One of the very few bright spots of last season was witnessing Austin Reaves’ emergence to not only being a key part of the Lakers’ lackluster roster, but also turning into a fan favorite.
The undrafted rookie was so remarkable that fellow teammates and Lakers fans alike showed love by doing what they always do to their favorite players, giving him a nickname.
As the season went on, a pair of contenders for the top spot of Austin’s main moniker emerged — “AR-15” (Austin’s initials and jersey number) and “Hillbilly Kobe.”
However, as mass shootings perpetrated with weapons like the one referenced in Reaves’ nickname continue to plague American society, and Kobe Bryant’s death still weighs heavy on the hearts of basketball fans everywhere, Reaves has gone on the record to separate himself from either of the aforementioned fan-spawned titles.
The 24-year-old recently told ESPN’s Dave Mcmenamin that he’s welcome to a new nickname change.
“‘I don’t condone any gun violence that happens around our country,’ Reaves told ESPN. ‘But you can’t really control what [nickname] people give you. I mean, I didn’t come out and say my name was that. There’s been others, like the ‘Hillbilly Kobe,’ that probably aren’t the best thing in the situation that’s going on, with Kobe’s passing.’”
“‘I’m always open to new ideas,’ he said. ‘Because there is always another one that might stick and could be better than another one that was previous. So I’m always open to new things and for people to really open up their brains and kind of think of new things for me. That stuff helps us out too in branding situations and stuff like that.’”
Considering the fact that AR-15-style automatic rifles have been used in more than a dozen shootings over the past decade, including the ones in Buffalo and Uvalde this past May, it makes sense why Austin Reaves has grown increasingly uncomfortable with fans drawing a line between his likeness and that kind of gun.
As for “Hillbilly Kobe,” which Reaves’ college teammates first coined, the incoming sophomore believes it’s best to simply drop the name out of respect for his late idol. It sounds like Reaves is already content with paying homage to Bryant by wearing the same purple and gold threads his hero donned for 20 NBA seasons, and embodying the Mamba Mentality on the court.
Having already gotten a jump start on a new nickname for Reaves, fans flocked to social media with their best attempt at a suitable replacement. Our very own Alex Regla parroted one of the best suggestions so far:
And I’ll echo a popular one on here:
Stone Cold Austin Reaves
Stone Cold Reaves Austin
Any iteration works.
Also, the eventual bootleg shirt possibilities alone… pic.twitter.com/3UrBKRn6zU
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) July 22, 2022
If you’re like me and other die-hard Lakers fans relentlessly refreshing our social media feeds for the latest Lakers scoop, perhaps Reaves’ need for a new nickname is an opportunity to opt-into a healthier habit for the time being.
And maybe, we can follow Reaves’ lead and reflect on our relationship to some of the biggest issues facing our society, or at the very least appreciate the fact that he’s now used his platform to bring awareness to them.
Thanks for reminding us all, Austin, life is bigger than basketball.