Kyle Kuzma is the NBA’s newest cult hero
Kuzmania reached a new level after a 41-point night. He’s catching NBA fans’ attention. The Lakers found the NBA’s newest cult hero when they drafted Kyle Kuzma with the No. 27 overall pick in 2017. The 23-year-old pure scorer can run hot and cold, but when he gets going, he’ll have fans ordering jerseys at halftime. Without LeBron James, who’s still nursing a groin injury, Kuzma delivered a 41-point performance in just three quarters to beat the Pistons on Wednesday night. He was cleared to take center stage, and he ran with it like any captivating scoring figure would. Kuzma may not be the Lakers best prospect, or even the second-best depending on how one feels about the potential of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. But he’s ideal for cult fandom in a city that worships it like none other. He’s driven the Kobe Bryant-disciple narrative, with Mamba shoutouts and special clothing since his debut. For better or worse, there are night he fulfills that on-court prophecy. Kuzma scored 26 points before registering a single rebound against Detroit and finished the full 41 out without notching assist, which is incredibly Mamba-esque. Yet every minute he spent on the court was mesmerizing. Even head coach Luke Walton could only joke about the lopsided performance. “It felt like [the ball] was skipping around out there until it hit Kuz’s hand, and then it was going up every time,” he said, via ESPN. “I was still trying to look for teammates,” Kuzma said. “My assists don’t reflect that. But if I’m open, I’m going to shoot.” Kyle Kuzma is a movement. Kuzma’s play evokes so much emotion from fans. It doesn’t take long to find passion-laced pro-Kuzma talk on Twitter. Kuzma proves once again hes the best of the young core and the 2nd star next to Lebron. Trade the rest. Lol #LakeShow— basketOfries1 (@basketOfries1) January 10, 2019 Kyle mf kuzma ! Best pick in the 2017 draft— Daniel (@kid_vitoo10) January 10, 2019 Klye Kuzma is the undisputed best player in his draft class. pic.twitter.com/NnifwLelYX— Lakers Stan (@Playboy_Laker) January 10, 2019 Already watched the game. Kuzma balled out, but what I love the most is how his makes were assisted. We may not have LeBron, but Lakers haters can't deny we have the best young talent in the league.— Dc (@LakersFinest) January 10, 2019 Kuzma’s remains a poor defender and he clearly isn’t a reliable playmaker for others, but he does what fans love and what highlight videos are made to show: score. @kylekuzma drops a career-high 41 PTS (5 3PM) in just 3 quarters of game action, guiding the @Lakers at home! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/tGnzjCotCJ— NBA (@NBA) January 10, 2019 Kuzma’s 41 points came on 16-of-24 shooting, an efficient night that included 5-of-10 from three-point range. Yet Kuzma’s cult was still mad at one very important thing for the numbers-obsessed legion of sports fans: Walton didn’t let Kuzma play a minute of the fourth quarter to reach 50 points! A 50-piece would’ve catapulted his hero status to infinity. Luke better not try and play super coach and not give Kuzma his opportunity to get 50!!!— Eastside Tour Guide!!! (@P0STA) January 10, 2019 Luke Walton really gon stop kuzma from getting 50? That’s horrible coaching seriously u don’t do that lmao.— RAE ♂️ (@rae_undftd) January 10, 2019 Of course Luke Walton isn’t putting in Kuzma to get 50The man deserves to be fired just for that. Kuz has never gotten 50... and opportunities like that don’t come around often — Coach (@LakersBulletin) January 10, 2019 Magic better fire Luke if Kuzma doesn't finish with at least 50— Eli (@Eli_see2020) January 10, 2019 if Luke don't let Kuzma drop 50 I'm driving to LA and fighting him.— Discount Drake (@Mo_Sm00ve) January 10, 2019 Kuzma’s play is addicting. His shots take an audience’s attention, and like another cult figure in Klay Thompson, he becomes a must-watch show when he’s hot. In those scenarios, both players are only doing one thing when they catch the rock, and fanbases live for it. Kuzma’s heroism comes solely in the form of buckets, and that’s ok! Kuzma is in just his second season, though he’s on the older side — he’s two years older than Ball despite being in the same draft class. He has plenty of time to refine some of the areas he’s lacking in as a defender and passer, but for now, his scoring is a very useful skill. Will he last as a team’s second-best overall player? Maybe if the team isn’t good. But he’s shooting 47 percent from the field and scoring 19 points per game, fulfilling a void alongside LeBron that Ingram and Ball haven’t. In the right role, with the right number of minutes, Kuzma’s play could be useful in the long-term. In the short-term, he’s the best scoring counterpart LeBron has with which to make a playoff run. Kuzma’s stans are hyperbolic and his critics are too stuffy. That’s how you know a new cult hero is on the way.