JJ Redick is taking the path less interesting

The rising media star is indulging in scorching takes when he’s shown he can be so much more

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JJ Redick must resist the allure of the take-industrial complex.
JJ Redick must resist the allure of the take-industrial complex.
Photo: Getty Images

I never thought I’d say, “You know what, maybe J.J. Redick doesn’t suck,” but he’s surprisingly insightful in his post-playing career gig at ESPN. The former Blue Devil understands how the current iteration of the game is played as well as any analyst for the network and takes a refreshing approach to comparing eras when juxtaposed next to the old heads. He also isn’t afraid to repeatedly insult Boston Celtics legends, which is high comedy.

JJ Reddick couldn't be more wrong about Larry Bird
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JJ Redick couldn’t be more wrong about Larry Bird

Redick, a noted poet, is polished on any medium, whether it’s on First Take, in the booth, or behind a podcast microphone, and he does all three. He’s so good in fact that I don’t want to see him go full take artist. You never go full take artist, because then it becomes more about being loud than being logical.

I know it’s difficult for athletes and even sports media not to be competitive. Figuring out who won, even when it’s not a race, is ingrained in people who are (or cover) winners or losers throughout their careers. And you can see it. One of Redick’s best qualities as a basketball player was his drive. The guy played in the NBA for 15 years, was a lot better than his detractors had hoped, and appears to be equally motivated as a talking head.


Redick using his powers for idiocy

I think what goes on during a taping of First Take is some of the dumbest content imaginable, and Redick is doing himself a disservice by engaging in it at all. He’s been a polarizing figure since college, and whether he’s intending to lean into it, or trying to be the voice of analytics, viewers will feel a way after a few back-and-forths with Stephen A. Smith.


It’s akin to one of your favorite musical acts collaborating with McDonald’s or Maroon 5. I don’t know how I feel about Cardi B getting this big. I understand the money and notoriety are nice, but it’s starting to muddle the focus.

Is Redick the thoughtful former player that gave Ben Simmons the safe space to give his (albeit delusional) side of how things went in Philly, or is he a shrewd media personality that knew Simmons would be a huge draw and agreed to ask only softball questions? The answer is likely a bit of both. Be that as it may, it’s fair to wonder how much of the motivation is journalistic, and how much is capitalistic.

Redick risks his integrity the more he’s with stupid

There’s a gray area that Redick could occupy as a sane analyst who hops on First Take occasionally to disparage Bob Cousy, but mostly is a presence on the side of sports media that doesn’t equate octaves to ratings. A lot of his arguments are fact-based, and analytics fans are always seeking validation. Having a former player/current media member on their side also could serve as a bridge to the longtime retirees who still think numbers nerds live in their mom’s basement.


This current Icarus act jeopardizes that and will eventually engulf him in flames — and dapping up Mad Dog after an anti-North Carolina rant is exactly the kind of spark that will ignite it.

I’d never rip Redick for shitting on UNC. He went to Duke. This is how it works. My issue was being an accessory to Chris Russo’s performance art, which is precisely what ESPN is looking for. Pick a side and defend LeBron James like he’s family. If a strong word from the rant can ALL-CAPS’D for the promotional tweet, even better.


There are actual progressive conversations about sports to be had, and J.J. is great at those. The morning block of ESPN is not that.

Redick may view his burgeoning success as an indication of his talent, but it’s looking more and more like what he’s doing with those skills is wasting them.