The Dukie everyone loved to hate is now a popular — and terrific! — TV analyst and podcaster. No one would have predicted this 15 years ago.
My first regular writing gig was for a website that was based in Baltimore. I transitioned into a contributor after starting as an unlikely reader. I wasn’t from that area and did not know anyone associated with the site. I most likely would never have found it had the site not had such a catchy and memorable name: I Hate JJ Redick.
The now-defunct site focused on sports and pop culture, along with food and some other things, in the great tradition of early ’00s blogs like Deadspin and Fire Joe Morgan. The latter is especially apropos considering the name was actually a phrase that was often Googled by sports fans, much like the name of our site.
Before Grayson Allen but after Christian Laettner, the sports world came together to despise, loathe, detest, and every other synonym you can think of for hate, JJ Redick.
Redick was easy to hate because he checked all of the boxes: he played for Duke; he was white; he had that look about him; most of all, though, he was good. Really, really freaking good.
He was especially hated in the state of Maryland (hence the site’s name). At the time, UNC was in a down period, so the war for supremacy of the ACC was between Duke and Maryland. Redick received incredible amounts of vitriol from Maryland fans, including making signs about his family members, with one student dedicating “her entire life to distracting and tormenting Duke point guard JJ Redick. From chanting obscenities during games to prank calling Redick on his cell phone, Mercer will stop at nothing to get into Redick’s head.”
During a game in 2004, when Maryland fans began chanting, “Fuck you, JJ!” he looked up, smirked, and drained a free throw. Two years later, he would score 35 in his final game against the Terrapins.
While he seemed to relish the role of being the bad guy who was vociferously booed during every road game, it went against who Redick actually was. In fact, he admitted the hate affected him so much he nearly quit the game:
“‘It fucked me up. It forced me to take on a persona that was not me. There are not too many 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids who are really comfortable with who they are. You’re still at the point in your life where you are trying to figure things out.’
Things got so bad for Redick that he was ready to call it quits. ‘December of that year, I had my sisters meet me on campus, and they came over for dinner, and I was like “I don’t want to play anymore, this is not for me, it’s not fun.” I really struggled those first two years — it was really hard for me.’”
In an effort to deal with it all, he created a character and began to play up the role of a villain, which paradoxically only made the hate worse:
“‘I think I created this persona on the court to deal with the antics of the other crowd, to kind of combat that,’ Redick says. ‘It’s not who I was. It was never who I was. I look back on that, especially my first two years, and I probably deserved a lot of the animosity.’”
After a decade-and-a-half in the NBA, particularly as his career progressed and especially now in retirement, we’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the real JJ Redick.
In a 2018 glowing profile, The New York Times called him the NBA’s “most meticulous player,” outlining his obsessive habits and demanding preparation in great detail. He was the ultimate professional.
Two years later, the Times again profiled Redick, this time examining how he morphed from Duke supervillain to the wise, grizzled veteran:
Consider the evolution of Redick, who has long been a subject of fascination for basketball fans of a certain vintage. Once upon a time, he was the brash and oft-reviled star at Duke, a shooting guard whose confidence irritated opposing crowds to the point of madness. Now 36, he is one of the N.B.A.’s more esteemed figures, a mentor to younger teammates and a 14-year pro whose work ethic borders on compulsive.
It wasn’t only his reputation that evolved. His game did too, and he was a vital member of some very good teams that had legitimate chances to win a championship, including the 2009 Orlando Magic, the mid-2010s Los Angeles Clippers, and the 2019 Philadelphia 76ers. He was much more than just a shooter who made those teams better, and all of them felt his loss when he moved on, both on the court and off. I was very disappointed when he left my Sixers after the “two best years of [his] career” in the summer of 2019 and the team clearly suffered as a result.
Preparation is one thing, but every non-Duke fan in 2006 would have been shocked to learn that JJ Redick is also not a douchebag. He’s cool. So cool, in fact, that he even did an interview with the founder of I Hate JJ Redick. He didn’t have to do that. It’s not like we had the traffic of Bleacher Report or the cachet of Grantland (although the site did win some awards).
He did it because that’s the type of dude he is.
As a podcast host, first with Yahoo Sports, then The Ringer, and now The Old Man and the Three, Redick has immediate respect, not only because he was a player who does his research, but also because he is open and not afraid to have difficult conversations from which others may shy away.
He spoke to Blake Griffin about why they didn’t win a ring on the Clippers, shared stories about playing for Mike Krzyzewski with Jason Tatum, discussed the lack of leadership on the Sixers, and even debated Grayson Allen over which of them was more hated in college.
Perhaps his best quality is a rare one for a host: he isn’t afraid of silence. He allows his guests room to consider their answer and speak in detail, providing context and nuance, without interrupting or looking for an easy soundbite.
Redick can be disarmingly direct, but he’s always fair and honest, never saying something to get attention or a reaction (“a level of candor that’s unique,” as his business partner put it). He is the same way on television, which is not nearly as easy. When he appears on TV shows that have the incredibly deep concept of “Let’s make up a debate topic and then have two guys scream at each other over it,” he doesn’t dumb down his opinion to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Regardless of the topic, he is always thoughtful, measured, and direct.
In other words, he’s unlike virtually everyone else on those shows — and does it better than all of them too.
It’s refreshing to see.
He has now also begun to do in-game analysis (where he received a standing ovation from the Philly crowd) and was — no surprise — very, very good, even in his first game. Redick has found his next career and, in stark contrast to the last one, he is a beloved fan favorite from the outset.
Retired player. Podcaster. Studio co-host. In-game analyst.
JJ Redick is a Renaissance Man of the modern NBA.
Maybe we should start a new site and call it I Love JJ Redick.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. Check out more of his writing on Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.