Jonathan Kuminga is enjoying every opportunity he gets this season to energize the Bay Area crowd. Ever since his first appearance in the NBA three seasons ago—by nailing a three on his first shot—the 6’8, 210-pound all-around basketball beast has been teasing the Golden State Warriors with his talents of providing thunderous jams, buzzer-beating threes, as well as a powerful and smothering defensive presence.
“I mean we play for the fans so you make the fans go crazy,” Kuminga says. You just bring the energy and then everything starts rolling.”
Now in his third season, it’s been a relatively steady climb toward superstar status for the seventh pick in the 2021 NBA draft. With a few small injuries nagging him so far this season, Kuminga is averaging 12 points a game in a little over 20 minutes a game. He’s also developing into one of the more reliable defensive players on the team.
The numbers and minutes may not be increasing at the rate of speed Kuminga was hoping for, he knows that patience and practice remain the keys to success and longevity in the NBA. Afterall, when you have a trio of championship-winning superstars—Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and of course Stephon Curry—helping you in your development into the next Warriors superstar, it’s a little easier to work harder on your basketball training while waiting patiently for your moment to arrive.
“The most important thing they tried to teach me was to trust the process,” Jonathan Kuminga says. “It may not show right away, but if you put your head down and keep working and trust the process things are gonna change.
Jonathan Kuminga Works to Physically and Mentally Elevate His Game
If you’ve witnessed any number of Kuminga’s monster jams, you’ll understand why when given the opportunity to create his own scouting report, he says he’s impossible to handle when he’s headed toward a score.
“Be aware of him driving to the rim every single time,” he says of his own skills. “The way I see people playing me, they worry about me getting to the rim because if I get there it’s either a score or a foul.”
Dominating the paint has always been part of Kuminga’s game. He says realized how much potential he had was during his sophomore season at New Jersey’s Patrick School when the nation began noticing—he was rated as the top high school player in the nation that year. His junior season, ESPN rated him as the fourth best prospect. With offers pouring in from nearly every major college, the Congo native took his skills to the NBA G League. It was there he soon learned that he can no longer rely on just power to dominate. He had to become a student of the game.
“When you’re in high school, there’s a lot of [skills] you don’t need to have if you’re faster and bigger, compared with certain people,” he says. “But once you get to the pros it’s more about having a mind for the game. Some people are faster, some have the ability to shoot, but what makes them all great is the way they read and understand the game. I felt that was the biggest adjustment I had to make.”
Besides soaking in the veteran knowledge he receives from his four-time championship-winning teammates, from training advice to even nutrition advice that goes beyond what he says is his standard chicken and rice dish. “You’ve got to be like a sponge at a young age, even now,” he says. “I’ll ask certain people about their routine, like what they eat and what helps them get through a game feeling good and not fatigued.”
To elevate his on court performance, Jonathan Kuminga and his trainer go through a routine of working on the fundamentals. Kuminga, who has a career field goal percentage of just under 50%, routinely works on improving the mechanics of his shot. His post-practice routine also consists of working on his ball handling as well as going over film in order to be able to read defenses better while also developing a better on-court vision of his opponents come game night.
“I’m pretty much working on the things that are going to help me on the court, like knowing where I could score easily or knowing how many moves I need to beat my man,” he says. “We only need to work on three or four moves because I’m faster than a lot of people in the league.
It’s About the Process of Being Like Steph Without Being Steph
If you’ve seen Kuminga’s leaping skills and ability and slash to the basket and score, it’s easy to recognize why he’s already considered one of the NBA’s most athletic players. He embraces that compliment, while doling out respect to others in the league (“Shaedon Sharpe from Portland is super super athletic, and so is Zion Williamson). But he says when it come to a true athlete, all he has to do is look at his teammate and the work he puts in.
“Skill wise, I don’t need look very far to see the most skilled guy every day, Steph Curry,” Kuminga says. “I get a chance to go to the gym every day in practice and watch. You can’t tell me there are too many people as skilled as Steph.
While emulating Curry’s on-court game is not the goal, copying and sticking to the work ethic that has made the NBA’s all-time three-point leader one of the game’s great is what Kuminga hopes will elevate his game to the next level.
Each game brings more and more glimpses of his talents. His game–especially his defense—is picking up. In a recent win over the LA Clippers, Kuminga helped contain stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George without committing a single foul. His play recently against Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, clamping down in crunch time to help secure another recent win caught the eye of Curry, who vocally showed his approval.
“But obviously every day after practice, Steph stay there and start shooting because he only is on one side of the court that every time after Price who knows they’re gonna shoot right so I mean, I’ve been watching him for the past two years and three now. His routine is always the same.”
When there’s some down time for Jonathan Kuminga, he uses it to spend quality time with his three dogs (1 Rottweiler and 2 French bulldogs), as well as pursue his second passion: music.
He’s currently taking piano lessons when the team is not on the road. So far, he’s on a keyboard quest to perfect his first musical number. “I learned one song in the book that helped me learn certain things [about piano],” he says. “That’s the only thing I know how to play—so far.”
His day job these days, however requires nonstop pursuit of perfection. Kuminga is up to the challenge—Curry’s leadership by example as well as the team’s influence seems to be rubbing off, and paying off for Kuminga’s overall game. Although his goal may not be to be the NBA shooting leader, his consistently improving regimen is adding up to greater improvement on the court. Kuminga also notices how the Curry effect spreads to other teammates.
“Another person I consistently see watching Steph every day is Brandin Podziemski,” he says. “He just had a great game the other day. He watches Steph work, lift, even tie his shoes, he’s always focused on Steph, and I like that. There’s no one you can pick up from better than Steph Curry.”