Kobe Bryant comparisons are both cliche and overused in general, but there are few people perhaps better equipped to properly make them than Rob Pelinka. The now Lakers GM Rob Pelinka formerly was, obviously, Kobe’s agent and close friend.
Because of that, at the very least, when Pelinka throws out a comparison to Kobe, it’s noteworthy. And at Thursday’s media availability, he offered some of that lofty praise toward Austin Reaves.
When asked about Reaves returning to the Lakers this summer and the improvements he’s continued to make, Pelinka spoke about his mindset, approach to the game and the “Mamba gene” he has.
“Austin’s growth isn’t a surprise to any of us that really scouted him, drafted him and helped develop him to this point,” Pelinka said. “He uniquely has that sort of “Mamba gene” where it’s all about the work, it’s playing competitive on every play, it’s about being a great teammate. Not caring about the personal accolades but just the team winning, he exemplifies that. His growth with Team USA, we’re proud of him but certainly not a surprise. He’s got tremendous respect from other coaches around the league, other players around the league.
“Darvin and I spent some time around Team USA and everybody praises him. He doesn’t let any of that get to his head. It doesn’t get him off course. He’s focused on one thing and one thing and that’s trying to bring another championship to this organization. So, we’ll lean into that type of character. That’s a big part, as Darvin said, we’re re-establishing and building here.”
No, you are not alone in wondering what exactly the “Mamba gene” is. Fortunately, Pelinka was asked to describe what on Earth the “Mamba gene” is later on in the presser as well.
“I think his core qualities line up with the tenets of the ‘Mamba gene,’” Pelinka said. “We all got to see Kobe’s career, what he stood for. No player can be compared to Kobe Bryant but I think players today can carry genes of what he represented and I think Austin does. He is no nonsense. He comes in the gym, he’s about the work. He’s straightforward with his teammates. He’s all about winning. He doesn’t listen to the praise and get big-headed. He doesn’t listen to the criticism and get down on himself. He’s just about the work. I think we saw that in just how he attacked his college career when we talked to him and scouted him.
“We saw that when we had training camp and he didn’t have a roster spot and he was about his business and he was about showing everybody on the team he belonged. And we’ve seen that just with his growth. He puts in the work. He’s not getting caught up in media rumors with who he’s dating or anything else but he’s about the business. He’s about the game. That’s why we love him and that’s why we’re proud that he chose us this summer.”
Not only is he not bothered about the rumors of who he’s dating, he also doesn’t regret not shooting his shot, either. Look, not everyone can handle dating an elite athlete like Reaves, anyway.
Outside of that, at least with the qualities described, they all apply to Reaves. It feels a bit much to compare him to Kobe but that’s basically the case for any player in the NBA, save for the top 1%.
As the old adage goes, comparison is the thief of joy and instead of comparing Reaves to anyone or anything or talking about a “gene,” let’s just enjoy Reaves and his progression. The Mamba comparisons may feel a little out of place, but the fact they aren’t completely out of place is a testament to how far he’s come.
Now, hopefully, the Mamba gene includes the clutch gene so that we can add some incredible late-game moments to Reaves’ growing highlight reel in Los Angeles.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.