Once ‘college basketball’s most hated player,’ JJ Redick has evolved into a beloved media star.
Nearly two decades removed from his illustrious college career, JJ Redick has grown up.
In many ways, so have the people who once despised him.
“I was sort of a prick,” Redick said bluntly years back, reflecting on his Duke career.
Redick was an exceptional college hooper. He averaged nearly 27 points a night as a senior while hitting 42 pervent of his 3-pointers, ultimately holding off Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison in the memorable 2006 Naismith award race.
What sent Redick over the top as one of the all-time hated college basketball players was that he knew he was really good, too. A (let’s face it) white, player-of-the-year-level Duke Blue Devil who doesn’t mind holding a follow-through or waving a crowd goodbye? That’s the secret sauce to enraged student sections.
Naturally, Redick endured the mental gauntlet of assuming the Millennial-era Christian Laettner role.
“It f—ed me up. It forced me to take on a persona that was not me,” Redick said. “There’s not many 18- or 19-year-old kids that are, like, really comfortable with who they are. You’re still at the point in your life where you’re trying to figure things out.”
While Redick was at the top of his game, the hostility led him to nearly quitting the sport entirely after his sophomore season.
His cell phone number was discovered by Maryland and North Carolina fans, resulting in up to 75 harrassing calls every day. His younger sister’s name was brought into profanity-laced shouts from fans, and “F—k you, JJ” chants were common when Redick stepped to the free-throw line. Of course, his name was met with a smattering of boos during the 2006 NBA Draft while being selected 11th overall to Orlando.
After battling injuries and finding difficulty carving out a role with the Magic, Redick hit his stride with the Clippers. He started 265 of his 266 appearances over four years, averaging 15.8 points per game as one of the league’s top perimeter shooters.
Redick gave podcasting a shot for the first time in February 2016, midway through his 10th season in the league. He was first contacted by premier NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski in 2015, then with Yahoo, about approaching the mediaverse as a personal essayist. Reluctant to relive anxiety and procrastination from his college days, Redick instead agreed to try podcasting when Wojnarowski returned with a new offer months later. He became the first active pro athlete to host a podcast, all while putting up career-best numbers for a playoff team.
The early going wasn’t easy. Redick dealt with production challenges and his pre-show nerves were only calmed generating pages of notes, questions and flow charts about a particular guest.
But he settled into a groove and an audience followed, many of whom were surprised by the charisma of the once-hated Duke star. A year later, Redick’s podcast was picked up by The Ringer. The two formed a marriage that would last for three seasons with consistent appearances by players, coaches and media members.
Redick’s personal brand began to evolve. Better yet, his on-court production was as high as ever, and his off-court ambitions were never viewed as a distraction by teammates or coaches.
“It’s given me a medium to express myself,” Redick told New York Times.
Once hesitant to heed Wojnarowski’s words or embrace the encouragement from his true-crime-podcast-loving wife, Chelsea, Redick was poised to start his own network.
In August 2020, Redick and co-host/producer Tommy Alter launched the show The Old Man and The Three under their network ThreeFourTwo Productions. The first 10 episodes included guests ranging from NBA stars Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum to voting rights activist Stacey Abrams to billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
The podcast title is a “little play” off Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer-winning novella The Old Man and the Sea. Redick says he represents the old man in this scenario, maturing and gaining wisdom over time.
Redick made his ESPN debut last November, immediately receiving praise from the masses. He is widely respected by his peers due to his authenticity and insight while delving beyond the tired, how-does-it-feel prompts.
That’s probably why Redick is capable of maintaining composure and providing thorough responses on First Take, ESPN’s inflammatory talk show often dominated by nonsensical takes and shouting matches.
This past week, Redick’s name became a trending topic when he diffused Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s assertions that outspoken Warriors star Draymond Green should “shut up and play.”
Redick’s rebuttal was measured and firm, leaving Russo with occasional nods, mutters and pursed lips. Polarizing debate artist Stephen A. Smith looked on without saying a word. Redick commanded the respect of the room.
Chris Paul, Kendrick Perkins, Harrison Barnes, Jemele Hill, Damien Woody and several others praised Redick for how he handled the segment. The clip was even shared by LeBron James on Instagram with the caption “JJ FOR PRESIDENT!!” Redick was later welcomed on the Pat McAfee Show to explain why he pushed back on Russo’s comments.
Put simply, Redick’s career arc is a fascinating one. A recent review of The Old Man and The Three podcast perfectly summarizes the vast majority who couldn’t stand Redick the player and have since learned to love Redick the media figure.
Given the early returns, it’s a safe bet that Redick’s presence will continue to grow in the coming years. His delicate balance between old-age wisdom and support of athlete voices is both captivating and refreshing, ultimately resonating with the NBA’s youthful fan base.
Redick’s name is instantly recognizable by any casual basketball follower. But what separates Redick from most of his athlete-turned-media peers is he isn’t aiming to be the center of attention anymore — he had plenty of that when he was a teenager. He just wants to provide a platform for athletes and grow the game he cherishes.
“I’m looking to provide the why, the how, all that stuff,” Redick said. “I’ve got 30 years… of basketball knowledge in this brain, and I want to share it with the average fan.”