Jonathon Kuminga has seen a lot, is a very mature 18-year-old rookie

2021 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
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Jonathan Kuminga turned heads at Summer League with his athleticism and potential. The on-the-court flaws that had teams hesitant and Kuminga falling to the Warriors at No. 7 — the lack of a consistent 3-point shot, stretches of disinterested defense — were evident but also felt like things he would grow and evolve past.

Some teams also had off-the-court concerns about how Kuminga could be a bit of a loner and how he might fit in an NBA locker room. It’s something Conner Letourneau mentions in a must-read profile of Kuminga at the San Francisco Chronicle, but those concerns come off as short-sighted the more you learn about Kuminga and his background.

He was born and raised until he was 13 in Goma, Congo, a country of political instability — Kuminga talked about rebels and government troops fighting in the streets of his town. The United Nations World Food Program estimates that 90% of the people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are food unstable on some level, with 3.4 million children facing malnutrition. Struggling to find enough food, going hungry, is something Kuminga remembers well.

There is just one indoor basketball court in the Congo and it isn’t in Goma — Kuminga learned to play on an outdoor cement court where the basket was a literal laundry basket nailed to a pole. He left his family at 13 to play on scholarship in the NBA, then last season for the G-League Ignite, in hopes of making enough money to help out his family back home. Last season, when a volcano erupted near Goma, he donated a big chunk of the $500,000 he was paid last season to help those back home.

He’s a mature 18-year-old who has seen a lot, which comes across in the article, and stands in contrast to all things Las Vegas and Summer League.

“I’m too old for these [Vegas] streets,” Kuminga said. “It’s just the way I look at myself. I’m not that young kid anymore.”

“It’s hard to relate when someone is complaining to you about their parents not buying them the type of car they wanted,” Kuminga said. “I know what a real struggle looks like. Not having money. Not having food. Here, it’s a totally different world.”

Kuminga may well follow in the footsteps of Bismack Biyombo and Dikembe Mutombo, who have built schools and hospitals in the DRC, trying to impact life on the ground and impact social and political change from the ground up. He comes off as someone with that kind of maturity.

Part of earning enough money to make a real difference will come from Kuminga’s game maturing in the NBA. Landing on a Warriors team with veteran voices such as Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala will help — real mentors for a young player.

Read the entire profile of Kuminga in the Chronicle and it’s hard to come away not rooting for this rookie to find his path, because doing so can inspire and help so many others — so many other teenagers who have seen and experienced a lifetime’s worth already — to find their path and better their world.