "a really violent place where there's a lot of temptation to get into the streets" according to Kuzma, he experienced racism and neglect from both sides of the spectrum.
In a letter penned to the The Players Tribune, Kuzma "Ain't No Sticking to Sports." He details in the letter about the way he was raised and how as a country we can make a difference. He talks about the racial injustice black people face daily, and how we can move forward from these trying times — particularly those that have fallen upon us after the senseless killing of unarmed George Floyd by four police officers.
Kuzma says in the letter, "At the end of the day, we all gotta come together as people. But I know that will never happen until white people actually understand what African-Americans have gone through in the past, still go through in the present and will probably continue to go through in the future."
These are powerful words coming from somebody who's been able to see and understand both sides of the racial spectrum that America has today.
Growing up in a biracial home, there were some individuals in Kuzma's extended family who did not support his mother, who's white, of having biracial babies — but she did anyways and ended up giving birth to the University of Utah's best basketball player since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
In his predominantly black neighborhood growing up, Kuzma wasn't black enough to be accepted. Then when he got to high school and starred on the basketball court, he was one of the only black kids in his school, as the "N-word" was regularly thrown around in his face by white kids.
"I’m sure a lot of biracial kids have that kind of similar story of not being black enough for the black kids and not being white enough for the white kids. As a kid, you don’t know the history behind all that. ... So, yeah, for me just personally, growing up, I got hit from both sides. It was what it was."
Kuzma was able to put a lot of those issues behind him and eventually attended Utah on a basketball scholarship, where he graduated with a degree in sociology.
After playing in a backup role as a redshirt freshman, he burst onto the scene as a sophomore when he averaged 10.8 points per game. The following season was his best as he averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, earning all-Pac-12 first-team honors and declaring for the NBA draft.
He was chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round with the No. 27 overall pick, and was expected to be a key part of LA's rebuild into one of the top teams in the league.
Kuzma averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds as a rookie, garnering all-Rookie first-team honors. During his second season (2018-19), he upped his scoring total to 18.7 points per game while adding 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. With the addition of LeBron James and Anthony Davis during this current season, Kuzma's numbers are down but he's seen as a vital cog for a Lakers team looking to win the NBA championship.
Now a three-year starter in the league, Kuzma is a well-known public figure on and off the court.
But what he's about to be most known for is what he wrote towards the end of his letter... something that resonates with not just the black community in America, but everybody wanting to make a difference and make the country better than what it is.
"I’m launching a voting campaign that’s going to help get people’s eyes on where primaries and elections are being held in every state this year. I’m dropping something very soon.
But in the meantime, let’s keep educating ourselves. Because that’s what made the biggest difference in my own learning process. That’s the biggest thing: Education.
You know, back when this all started, during slavery, the one thing that the white man feared was a black man that had a mind of his own.
Someone who could READ.
Someone who could WRITE.
Someone who could THINK for themselves.
Someone who could VOTE.
You know why? Because that person could stand up!!
And that’s what I’m doing and going to continue to do until all people are free."
It's because of people like Kuzma, who've been neglected and thus effected by both sides of the racial spectrum in the country, that there is hope for change.
He changed his world with a basketball, but hasn't let that be the only part that he changes. He's now using his own words to promote racial injustice and change throughout the country and it's about time we, as a nation, listen and act.