In 2005, I was an average white American cishet teenager growing up in northern Florida: I was disinterestedly cruising towards the end of high school, I loved hanging out with friends, playing video games or tackle football in the water tower field, and I hated JJ Redick.
In 2005, JJ Redick was anything but average. He was finishing up his stellar Junior season at Duke averaging 21.8 points per game and shooting 40% from three. As a senior, he would increase those averages to 26.8 and 42%, all while playing essentially the same minutes per game. He won back-to-back ACC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, Naismith Player of the Year, and Wooden Player of the Year awards. That’s a lot of organizations saying he was the best.
And yet, to most of us, he was the worst. I struggled daily, feeling mired in my humanity. I was insecure, shy, and felt like I was constantly flailing. Thus I resented Redick’s seeming lack of humanity. He was cocky and constantly baiting crowds with head nods and shouted barbs. His shot was robotically perfect and he never appeared to tire as he zipped around the court.
As I suggested, I wasn’t alone. Compared to fans of Duke’s true rivals, I may as well have been his best friend. Maryland and North Carolina fans tormented Redick. The stories are infamous at this point. Fans mocked everything from his physical appearance—drawing red dots on their shoulders to mimic his acne—to his family, calling his brother gay (the horror!).
Crowds chanted “fuck you JJ” during nationally televised games. One particularly egregious moment involved fans saying they had had sex with his 12-year-old sister. He had to change his cell phone number several times because he would receive over 50 calls in a night from opposing fans.
I didn’t know JJ personally. I was a Florida Gators fan and they weren’t even a major rival of Duke. I just know that I made my fair share of bad jokes at his expense and trashed him anytime my friends discussed college basketball.
It didn’t help that it sure did sound like he compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr. in a poem he wrote (4:55). Yeah, even JJ admits he was kind of a dick. American young white men, even ones with societally acceptable outlets for aggression, often have no idea how to behave. While some may have regional, ancestral, or other subgroups to look to, the only mainstream culture available for most to identify with has been largely toxic.
After Redick was drafted 11th by the Orlando Magic, my relationship with him did not improve much. Despite growing up two hours away, I was not a Magic fan. Redick slotted in well with my ambivalence for the team.
I did think that 11 was too high to take him and that his lack of elite size and athleticism combined with a complete inability to not be smug, limited his chances of becoming a starter. I saw him as a Steve Kerr-type since I did not know anything about Steve Kerr or JJ’s background.
In 2013, JJ was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks midseason and then relocated to the Los Clippers in a large three-team trade after the year was concluded. This move began the prime of his career, as he benefitted from a changing game of basketball as well as the new and improved teammate situation.
Chris Paul was the maestro running everything and Blake Griffin was still an athletic marvel and a matchup nightmare. JJ Redick’s constant activity and gravity contorted defenses in ways that were very different from those two. In 2014, Redick was the team’s third-leading scorer. In the four years that he played in LA, Redick’s three-point average was 44%.
His impact stretched further than simple three-point shooting. He was always a smart player and as he matured into his prime, he leveraged that as best he could on the defensive end. He wasn’t going to guard LeBron James, but he was going to hold his own against other jobs.
As mentioned, the threat of him shooting opened up so much for his teammates. Both Paul and Griffin worked best shooting in the midrange or closer. So having Redick run baseline or curl around pin-down screens created gaps for others to capitalize on as the defense shifted to account for him.
I still didn’t like him. My anger as a whole towards sports figures was certainly shifting. Fandom itself was shifting on a grander scale. Fantasy sports were becoming more and more prevalent, which meant that the laundry mattered less.
Fans supported individuals almost as much as teams. Basketball was not nearly on the same level as football in that situation, but it was still a trend. With wider access to the NBA than any generation previous, that was understandable.
A kid in Los Angeles could watch every Knicks game on the internet. Through Twitter and wider media access, fans grew to learn more about the players they rooted for and against.
I had not learned anything more about Redick, but he bothered me. He was also the victim of his situation. The “Lob City” era Clippers, as they dubbed themselves, were annoying. They were populated by players whose talents I respected, but whose personalities I found grating.
Chris Paul is a top two point guard of the last 30 years, and I will always remember watching him take over a game that I attended at Madison Square Garden. He knew every infuriating trick and just how to get away with them. Blake was a highlight factory, and genuinely worked to refine his game over time, but he was whiny and always injured. Essentially, I just didn’t like that team’s vibe.
Not liking a team is certainly better than flat out hating them, so at least things were looking up for JJ there. As I said, my fandom was changing in the mid-2010s too. I loved the game of basketball as purely as ever and thus it was hard to actually hate players who worked hard and performed in ways I appreciated on the court while not popping up in the news for hurting people off it. The only team I truly hated was the Lakers and that is because I’m a Celtics fan and they’re awful.
Nationally, the Clippers were a team of flash-in-the-pan excitement. The sparkly highlights died down as the Clippers failed to make much progress towards winning a playoff series. They became seen as a team that just couldn’t get over the hump. Most of that fell in the laps of the big two stars though. JJ was just seen as a guy out there playing his role.
For the 2017 season, JJ Redick cashed in. He signed a $23 million dollar contract—he had made $7 million the season before—with the Philadelphia 76ers. Redick was not able to suddenly dunk from the foul line, instead, the market began to adjust to how crucial his role was. Redick immediately gelled with 76ers star Joel Embiid, creating a beautiful two-man ecosystem.
At 33 years old, Redick also gave Philadelphia a professional veteran presence as the rest of the squad was still developing from the famous “Trust the Process” rebuild. JJ’s work effort and demeanor were generally considered to be of the highest caliber.
The best evidence of that was his footwork. Watching Redick sprint around a screen—or possibly three—catch a pass, square himself up, elevate to the exact same height every time, and fire away is like watching a clock tick. It takes thousands of hours of precise work to understand how to control your momentum, how to stay balanced, and not get tripped up.
The general feeling about the signing was usually positive. Few people begrudged him for taking such a huge bag of cash. In reading articles at the time, everyone praised Redick and his potential importance to the franchise. Was it more money than he was worth? Probably.
Some were upset about the precedent and paying a player entering his mid-thirties that kind of money, although everyone admitted that the contract was short and thus an easier pill to swallow.
I was just beginning my thirties and mainly I was jealous that Redick seemed to still be improving at a time when players’ careers were traditionally starting their decline. That jealousy did not translate into hate anymore. My masculinity had shifted. Incidents that inflamed my bravado were largely systemic ones.
I didn’t agree that Redick should be making $23 million, but my opinion had nothing to do with him as a person and only the fact that I wished teachers and human service workers could ever make a tenth of that. I had realized at that point in my life that I had no connection to him and he didn’t bother me at all—because he probably never had.
I was officially ambivalent about JJ Redick. In his second, and final, season with the 76ers, at 34, he scored 18.1 points per game, the highest average of his career.
JJ Redick finished his career by playing two seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans—unless you also count the 13 games he played with the Dallas Mavericks in 2021.
He started a charitable foundation in 2011. He and his wife primarily choose to perform anonymous donations because he doesn’t believe that the credit for such things is that important.
And he started a podcast in 2017 with the media company The Ringer. On a whim, I gave his show a shot and a few things immediately struck me. First, he’s really into wine. Like he knows a hell of a lot about it and younger Cody would have found that fittingly obnoxious.
Second, I found it refreshing to hear about something he was so passionate about and yet, he wasn’t flaunting his knowledge. I didn’t feel connected to Redick over the subject of wine, but hey, I could fast forward those parts if I wanted to, no foul.
The third thing I noticed was that Redick spoke about basketball the same way he spoke about wine. It was never condescending or pushy. He could be forceful, but not overpowering. He also knew his shit. That should be obvious from the career he had, but the difference is how you translate that immense knowledge for your audience.
I really started listening to his podcast when he was playing his first season with the Pelicans. It was one of a couple of shows that provided behind-the-scenes access to the NBA in a completely revolutionary way, and I loved it. JJ and his producer, Tommy Alter, spun the pod off into his own production company in 2020 and started calling his podcast “The Old Man and the Three,” which is a fantastic name.
Upon retiring from the NBA in 2021, Redick began doing broadcast work for ESPN. He appears on shows like First Take and Get Up and I even heard him announce an NBA Summer League game on Tuesday.
No matter the medium, be it TV, podcasts, broadcasts, or… radio(?), I can depend on one thing: Redick will be real. He also will probably not be wearing a tie—but mainly he’ll be real.
I appreciate his authenticity because I often feel like the pundits and the talking heads often fire off their takes just to get something to go viral and I don’t get that sense from him. These shows and interactions do have outlines if not scripts, and Redick has had moments that have pinged around the internet like he used to come off screens, but they feel honest at least.
I believe he has a good head on his shoulders. I really appreciated a moment—yes one of those viral ones—where he called out Chris “Mad Dog” Russo for talking about athletes the way that Fox news talks about athletes.
He stands up for players of his generation for building on the greatness of the players that came before them, without discounting their own greatness. On his podcast especially, he offers insight from his unique playing perspective. He seems to consider his points with the same precision as he considered his footwork.
In reading comments and replies on several videos online, there was a general refrain: most people appreciate JJ’s contributions. Some said he was the best thing to happen to ESPN in a while. The general public has also joined me in discovering an appreciation for Mr. Redick.
I do not always agree with what he says; his take that he would rather Luka Dončić have the ball at the end of the game than Steph Curry being one example. I still get glimpses of that smug kid from time to time. Yet I understand it.
At the very least, the TV shows are debate shows for entertainment. Stephen A. Smith is supposed to start shouting. Smith and Redick in particular push each other with facts or emotions when they are respectively needed. I don’t even like those shows, honestly. But I get the point.
My own point is that I’ve come to realize how important it is to recognize the strengths in others in addition to how we disagree. And those disagreements don’t have to be irreconcilable. I now believe that seeing people as having complex personalities developed through our individual experiences is really the best way to go.
We act the way we do for a reason. JJ Redick is the perfect illustration of that for me. He was a 19-year-old getting expletives screamed at him by strangers. I thought he was annoying and I had never spoken to him. Now that I’m actually listening to him, I agree with him more often than not. I guess we have both just grown up.