Kuminga turned childhood annoyance into NBA highlight reels originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
LAS VEGAS -- Growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jonathan Kuminga first started playing basketball at 2 years old, even though soccer is the country's more popular sport. To friends and family, it probably looked like Kuminga's dream was to one day be an Olympic high jumper, not an NBA player.
Kuminga comes from a tall family. His brother, Joel Ntambwe, is a 6-foot-9 forward who played college basketball at Texas Tech and UNLV, and even was on the Warriors' summer league roster. Full of energy, Kuminga was the kid who didn't walk, he ran. Really, he jumped.
Or at least he tried to.
"I was never bouncy, I was just a tall kid," Kuminga said to NBC Sports Bay Area on the latest episode of Dubs Talk in an interview during the Las Vegas Summer League. "My friends used to be like, 'Why are you so annoying? Why do you keep jumping so much?' I was just like, 'I'm just trying to work on my jumping, that's it.'"
The work paid off, too. How early? At the ripe age of 12 years old.
That's when Kuminga dunked a basketball the first time.
He was no longer the human pogo stick getting on the nerves of friends and elders alike. Kuminga had a vision. What started as trying to leap and reach anything in his sight turned into grabbing rim and throwing down dunks.
It didn't hurt being able to have bragging rights and throwing that in the face of his friends either.
"After a couple years, I became bouncier and I started dunking," Kuminga remembers. "And I was 12, so it was surprising. I was like, 'Man, now you see why I always want to jump and do these certain things.' "
Kuminga's athleticism and leaping ability is a big reason why he was a top recruit throughout his three years in high school. That part of his game caught the attention of every major college coach in the country, garnering scholarship offers from Duke, Michigan, Memphis, Texas Tech and countless other big-time programs.
The Warriors fell in love with Kuminga's personality before the 2021 NBA Draft. Don't get it twisted, though -- they were enamored with his physical gifts before making him the No. 7 pick in the draft. His natural athletic traits have never been questioned.
What was in question was his maturity, ability to shoot the ball and just how long it would take for him to tap into his superstar potential. Some of those questions still persist after his rookie season.
Still only 19 years old and listed at 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and an effortless 38-inch vertical leap, Kuminga put together a highlight reel of dunks last season. In 70 regular-season games, 12 starts, Kuminga threw down 74 dunks. That ranked second on the Warriors, behind only Kevon Looney, who had nine more regular-season dunks than Kuminga.
Looney played 12 more games than him and nearly 600 more minutes in the regular season.
Though he doesn't have a personal favorite slam from last season, one sticks out to Kuminga for the moment and his reaction. All he could do was smile, just as he usually does with all his poster dunks.
"I really don't have any celebration. I'm gonna work on it for my next season, my second year in the league," Kuminga says. "If I do something crazy, I just start smiling. I think I had a dunk against Dallas and the camera really zoomed in on me and I was just smiling.
"I'm just surprised by anything I do."
Steph Curry's "Night Night" celebration hasn't only taken basketball by storm, but also the entire sports world. Gary Payton II's head-scratching dunk celebration was subtly perfect and a favorite of Dub Nation. What kind of celebration could Kuminga have up his sleeve?
Like the rest of his game, and like he tried telling his friends growing up, we'll have to wait and see. Don't miss the show in the meantime.