Say what you want about Kyle Kuzma, but he’s well on his way to taking the step towards building a basketball conglomerate. Athletes like Spencer Haywood and Michael Jordan were some of the first to pledge their on-court loyalty to big brands starting with Nike. Both players were two of the more important figures in basketball and sneaker culture. And like his two predecessors, Kuzma is following in their steps. Unlike them, Kuzma took a different route and joined Puma for a five-year deal worth three million dollars annually, a salary significantly more than his $1.9 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Puma began establishing themselves in the basketball apparel game right around the time they partnered with Jay Z in 2018. To ice the cake, they went out and signed the first and second overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft in DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley. Other notable Puma athletes include Skylar Diggins-Smith, Lakers guard Danny Green and Michael Porter Jr.
The Athletic’s Travonne Edwards talked about the “cool” factor that Kuz can offer Puma on their BasketBuds podcast:
The thing is, during the whole shoe-battle thing, Nick Young was able to move more units than some guys now that have signature series because of the “cool” factor. And I think that’s what Kyle Kuzma is trying to offer when he meets with these sneaker companies. (Kuzma) can offer “cool”.
I must say that I agree. Kuzma checks all the boxes for the type of branding that dominates social media. Since the NBA established its mandatory dress code in 2005, players have found ways to advance it forward 14 years later. Players are in tune with their individuality, and I can’t think of many other players than Kuzma who exemplifies that.
Kyle Kuzma moves intelligently and signing with Leon Rose and the Creative Artists Agency should provide everyone a strong indicator. CAA is a powerhouse in sports and entertainment. Getting the backing from a strong entity has the makings of a productive year off the floor for Kuzma’s plans to expand his range past Los Angeles.
For his brand, Kuz takes no days off with putting in his own work. He’s calculated in his appearances, such as sitting courtside at WNBA games and showing up to New York Fashion Week. Fashion may not seem like a big deal to the fan that just wants to see basketball, but as a rising ambassador, visibility means sales. His brief stint with Team USA and partnership alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis also lend to marketability. Notably, Kuzma’s exposure in two years in the NBA has lent itself to his efforts to further his communities through his platform and finances.
It’s going to be important that his play backs all the momentum that’s coming with his recent deal. Right now, Kuzma is dealing with a lingering injury from Team USA that has kept him out of training camp. With hopes to get well before the start of the year, I expect the next few weeks to be centered around the buzz of what the future holds for Kuzma and Puma. Kuzma has proven that he works hard on and off the floor and its literally paying dividends. At the day’s end, both he and Puma will experience big payoffs in a partnership that looks to be just at its beginning.