Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves quickly became a fan favorite last season.
Lakers fans gave him two different nicknames, but out of respect for gun violence victims and the late Kobe Bryant, Reaves seemingly wants to distance himself from the nicknames “AR-15” and “Hillbilly Kobe.”
“I don’t condone any gun violence that happens around our country,” Reaves told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “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.”
In May, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was used to kill 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Most of the people killed were children.
“Every time something like that happens, your heart just drops and you feel for the families that were attached to all that,” Reaves said.
It’s an admirable thing for Reaves to look for a new nickname out of respect for the victims and Bryant. Gun violence has seemingly taken over the country in recent years. As for Bryant, he died in 2020 in a helicopter crash.
Reaves is hoping that his play this upcoming season can help Lakers fans find him a new nickname.
“I’m always open to new ideas,” Reaves 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.”
Last season, the 24-year-old averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc. By the end of the season, he had established himself as a pretty regular starter.
While the Lakers have made some changes to their roster this offseason, Reaves could still play a key role for the team during the 2022-23 campaign. He is set to become a restricted free agent next offseason.
Lakers fans are surely going to be very creative in trying to find a nickname for Reaves that sticks for the rest of his career.