No More Underdog NBA: How Austin Reaves Became a Star for the Lakers and Team USA, According to Mikal Bridges

AP Photo/John Locher

Austin Reaves is no longer a hidden gem in the NBA. The second-year guard for the Los Angeles Lakers has emerged as one of the most surprising and exciting players in the league, earning praise from fans, teammates, and opponents alike.

Reaves, who went undrafted in 2021 after a stellar college career at Oklahoma, signed a two-way contract with the Lakers and quickly proved his worth. He averaged 13 points, three rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game in his rookie season, shooting 52.9% from the field and 39.8% from three-point range. He also played stellar defense, earning a spot on the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Reaves was a key contributor to the Lakers’ run to the Western Conference Finals, where they faced the Brooklyn Nets, led by former MVP Kevin Durant and rising star Mikal Bridges. Bridges, who won two NCAA championships with Villanova and reached the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns in 2021, was impressed by Reaves’ performance and gave him a glowing endorsement after the series.

“This ain’t no underdog s–t no more, he’s here,” Bridges said of Reaves, according to Bleacher Report. “He’s a great player, man. He can do it all. He can score, he can pass, he can defend. He plays with a lot of heart and confidence. He’s not afraid of anybody or any moment. He’s got that Mamba mentality.”

Bridges was not the only one to recognize Reaves’ talent and potential. Reaves also earned a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster, joining Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and other superstars. Reaves said he was honored and humbled by the opportunity to represent his country and learn from the best players in the world.

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Reaves added 19.8 points on 56.7 percent shooting, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds in his final 13 regular-season games to help push the Lakers into the playoffs. During that stretch, he joined the starting lineup, where he stayed through all three rounds of the postseason. The 25-year-old then added 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game in the playoffs.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Reaves said, according to MSN. “I’ve always looked up to these guys and watched them play growing up. To be on the same team with them and compete for a gold medal is amazing. I’m just trying to soak it all in and get better every day.”

Reaves’ journey from an overlooked prospect to an NBA sensation is an inspiring story of hard work, perseverance, and passion. He has proven that he belongs in the league and that he can compete with anyone. He has also earned the respect and admiration of his peers, who see him as more than just an underdog.

“He’s not an underdog anymore,” Bridges said. “He’s a star.”

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