From the moment D’Angelo Russell entered the NBA as a 19-year-old rookie with the Lakers, it’s always been clear that he’s both a free spirit, and someone prone to a level of candor so honest that occasionally even teammates worry about it. Like at All-Star weekend back in 2016, when Jordan Clarkson interrupted a joint interview both were doing to tell his then-backcourt mate “don’t say anything crazy.”
Russell, 27, has grown a lot since then, but he’s still unafraid to say exactly what is on his mind, or even just blurt out “OOOOOOOO-OOOOOOH there goes that motherfu-” while LeBron James passes him on his way to the postgame podium in full view of live cameras as The King can only shake his head and laugh.
That quality has given us a lot of fun moments over the years, and the latest came this week, when in Dave McMenamin of ESPN’s recent profile of Austin Reaves, not only did we learn that the Lakers’ starting backcourt have become “fast friends” who go to “the golf course together as much as schedules allow,” but we got to read Russell — hilariously, and as only he would — break down why The Barn Mamba doesn’t fit the stereotypes that usually follow white NBA players around (emphasis mine):
“In the NBA you see a white guy, he’s usually the shooter and he usually can’t guard anybody,” Russell told ESPN. “Or he’s tough and can’t do anything else. For him to have a little bit of everything, I think it ... helps the situation. And ... he’s a killer. When you recognize a killer that [has the mentality of], ‘I’ll score 40 on you ... and then I’ll try to score 50 on you.’ He’s that guy. Like if he’s going, he’s going to go and there’s no holding back.
“I think that’s what people recognize. He can really take the game over.”
First thing’s first: It’s absolutely clear that Russell has a ton of respect for both Reaves and his game, but him starting a quote praising Reaves for his killer instinct by — seemingly unprompted — listing a bunch of stereotypes about white NBA players being only either shooters or hustle guys is absolutely hysterical, and I’ve been laughing at it since I read it. I only wish he had done this on video so that we could hear it in his voice.
I am also deeply disappointed that he didn’t keep going with more assumptions, as other cliches he could have listed include:
- “In the NBA you see a white guy, he’s usually a coach’s son who is a defensive specialist and gives it 110% at all times.”
- “Or he is deceptively athletic, a coach on the floor and game manager”
Or who knows, maybe Russell did list every single possible white guy cliche possible — again, seemingly and hilariously, unprompted — and McMenamin just cut them for space. Either way, the Lakers are lucky to have a “a killer” like Reaves on their side, and we are lucky to have Russell here to break down his teammates while poking fun at stereotypes they defy.
Also: I need to know everything about this Reaves/Russell friendship. Beat reporters, if you’re reading this, I need a deep dive on that bromance next. I know that it’s always LeBron and Reaves who people joke about doing a “White Men Can’t Jump” reboot...
... but I need Spectrum SportsNet, the Lakers, Uninterrupted, or some other media outlet to get Russell and Reaves to dress up in intentionally dorky clothes and go hustle pickup basketball courts together while defying many of the same stereotypes Russell called out and learning lessons about people, life and each other along the way.
Now THAT would be worthy of a Hulu reboot.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.