Austin Reaves is not a particularly outspoken person. While he’ll show his emotions on the court from time to time, when talking to the media, Reaves is rather soft-spoken and as polite as you’d expect someone from rural Arkansas to be.
That demeanor makes his response when asked about what motivates him to play in the NBA all the more eye-catching. Like many others, and perhaps even more so considering where he’s from, Reaves had his share of doubters growing up, and it was those very people that gave him the drive to make it in the NBA.
So before the NBA draft, his agent wanted to know why he wanted to do this.
Was it the money? The cars and the clothes? The women? The fame?
“I looked him in his eyes,” Reaves said. “And I was like, ‘To tell everybody to f— off.’ My whole life, I’ve been too skinny. Not athletic enough. At one point I wasn’t skilled enough. Everybody found excuses for me not to. … It was always, ‘We’re gonna find something about him that he can’t do good enough to make it.’
“Yeah, so it was a good feeling to just tell everyone to f— off.”
Woike’s piece provides a glimpse into Reaves’ life growing up in rural Arkansas, and is really a must-read. As with the exchange above, the story also gives fans a rare look into what Reaves is like off the court.
Additionally, it digs into his on-court exploits from prep-to-pros, including a decorated high school career. And to be clear, he was an absolute legend at Cedar Ridge in high school.
For top athletes, though, a mindset like what Reaves has is almost necessary. Legends like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan are notorious for taking even the smallest slights and using them as motivation, whether in a micro sense in a singular game or in a macro sense similar to Reaves.
Reaves has not only gotten to prove his doubters wrong by way of his ascendent NBA career, but also taken the opportunity to remind them of how wrong they were in person, as Woike also provided this little tidbit at the end of the article.
He remembered hearing about someone in town who made a bet with one of Reaves’ friends, that he never would make it in the NBA.
During the All-Star break, Reaves said he crossed paths with that losing bettor, eye-balling the doubter before heading back to his life as an NBA player.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Fortunately for Lakers fans, it is the purple and gold that is the beneficiary of Reaves’ dogged mindset and approach to the game. And if he maintains that energy throughout his career, there’s no telling where Reaves’ can take his Lakers tenure.