After being a virtual unknown to Lakers fans prior to the draft, Austin Reaves slowly became a fan favorite this Summer, first by turning down the chance to be drafted in order to eventually sign a two-way deal with the Lakers then by hitting a game-winner against the Kings at the Las Vegas Summer League. But nothing has helped or will help Reaves become more of a fan favorite than when his college nickname was revealed at Lakers media day on Tuesday.
Growing up on a farm “in the middle of nowhere” in Arkansas, as he described it, Reaves gained a unique moniker from his teammates at Oklahoma University.
“My first year at Oklahoma, we had a (graduate assistant),” Reaves said. “He came up to me one day and said ‘I figured (your nickname) out.’”
What was that nickname? Reaves laughed as he retold the story.
“I was like ‘What are you even talking about?’ He was like ‘HBK.’ I was like ‘What?’ He was like ‘Hillbilly Kobe,’” Reaves said. “One of my teammates heard it and it just stuck. For three years, that’s what they said around Oklahoma, and then I guess people caught wind of it elsewhere.”
Let that sink in for a second.
This might be the best (or at least the funniest) nickname any Laker has ever had.
Reaves downplayed the idea that he was a hillbilly, even if he said the nickname “kind of fits.” He did confirm he grew up a fan of Kobe Bryant. Reaves’ fandom of Bryant actually runs through his grandmother, who herself became a favorite with fans when her Mamba Mentality-inspired text messages with Reaves were revealed this offseason.
“She’s just happy and proud of me,” Reaves said of his grandmother on Tuesday. “She was a diehard Kobe fan. Just being in this situation is surreal to her. She’s more than proud for me, and really just wants me to be happy and succeed.”
The hilarious “HBK” moniker drew the exact type of response from one of Reaves’ current-day teammates that one would expect. When informed of Reaves’ nickname, Talen Horton-Tucker reacted with a mixture of disbelief and hilarity.
THT learning Austin Reaves nickname is “Hillbilly Kobe” is the most wholesome thing you’ll see all day pic.twitter.com/j2xH6SXAQs— LakeShowScoop (@LakeShowScoop) September 28, 2021
Reaves’ new, upgraded contract will make him a member of the Lakers full-time this season. And for the sake of content, here’s hoping the “Hillbilly Kobe” nickname sticks around with the Lakers as much as it did with the Sooners.