Austin Reaves had a successful rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers and picked up a couple of nicknames along the way, the most popular ones being "AR-15" and "Hillbilly Kobe." Recently, the 24-year-old expressed that he would like to shed those nicknames and find better alternatives.
The AR-15 nickname is due to his initials and the fact that he wears the No. 15 jersey. However, his nickname is also the name of a semi-automatic rifle that has been used in multiple mass shootings, with one of the most recent ones happening in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
"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."
Growing up, Reaves mostly wore No. 12, but that was not an option with the purple and gold since that one already belonged to Kendrick Nunn. Reaves briefly tried No. 31 last summer, but ultimately chose No. 15 because it was similar to No. 12.
Around the same time Reaves discussed this, University of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson -- who also wears a No. 15 jersey -- distanced himself from the same nickname. Richardson had created a whole brand around it and even used it as a logo for an apparel line. Earlier this month, the quarterback made the official rebranding announcement on his website.
"While a nickname is only 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 brand are no longer associated with the assault rifle that has been used in mass shootings, which I do not condone in any way or form," he wrote.
"My representatives and I are currently working on rebranding, which includes the creation of a new logo and transitioning to simply using "AR" and my name, Anthony Richardson."
Reaves told ESPN that he was glad Richardson felt free to speak on what he believes and that more people should take public stands to help bring awareness to important issues.
As for a new nickname, Reaves has faith in Lakers fans and is ready to hear their suggestions.
"I'm always open to new ideas," he told ESPN. "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."