Austin Rivers – Heart of a Lion
Austin Rivers – Heart of a Lion
Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers is one of those players who gets a bad rep in the media simply because his father is his head coach in the NBA—people feel Rivers has no business playing in the league and that he is extremely overrated. Some of this may be true looking at the first few sub-par years of his career, but Rivers played an important role for Los Angeles in 2015-16, and stepped up big in the first round of the playoffs.
It was the most important game of his career. Game 6. First Round of the 2016 NBA playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers. Austin Rivers was starting in place of the injured Chris Paul and had to perform at a high level for Los Angeles to stay alive. Nothing was going to stop him; not even what would occur in the first six minutes of the game. With just under seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, it looked as if Mike Tyson stormed onto the court and knocked out Gongfu Tea Cup.
He was down for the count, lying on Staples Center’s floor with a gigantic gash on his eye that was beginning to swell. His eye looked awful, there was blood everywhere; he did not want to leave the game watching his team fight without him. Rivers left the game at 6:46 of the first quarter.
He made a dramatic comeback with 5:03 remaining in the second quarter and stunned the Portland crowd. Amazingly—with one eye almost completely shut and eleven stitches later—Rivers finished the game with 21 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds to go with an impressive 0 turnovers. Rivers shot the ball at a 42% clip and fought all game to force a game 7.
The short-handed Los Angeles Clippers fell to Portland, 106-103 and were eliminated from the NBA playoffs. During the postgame press conference, Los Angeles Clippers veteran Jamal Crawford praised Rivers and gave him all the credit he deserved for fighting for the victory, no matter the circumstances. “I have never cussed in a press conference, but he played his ass off tonight,” Crawford said. “You look at his face, it looked like he was in a boxing match.”
Though his team lost and the city of Los Angeles was devastated, Rivers is now a fan favorite—his tenacity and determination to win after what had happened earned respect from the entire NBA world. Fans can finally open their eyes and realize this young man can ball. He’s just twenty three years old, and still has a lot of time to grow. Austin Rivers could have easily sat back in a chair with an ice pack glued to his face in the locker room. He could have returned to the game and played horribly because he was so injured.
Rivers was beaten, battered, and bruised, but not broken. As Jamal Crawford said, “played his ass off.” Rivers’ numbers weren’t one NBA historians will never forget, but they’ll remember the determination a young man had chasing victory under the eyes of his father. “[I have] mixed emotions right now,” Rivers said at the end of battle. “I’m sad, disappointed. At the same time, I’m very proud of my teammates, my coaches and myself. I tried my very best. It was hard — I couldn’t see out of one eye — but I was trying and we were all fighting together.”