Los Angeles Lakers’ Austin Reaves looks to shed ‘AR-15,’ ‘Hillbilly Kobe’ nicknames

LOS ANGELES — Lakers guard Austin Reaves is open to a new moniker.

During a surprisingly successful rookie season that saw Reaves go from an undrafted prospect to a two-way designation, signing a two-year deal and becoming a starter, he picked up a few nicknames from Laker stalwarts: “AR-15″ and ” Hillbilly Kobe”.

Reaves would be fine if he distanced himself from both.

“I do not condone gun violence that occurs in 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 that’s my name. There were others, like ‘Hillbilly Kobe’, who probably aren’t the best in the situation that Kobe died in.”

Earlier this week, University of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, who like Reaves wears the No. 15 on his uniform, also dropped the AR-15 association.

“While a nickname is just a nickname and ‘AR-15’ was simply a representation of my initials combined with my jersey number, it is important to me that my name and trademark no longer be associated with the assault rifle that carries it.” used mass shootings, which I do not condone in any way or form,” Richardson said in a statement on Twitter.

Reaves, 24, came across Richardson’s story and was impressed by the 21-year-old up-and-coming junior.

“I’m happy for him. I want him to use his voice,” Reaves said. “Everyone should be able to speak freely about what they believe. I think more people need to step up and say what they really feel because that’s how you get things out there. That’s how you ask questions to raise eyebrows and I’m happy for him and wish him all the best.”

An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was the weapon used at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in May that killed 21 people – most of them children. It has been the weapon of choice in 11 mass shootings in the United States since 2012, according to USA Today.

“Every time something like this happens, your heart goes out and you feel for the families that are attached to all of this,” Reaves said.

Reaves wore the No. 12 “all his life,” but had to choose a different number when he got to LA because Kendrick Nunn was already claiming it. After testing out the No. 31 during Summer League last year — what his brother and mom wore to the basketball court — he decided a lower number suited him better.

“I just didn’t really like the way it looked on me,” he said of No. 31. “Fifteen is very similar to 12. The five and the two are just reversed.”

While a Newark, Arkansas native grew up shooting guns, that use was vastly different from the artillery that was part of the public massacres that plague the United States

“It’s literally just farmland,” Reaves said of his tiny hometown of just 1,200 people. “People hunt. They hunt deer. They hunt ducks. They hunt turkeys. They do all these things.”

He hopes his game will inspire Lakers fans to develop a new label for him next season.

“I’m always open to new ideas,” he says. “Because there is always another that could stay and be better than another that was before. So I’m always open to new things and to people who really open their brains and think up new things for me. That stuff also helps us in branding situations and stuff like that.”

After the Lakers’ struggles last season, Reaves is hoping above all to be branded as the winner.

“The main goal is just to win basketball games,” Reaves said when asked to take a look at his goals for his sophomore season. “That’s all I care about. Winning. Last year was a disappointment but you have to turn the page and figure out how we can mesh that to make it work.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34280037/los-angeles-lakers-austin-reaves-looks-shed-ar-15-hillbilly-kobe-nicknames Los Angeles Lakers’ Austin Reaves looks to shed ‘AR-15,’ ‘Hillbilly Kobe’ nicknames

Emma Bowman

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