Photos by Peter Roessler and Interview by Dante Lenko
It was an unusually hot day in October as the photographer Peter Roessler and I raced down a crowded-with-tourist Seventh Avenue to one of the poshest hotels in New York City to grab some portrait imagery and a brief, but in-depth interview with Washington Wizard Austin Rivers.
The 6’4” point guard met us in the lobby as he was talking on the phone with his agent. We slipped into a waiting elevator and entered his room, where he graciously entertained our cameras and microphone on the night before he and the Wizards beat the Knicks by 12 points.
What kind of role do you think you want to have on Washington? I want to be in whatever role it may be, as long as it’s a big role. Obviously, it’s going to take me some time. I’m still adjusting right now. I’m still trying to find my rhythm. It always takes me a little extra time, but when it comes, I really take off. It’s just a matter of time.
Do you feel like the Wizards have an edge over the younger teams, like Boston or Philly who have an overall average player age below 25. I think our edge can be that we are always underestimated. But you can’t say you’re underestimated and not win games. We have to talk the talk and walk the walk. So, if we feel disrespected, we need to prove them wrong. The East is wide open. I don’t care what anybody says. The East is wide open.
How do you feel about the whole “Lebron Legacy”? I don’t know why they refer to that particular move as a “legacy” move. Any move he made would have been a legacy move. The dude is already a legend. If he would have went to Milwaukee it would have been a legacy move.
Switching over to tattoos. How do you weigh in on the whole J.R. and SUPREME situation? I don’t think it’s right that they’ve been trying to ban somebody from what’s on their body. I mean, it’s not that serious. I’m sure there are guys out on the court with tattoos that stand for things a lot “worse” than SUPREME.
Do you think they came down hard on J.R. because of the combination of tattoos and off court behavior? Trying to send a message to kids that tattoos are “bad?” It’s possible, but my advice to anyone getting a tattoo is make sure it will mean something to you ten years from now, and you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on your work, but always seek out a top-quality artist, guys like Freddy Negrete and Chuey Quintanar.
Where does the inspiration for your tattoos come from? I’m not an extremist, but I am a religious person. I have a lot of faith and a lot of my tattoos reflect that. I believe in Jesus Christ and this is my way to pay homage to him. Without him, I wouldn’t be here today. There are a lot of tattoos dedicated to that. And then, I have a lot of tattoos about overcoming failure. I have an entire scripture about that. I got that when I joined the Clippers and was playing for my father. The pressure was incredible and I got the feeling then that everyone wanted me to fail. Then I found a way to break through and just understand that I’m gonna stop caring what everybody else thinks. I got that tattoo on my arm to remind me to never be frightened. To fear no man. I don’t care what any analyst or anybody says about me.
And then I have a Martin Luther King tattoo on my arm, just because I come from an interracial marriage, you know what I mean? So, men like him and many others, paved the way for me to be in existence today.
All your work is black and grey. Your reason for that? The black and grey work on my skin is very reflective of my entire approach toward color in general. I am very much into black-and-white, whether it be in my choice of clothing, artwork or tattoos. I also feel that this type of tattooing intrinsically produces cleaner lines and gives a feeling of sophistication to the work. Something I personally feel can get lost with flashy color work. Overall, for me, I think black and grey work just has a cleaner feel.
Playing in LA you had a lot of press and social media “action.” How do you feel about the media now? The media is so f*cking terrible right now. It’s not about facts, it’s about the kind of content that will get the most views, whether it’s accurate or not. After how the media treated me when I was in LA, I don’t even care anymore. I’m going to say what’s on my mind. As long as it doesn’t jeopardize the team or create drama within the team because the team means everything to me. So, as long as it doesn’t do that, I will always speak my mind. I could care less if someone doesn’t like me or like me because of what I had to say. I’m not that guy anymore.