Kyle Kuzma shares special Kobe Bryant memories in farewell letter to L.A.

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma pulls a rebound away from Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges .
Kyle Kuzma was traded to the Washington Wizards last month as part of the deal that brought Russell Westbrook to the Lakers.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Kyle Kuzma was nervous.

Since joining the Lakers in June 2017, the NBA rookie had waited all summer for the chance to sit down with Kobe Bryant, relentlessly hitting up general manager and Bryant’s former agent Rob Pelinka for such an opportunity.

But when he learned the Lakers legend was about to arrive for their first meeting, Kuzma started sweating. And it didn’t get any better once Bryant got there.


“All of a sudden Kobe walks in, and it’s literally like Moses spreading the ocean,” Kuzma wrote in “The Players’ Tribune.” “Everybody in the restaurant is just looking at him. And he comes to the table, and he’s like, ‘Kuz, what up man?’ Just completely chill. But I’m like, Oh sh—, Kobe knows my name.”

Sofia Urbieta Laine sued Vanessa Bryant, alleging she was due back pay as a nanny and that Kobe Bryant had promised to support her financially.

Aug. 6, 2021

But Kuzma was quickly put at ease by the future Hall of Famer, who had retired a year earlier after 20 seasons with the Lakers.

“We’re just talking about life, basketball, how I grew up, how he grew up,” Kuzma wrote about his two-hour initial encounter with Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. “The ups and downs of his career. We talked about his business life. Things that really influenced him.

“The cool thing with Kobe — he was always trying to get smart. He was always trying to gain knowledge, and he’d find that from anything. So he’s not just sitting there answering questions. He’s asking me all this stuff, too. Man, just like, ‘How has your upbringing shaped you? How do you think it’s helping you in your pro career right now?’ ” Things like that. And he didn’t have to do those things, but he did.

“That was a really cool night for me. It’s a memory that just gets more important and more special to me as time goes by.”


Lakers' LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma take the court wearing No. 24 jerseys in remembrance of Kobe Bryant.
Lakers’ LeBron James, left, and Kyle Kuzma, wear No. 24 jerseys in remembrance of Kobe Bryant prior to the team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 31, 2020, five days after Bryant’s death.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Kuzma recounted the story as part of an open letter to Los Angeles, less than two weeks after being traded to the Washington Wizards as part of the deal that brought Russell Westbrook to Lakers. He wrote about the thrill it was to be part of a Lakers championship last year.

“Thanks for letting me be my own small part of this great legacy,” Kuzma wrote.

He also discusses some of the all-time greats he’s had as mentors during his four seasons in purple and gold — players like Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Robert Horry and LeBron James.

And, of course, Kobe.

Kuzma related another Mamba story from about a year after their first meeting, when Bryant texted him out of the blue for what Kuzma said ended up being “the hardest workout I’ve ever had in my life.”

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma plays basketball at the highest level. His younger brother, Andre Smith, is hoping to get his shot playing the popular hoops video game in the NBA 2K League.

March 9, 2021

“Kobe’s telling me, ‘Alright, we’re going to do this move, do that move. We got 25 reps of each movement,’ ” Kuzma wrote. “Usually you’re in a gym and it’s like make 10, make 12, whatever. We’re doing 25 of each thing, man.

“I get done with this workout, I’m completely, completely dead tired. And I thought it was the worst workout of my life because I’m missing shots and stuff. But you know, we finish strong, shake hands and leave.

“I run into Rob the next day, and he says, ‘Aw man, Kobe said that y’all had a great workout. He said that you were in really good shape.’ And I was like, No f—ing way he said that.”

Kuzma added: “I’ll be telling my grandkids about the time Kobe said I was in shape. You keep stuff like that with you.”