LAS VEGAS – Washington Wizards star Kyle Kuzma was asked during his latest press conference what 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 pleased.
“I’ve got everything I need, honestly,” Kuzma said from the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8.
However, Kuzma’s new lucrative contract gave him the luxury of sending his mother on early retirement.
Karri Kuzma has worked in the dental industry for 15 years as an office manager. Last year, the Flint, Michigan, native began working remotely for a dental implant company as a potential 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 to give her two weeks’ notice before the end of the week.
“It’s at this point that I realize what a blessing it all has been. I’ve always known that. But I think that’s the part that actually woke me up from what felt like a dream all the time,” Karri Kuzma told Andscape.
So what’s next for Karri Kuzma being retired so young?
She will take control of the Kyle Kuzma Foundation, a nonprofit focused on impacting the lives of children, young adults and families through sports, education and life lessons. On January 18, Kuzma donated $1 million to his hometown YMCA of Greater Flint, which “helped shape my life into who I am today.” She also plans to stay in the Flint area, where she will continue to work part-time as a massage therapist.
Karri Kuzma said her pending retirement chimes with what her son’s generational wealth means to the family.
“I know he’s blessed, but for me personally, who’s going to retire when I’m 50?” Karri Kuzma said. “And that was the moment for me where I was just like, ‘Oh, I’m really blessed, and like, I appreciate it more than anything to not have to like clock in, clock out…
“I will start working for his foundation fully in August. It’s retiring without retiring because I still want to work for him. But doing something for someone you love doesn’t work.”
It was fitting that Kuzma’s press conference was at the Thomas & Mack Center during the NBA Summer League, considering that’s 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. Acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers on draft day, 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 to have logged 30 points and 10 rebounds in the championship. game. The Lakers’ summer league NBA title roster included Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, Alex Caruso, Thomas Bryant and PJ Dozier.
“Well, my first summer league game, I was nervous, man,” Kuzma told Andscape. “I came off the bench and I had nine points, four rebounds against [Los Angeles] Cutting machines. In the first half I was very nervous. In the second half I actually played a lot. We came back, but we still lost. But the second half gave me confidence. And then the following game against Boston, I had 30-somethings and it was a sellout game. And then from there it was just, I just ran with it. A good time.
“Playing for the Lakers in summer league, that was probably the best summer league team ever. Every time we would sell out Thomas & Mack. Coming from Utah, it was crazy.”
Kuzma set a goal as a rookie to earn more than $100 million in career earnings as an NBA player. Such a goal may have seemed high to 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 path my career was going to take. But throughout my career, I just wanted to make $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 an NBA champion in 2020 with the Lakers and averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds with the franchise from 2018 to 2021. On December 20, 2020, he signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension with the Lakers. However, the Lakers traded Kuzma to the Wizards on August 6, 2021, as part of a Russell Westbrook deal.
In his second season in Washington, Kuzma averaged career highs of 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. scorer Bradley Beal for the Phoenix Suns.
“It’s a business. With respect, it was probably best for both parties to go their separate ways to be in one place for so long,” Kuzma said of Beal. “He’s one of the greatest players in Washington history. And with the new regime coming in, they naturally want to create 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’s a fantastic 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’s ready for the responsibility that comes with being the face of the rebuilding Wizards. The 27-year-old added that it is important for him not only to be a great player, but an important leader who is willing to make sacrifices.
“It’s crazy. It’s all I wanted. I’m hyped,” Kuzma said. “It’s just a great feeling. How many people in their lifetime can say they are the face of the franchise? Someone who can help steer the direction of the franchise for years to come. Yes. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. So I’m just extremely grateful for that.”
Karri Kuzma was financially challenged raising Kyle, his half-sister Briana and his half-brother Andre, but those days are over thanks to her oldest child. When his new contract ends after the 2026-27 season, Kuzma will have surpassed his $100 million goal by cashing in a total of $124.5 million. The co-founder of plant-based sports drink Barcode also has plans to buy more real estate and start the process of buying some restaurant chain stores.
“I will probably reflect after Las Vegas [Summer League]” Kuzma said. “Of course I have a lot of friends and family and tequila to get to.”
Said Karri Kuzma: “It’s kind of weird. I imagined it. But everything happens in its own way and at its own speed. And as far as his contract, I don’t know if I imagined it. But yeah, he certainly 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 Park MGM on July 7. Karri Kuzma said they stayed in their seats long after Usher’s final song as they got emotional 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 then we just talked a little bit and then she gave him those flowers and then it just got emotional,” Karri Kuzma said. “So all that kind of came out.”
Kuzma said: “It was amazing, man. She was just crying, having the time of her life … It was just an amazing feeling. We’ve been through our whole journey and our relationship. Very special to be in this situation.”