When the Washington Wizards' marketing department met in April to begin discussing plans for this season, including the team's promotional giveaway schedule, the idea of a Kyle Kuzma bobblehead was raised. Marketing manager Nicole Sigmon suggested it should highlight the 27-year-old forward's eclectic fashion sense, and her colleagues all agreed before brainstorming several possible designs.
Perhaps the obvious choice was to depict Kuzma in the comically oversized pink sweater he wore to a game in November 2021, which drew incredulous reactions from LeBron James and others around the NBA, but there was some concern among the Wizards' marketing team that the sweater's moment had passed and would be collecting mothballs by 2023.
[ Kyle Kuzma was roasted for his pink sweater. He and his stylist have no regrets. ]
"We felt like the pink sweater was part of last season, and we wanted to move on, so we picked a few other outfits of his and had bobbleheads of those mocked up," Rebecca Winn, senior vice president of marketing for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, said this week. "[Kuzma's] immediate feedback was, 'No, I want to do the pink sweater.'"
So Winn and her team altered course. They did the pink sweater, and with Kuzma's input, they did it well.
The first 10,000 fans at Friday's game against the New York Knicks will receive a Kuzma pink sweater bobblehead, which perfectly captures the look that prompted James, Kuzma's former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, to comment on Instagram: "Ain't no f------ way you wore that!!! I ain't pressing the like button cause this is outrageous Kuz!"
"The fashion scene in L.A. just spoke to me," Kuzma said last year of how he got into fashion while he spent the first four seasons of his NBA career with the Lakers. "I was like: 'Yeah, this is what I like. I enjoy putting on clothes. I enjoy looking at fabrics, touching different fabrics, knowing the difference between them.'"
Some of the other outfits considered for Kuzma's bobblehead included a short-sleeve shirt and low-cut undershirts that would have showed off some of his many tattoos. They're fine designs — and classic Kuzma — but they're not nearly as memorable as the pink sweater, which GQ's Eileen Cartter called "a meta-commentary on the evolution of the NBA pregame look."
The Wizards worked with merchandise agency BDA to design and produce the bobbleheads, which, in a creative and unusual touch, feature swingable arms to mimic the swaying of the sweater's sleeves. Kuzma, who is averaging a career-high 21.3 points and is a candidate to be dealt by the Feb. 9 trade deadline, provided feedback throughout the process, from rendering to painting. For instance, he requested that his bobblehead include the mole on his lower left cheek. During the molding stage, he insisted that his white beanie and pink sweater be textured rather than smooth.
"There are different personalities," Winn said. "Some players are super invested in the process, and some aren't. Kuzma just happened to be, which was really helpful."
Winn noted that Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis, who has a bobblehead giveaway scheduled in March, was particular about the hue and length of his beard in the Porzingis nutcracker the team included with holiday ticket packages. Bradley Beal tends to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to his bobbleheads, though he liked the Black Panther design the team gave away last season.
Bobbleheads take anywhere from three to six months to produce. Because the Wizards got an early start on Kuzma's bobblehead, they were able to work with BDA to incorporate Kuzma's suggestions after the final rendering was approved in June. Winn said Kuzma, who drilled the game-winning three-pointer in Wednesday's win over the Chicago Bulls, is pleased with the final product and its attention to detail.
"Everything from him being mid-stride to the way the sweater is kind of folded over in the front and the chain that he's wearing, we really wanted to capture that arrival moment," Winn said. "Whereas sometimes we might just look at photos or video footage to get a general concept [for a bobblehead], this was definitely a moment in time."