Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves says he's hoping to distance himself from two nicknames that emerged last season: "AR-15" and "Hillbilly Kobe."
Reaves told ESPN's Dave McMenamin in a story published Friday that he didn't choose either of those monikers—one linking his initials and jersey number and the other referencing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant—and he'd be happy if they faded away during the 2022-23 campaign.
"I don't condone any gun violence that happens around our country," Reaves said. "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."
The undrafted University of Oklahoma product was a bright spot amid a forgettable 2021-22 season for the Lakers, who missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record.
He became a fan favorite for his strong defensive play while averaging 7.3 points across 61 appearances as a rookie.
Reaves told McMenamin he's hopeful Lakers fans can develop a new nickname for him during the upcoming season.
"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."
His discussion about the nicknames comes after University of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson posted a statement Sunday about his decision to move on from "AR-15":
The 24-year-old Lakers guard said he saw Richardson's remarks and applauded him taking a stance.
"I'm happy for him. I want him to use his voice," Reaves told McMenamin. "Everybody should be able to speak freely on what they believe. I feel like more people need to take stands like this and say what they're really feeling because that's how you get things brought up. That's how you pose questions to raise eyebrows and look into things."
Reaves is set to operate as a key reserve for L.A. once again when the new season gets underway in October.