In the realm of the NBA, Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves are an unlikely duo whose journeys couldn’t be more distinct. Yet, during their shared stint with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2021 to 2023, these guards forged a bond founded on mutual respect and unexpected camaraderie.
Westbrook’s narrative began on the streets of Los Angeles, an upbringing that eventually led him to UCLA, one of college basketball’s revered programs. A trajectory marked by talent and dedication propelled him to a No. 4 Overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Since then, he has accumulated an impressive nine All-Star and All-NBA selections, rewriting NBA records and clinching an MVP title.
In stark contrast, Reaves originates from a small Arkansas town with a population of fewer than 1,200. His basketball journey commenced at Wichita State and culminated at Oklahoma. Following an undrafted entry into the league, Reaves found his place with the Lakers’ summer league team in 2021. From there, his tale took an unexpected turn.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. As a person, you can’t get much better…He was always empowering everybody to be better and do better and want more.”
– Austin Reaves on Russell Westbrook (via video above)
During a recent appearance on Showtime’s podcast “All The Smoke,” hosted by former Laker Matt Barnes and ex-Spurs champion Stephen Jackson, Reaves delved into his unique connection with Westbrook. Their paths intersected when Westbrook returned to his hometown via a trade with the Washington Wizards, coinciding with Reaves’ rookie season. On the surface, they seemed worlds apart — Reaves, a relative newcomer, juxtaposed against the global fame of Westbrook. However, as revealed in the podcast, their camaraderie flourished. Reaves’ conversation with former UCLA Bruin and Laker Matt Barnes highlighted the deep admiration he holds for Westbrook. A poignant example emerged when Reaves contracted COVID-19; Westbrook’s consistent outreach over a span of days exemplified genuine concern for his teammate’s well-being.
“As a teammate, he was really trying to empower everyone to do better and be better.”
– Austin Reaves on Russell Westbrook
Beyond the narratives, Westbrook’s reputation as a self-centered player or one with questionable basketball acumen often emerges. Yet, his illustrious career and influence are undeniable. Furthermore, evidence suggests that Westbrook’s impact resonated deeply with Reaves, shaping his growth on and off the court.
While Austin Reaves may be viewed as the ‘third banana’ in the formidable Reaves-LeBron James-Anthony Davis trio, his journey showcases a remarkable evolution into a bona fide NBA player. Amidst their dissimilar backgrounds, Westbrook and Reaves stand as testament to the unforeseen connections that can flourish within the realm of professional basketball.