ESPN Transcript: Media Availability with New ESPN NBA Analyst JJ Redick
ESPN recently announced it has signed 15-year NBA veteran JJ Redick to serve as an NBA analyst. During a media Zoom call, Redick discussed his new ESPN role, his playing career and top NBA storylines. Redick will make his on-air debut on Wednesday, November 3, as part of ESPN’s studio programming surrounding its Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks game that night.
Full Transcript Below:
Q: JJ, big fan of the podcast. I hope that continues, and big congrats on the new gig. From obviously what you know about the league and from what you know about the organization, just if I was a Pelicans fan and I said to you, JJ, should I be worried about Zion Williamson sticking around there long-term, what would you tell that Pelicans fan?
JJ REDICK: Well, first, thanks for the kind words about the podcast. I appreciate that. For everyone joining the call, thank you. This is a super exciting opportunity to be working at ESPN.
With regards to the Pelicans, of course I would be worried just in general about Zion, given his injury history. There is certainly a lot more at play here than just whether or not he ends up leaving the Pelicans in five years or four years or whatever it is.
Zion has to be in better shape. That’s not a secret. He’s got to get healthy. I think if Zion is out on the court with Brandon and the young nucleus they have, there’s a lot to be excited about if I was a Pelicans fan.
Q: I imagine obviously when it comes to people getting jobs in the business, there’s a lot to it, but as best as you can, can you explain how the process of just how you ultimately came to this job, and did you and your representation pursue ESPN? Did they pursue you? I’d be interested of the origins of how you ended up here.
JJ REDICK: Sure. A few years ago I signed with Jim Ornstein over at WME for sort of any non-basketball stuff, media-related things. He helped negotiate our current podcast agreement with Cadence 13.
Him and I have talked for a couple years now about what life after basketball looks like, and TV was certainly a path that I was very interested in, and I talked to a few folks from ESPN. I talked to a few folks from Turner several months ago. Again, most of you know this. I pretty much knew last year was going to be my last year in the NBA, so I’ve been sort of preparing for this transition for a long time.
I met with ESPN again this fall around the time I was getting ready to announce my retirement, and I just looked at this as sort of a perfect opportunity. This first year out, I wanted to be able to have time to spend with my family, and this gig, this job gives me that, gives me a lot of flexibility, and it gives me something that I’m very excited about trying to do and hopefully being very good at.
I’m a competitive person, so I want to be good at this job, and I’ve told ESPN that I am open to whatever. I’ll do studio stuff, I’ll do radio stuff, I’ll do games. I’m just always looking to get better at my craft.
I’ve had a lot of reps on the podcast. I’ve done some public speaking. But this is a new thing for me, and I’m very excited about it.
Q: I wanted to ask, I’ve noticed on your podcast that Kevin Durant comes up a lot, and among players there seems to be this great respect for just the way he scores and the ease with which he does it. I was wondering if you could elaborate from the player’s perspective what it is that sets him apart even to players that’s just so impressive?
JJ REDICK: He almost doesn’t count. When we talk about the best players in the NBA, we go down the list, whether it’s Kawhi or Luka or Steph, LeBron. You can probably name six to ten guys on that list of the best players in the NBA.
Kevin almost doesn’t count.
Whoever the best player is, it’s honestly 1B because Kevin is always going to be 1A. There’s really nobody that has his skill set. He can shoot it as well as anybody; he can handle it as well as anybody; and he’s seven feet tall. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in league history probably.
What he’s been able to do post Achilles has been nothing short of remarkable.
From my perspective as a player, my peers’ perspective, he’s the best player in the NBA, and everybody else is sort of competing for that second spot.
Q: I’ve kind of noticed that the idea of him being unfazed by defense comes up when you’re talking to guests on the podcast. Just from your perspective of having defended so many players, is that pretty unusual even among great scorers?
JJ REDICK: I think it goes back to his skill set and his size, the combination of those two things. He can play off the bounce, he can play off the catch, he can shoot over you. He can get by you. His size, again, is just remarkable, and to be able to handle the ball and get to his spots that way, you really just can’t spot him.
I made the comparison the other day on the podcast, the only other player I saw that was really like that was Kobe. It wasn’t so much the defense could faze Kobe or the defense can faze Kevin; they’re either going to make the shot or they’re going to miss the shot. PJ just came on the podcast. He talked a lot about this, and just trying to make Kevin work and trying to get in his head a little bit. Kevin can still go for 50 when you do that. He’s just that good.
Q: As you begin this new career, are you feeling pretty comfortable about it because of all your podcast experience and all the interviews you’ve done over the years, or is it kind of an anxious time because it’s still unlike anything you’ve ever done before? What’s your mood as you begin this new chapter?
JJ REDICK: Mostly just excitement. There’s always going to be some nerves. I would describe it as performance nerves in the same way when you play a basketball game, there’s a little bit of performance anxiety because you’re on stage.
The podcast again has given me a ton of reps. Back when I played for the Clippers I did a few things in studio with The Jump and with Countdown twice during the Playoffs, so I’ve had a little bit of experience, but there’s nothing that can really exactly simulate what I’ll be doing. I’ve never done a game before, and honestly if I’m being truthful, that’s probably the thing I’m most excited about is the opportunity to do a few games this year.
I would compare it to a live podcast because you’re just sort of reacting to what’s going on on the court, you’re providing insight, providing analysis, hopefully a little bit of humor, and hopefully there’s some chemistry with the play-by-play guys. Those are things that I’m sort of looking forward to.
Q: Has this privately always kind of been the idea, that whenever the playing career ended you’d go into TV commentating, whether it be college basketball or NBA, or was it something when the podcast started, you thought, hey, this could be something fun for the next chapter?
JJ REDICK: You’re always thinking about whatever the next step is when you’re an athlete. You’re always thinking about what kind of path you want to take post-career.
The podcast was born more out of intellectual curiosity than anything else. I ended up really enjoying it and enjoy having those conversations in long form.
Truthfully, again, I’ll go back to what I said at the beginning. This was just a perfect opportunity. It was the right sort of work-life balance in year one. It’s something that I was very excited about doing. Working at ESPN, the biggest platform in sports, was obviously a big attraction, as well.
A bunch of things just came together at the right time to make this deal possible, and I’m, again, just so excited about it.
Q: I cover Kentucky; I hope I’m not out of line to take you back to your Duke days for a moment and ask, Duke opens with Kentucky this season. I wonder how big of a game that is, do you think, from the Duke perspective?
JJ REDICK: In my experience, every game at Duke is a big game. That’s the way Coach operates. I’m hoping to go to the game. I don’t want to get tickets through Duke because they usually put me in the 20th row, so I’m waiting for one of the boosters to offer me court-side seats. I’m still holding out hope, but hopefully I’ll be at that game. (laughs)
Seriously, every game at Duke is a big game. Every day at Duke is a big day. That’s something that was instilled in me as a freshman, and it’s one of the reasons that I was able to have the NBA career that I had, because I learned that at Duke. I was around Coach for four years, and I never saw him have an off day. There’s a personal standard and a personal excellence that he brings every single day. He wants his teams to reflect that. He wants his players to reflect that.
It doesn’t matter if we’re opening with Southwest Montana State or Kentucky at the Garden. It’s a Duke game; it’s a big game.
Q: I wonder just as a follow, what sort of an impact do you think Coach K’s announcement that this is his final season will have on Duke, Duke’s opponents? What effect do you think that could have?
JJ REDICK: Well, hopefully our Duke team has a sense of urgency this year to make this year super special for Coach. I’m looking at this year as sort of a celebration of everything that he has accomplished, everything he’s done for the game of basketball, college basketball, the Olympics. He’s one of the greatest coaches in any sport ever, and I’m hoping along with maybe a National Championship in April, we can celebrate everything that he’s done for the game.
Q: After watching and knowing obviously your history as a player, the things you’ve accomplished, do you feel a sense of comfort or even that you may be entering with a leg up, for lack of better words, being that you’re a former player, becoming an analyst? Do you feel like coming into the game you have this sense of comfort and that you will kind of be hitting the ground running as a commentator?
JJ REDICK: That’s a really good question. There’s two things that give me confidence. Number one is that I do have a some reps between the podcast and some TV stuff and some public speaking stuff, I have the reps.
The other thing that gives me confidence, it’s not just that I was a player but I was a student of the game. I’m a fan of the game. I watch basketball. I read about basketball. I think about basketball. I’m always as a player, as a fan, I’m always analyzing the game. It’s just what I’ve always done.
I think that will serve me well in this next chapter.
Q: My question for you is while you were playing in the NBA, were you always interested in broadcasting while you were early in your career and then playing in the game? And with ESPN’s shake-up of the NBA lineup, what do you think you’re going to bring to the broadcast?
JJ REDICK: Something I was definitely always interested in, I’ve said this many times, I grew up and through Duke and even early in my NBA career, I was a pretty introverted person. A lot of things have happened in my career to sort of get me out of that comfort zone and allow me to become more extroverted. Even going back to Orlando, there’s a couple guys that still are there, Dante Marchitelli and George Galante, we used to do these bits on media day. I would stop by during Summer League and talk about things. That helped me grow a little bit.
Then playing in LA and being in that media market was huge for me, and that’s probably the first time I started thinking about television as a second career.
What am I going to bring? Look, I don’t plan on being a hot take person, although I’ve gotten some heat this week for some takes that I had on the podcast last week with Davion Mitchell and Tyrese Haliburton. That’s a separate conversation.
I’m looking to provide analysis. I’m looking to provide the why, the how, all that stuff.
Again, I love basketball so much. I’ve got 30 years basically of basketball knowledge in this brain, and I want to share it with the average fan. I want the average fan to come away from one of my appearances knowing the game a little bit better, understanding the game a little bit better.
Q: Kind of going off of that, what do you think you bring uniquely to the broadcast, and what do you most want viewers to take away from your presence?
JJ REDICK: We’ll see as it goes, I guess. You know, I’ve got to get my feet wet a little bit, so to speak, but certainly imparting some wisdom about the game of basketball, certainly imparting some of my experiences with coaches, games, teammates, all of those things that go into a basketball game.
Although I’m a player, this may come as a shock to some people, but although I’m a player, I’m also an analytics person, so I study analytics. I know ESPN uses a lot of great stats, and I’m looking to sort of impart some of those stats so that the average fan can understand what usage percentage is and understand why a certain player going to a team with two high-usage players may have a decline in his stats, and it doesn’t always — I always say this league is not two plus two equals four. Sometimes two plus two equals five and sometimes it equals seven. You never really know.
That’s what makes our sport so beautiful, because it’s this sort of organic mixture of personalities and skills and luck. You never know what the on-court product is going to result in.
Q: I wanted to ask you, go back a little bit to Coach K’s career, do you have a favorite Coach K story, maybe something crazy he did to motivate the team? I’d love to hear — I’ve gotten some good ones over the years and I’d love to hear your best Coach K story as we reflect on the end of his career.
JJ REDICK: I have a few. The first two that come to mind, one is really short. He got really angry in practice one time, and as you know in Cameron, we have the seats in the upper bowl. The lower bowl is just bleachers, like a high school gym that you sort of push away. He got angry one day at practice, and he threw a Dasani water bottle across the gym floor, and it went underneath the bleachers, which seemed odd at the time, because the bleachers were pretty tight to the floor.
So after practice that day, a few of us went out with a full Dasani water bottle, and we tried for 15 minutes to fit a Dasani water bottle underneath the bleacher. It was impossible. I don’t know how he did that. I did not know how he did that.
Second one, we’re getting ready to play Georgia Tech coming off an emotional Wednesday game. I believe it was at Wake Forest; we lost. I had missed a half-court shot to tie it at the buzzer.
We come in Friday night, and we watched Braveheart, which we’ve all probably seen Braveheart. It’s a very visceral film, lots of blood, lots of gore, lots of violence. We watched the battle scene, the first main battle scene where he’s fighting with the rebels. People’s heads are getting chopped off, heads on spikes, all of that thing. We weren’t sure what was happening.
The next day, we come in for the pregame meeting. He plays the same scene again. He’s not in the room. In hindsight, I should have noticed that there was a flower pot sitting next to the big screen, and as the scene culminates, he runs in with this army saber and screaming like William Wallace and sticks it in the flower pot. If you don’t want to go play after that, you don’t have a soul.
He’s always looking for something to motivate, but his greatness is as much X’s and O’s and understanding people as it is motivation.
Q: From your days playing at Cave Spring to making shots in your backyard in Roanoke to four years at Duke to multiple teams in the NBA, did you ever see yourself working in sports media, from your high school days to college to pro? Did you ever see this coming up?
JJ REDICK: I always thought about the next thing, not the end thing. It’s one of the reasons I think I had a great career, because I wasn’t focused on two things away. I was focused on the present.
When I was at Cave Spring, I was focused on winning a state championship, going to Duke, getting a scholarship from Duke. I did that. When I got to Duke, I wasn’t thinking about the NBA. Truthfully, I wasn’t. I was thinking about being an All-American, winning a championship, getting my jersey retired, doing all those things.
Then I got to the NBA, and I was all in for 15 years on my career and trying to be a little bit better every day.
It’s natural, I think, when you hit your 30s and you start having kids and your body starts hurting a little bit more that you realize there’s probably going to be something else coming up pretty soon. So it wasn’t until five, six years ago that I really started thinking about what would be next.
Again, this just felt really natural. It felt like a natural transition for me. Maybe to some of y’all it seemed obvious because of the podcast and all that stuff, but this just felt really natural for me. I didn’t feel like I had to force this.
Again, going back to this specific opportunity, it was just too good to pass up with ESPN.
Q: Going to ask you a little bit on the analyst part. Could you give me your thoughts on the Los Angeles Lakers, on Russell Westbrook, whether he should be someone that should be coming off the bench instead of starting?
JJ REDICK: Yeah, you ask unbelievable questions. This is great. I’m excited about this.
I think it’s too early. I always looked at the NBA season as sort of four chapters. I broke it down by 20 games. It’s really hard to see if something is working five games into the season, eight games into the season. It’s a better question to ask me in 20 games, 40 games.
The one thing I would say is we have seen this before fit-wise a couple times in Russ’s career, and he’s always figured it out. He’s an incredibly intelligent player, obviously wants to win a championship. He’s in a great spot to do that.
I think it just requires a little bit of time and a little bit of patience, and I also would say just in general if you’re going to play Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, LeBron James on the court together, the other two guys better be able to shoot the shit out of the ball.
I think it’s not necessarily just all on Russ there.
Q: How would you rate your career now that you’ve hung up your sneakers, if it was maybe what you thought it would be relative to your expectations coming into the league? And I know you’re starting out obviously with ESPN, but have you ever considered coaching or going into a front office also down the line?
JJ REDICK: Sure. I don’t know how to rate my career on a numbers scale. I will say that it far exceeded any expectations that I had of my career, certainly when I was coming out of Duke and early on in my career. When I started playing basketball as a seven and eight year old in my backyard, the first team I was on we were 0-15. I could only dribble with my right hand. I probably had a true shooting percentage of 8 that season. Single digits, 8.
30 years later, I played 15 years in the NBA and did a number of things that I never thought were possible on an NBA court. I would say I far exceeded anything that I thought was possible there.
On the coaching question, yeah, I’ve leaned on a number of people, both friends and coaches, front office people, my friends here in New York that work in finance or real estate, to help me and mentor me as I sort of navigate this second part of my life, my post-playing days, I should say. I would say I’m open to anything.
I’m certainly dedicated to TV right now. I want to stay in the game as much as possible. I thought this was a great opportunity.
I talked to a coach earlier this summer who had done TV and front office stuff and spent an hour with him talking about different things, and one of the things that he impressed upon me was just the time that was available to spend with your young kids when you were doing television, and it’s one of the things that was really important to me. It’s one of the reasons that I retired, because I wanted to be able to spend more time with my wife and my kids.
This is perfect for me right now, and like I said earlier, I hope I’m good at it. I hope I’m good at it, and I hope people respond well to it, and hopefully this is the second career.
Q: Circling back to Coach K, motivator we’ve heard from, which was great. What was it like as a teenager first meeting him? He was long since past spelling out his name; he was by then “K” at that point. What was it like for you meeting him, and what was it like for him recruiting you, his style, if you will, to get you to come to Duke?
JJ REDICK: Yeah. I first saw Coach K at one of my AAU games. I was playing for Boo Williams. My second summer with Boo, this was the summer after my sophomore year of high school. Chris Collins had just gotten the assistant coaching job because Dave Henderson had went to Delaware, and Chris and Wojo and Coach K came to a couple of my games that summer. It was a big deal; I knew he was in the stands; I wanted to put a good impression forward.
It was interesting, at the time I didn’t know this, but he was basically watching me off the court as much as he was watching me on the court. One of the things he told me later on when I ended up at Duke was, a lot of kids would go call their parents, get on their cell phones, go fool around outside. I was just watching basketball. I was just obsessed with the game, and I still am.
He came to my high school shortly thereafter in September to watch me work out basically, and it was the biggest news story in Roanoke for a while, that Coach K showed up to Cave Spring High School. It was a big deal.
I went down a couple weeks later, and he got me in the room. As any Duke fan knows, when Coach K gets you in the room, it’s hard not to commit. I actually walked away unscathed. I didn’t make the commitment on the spot. Once he said to me, we have a spot for you, we’re going to hold a scholarship for you, it didn’t take long. It took about 72 hours. I made the decision — that was on a Saturday. I made the decision Tuesday. I called Coach K Wednesday after school and said I’m coming, and then made my proper announcement the next day at a press conference.
Look, I was still as a sophomore pinching myself in team meetings and in pregame meetings, in huddles. I couldn’t believe that I got to play at Duke and got to play for Coach K.
Q: Just wanted to ask you, what do you think of the brand new Overtime league in Atlanta? And do you believe that this could actually benefit college basketball over time and see if it ends the one-and-done?
JJ REDICK: Sure. I’m really excited about Overtime Elite. I would actually say I’m all in on Overtime Elite. I think it’s a great idea. I can’t make any sort of predictions about whether or not it will be beneficial to college basketball because I think college basketball will change quite a bit over the next five to ten years. We’re seeing now with the G-League Ignite, Overtime Elite, opportunity to still go overseas, name, image, likeness. There’s a lot of ways that highly skilled basketball players can get paid prior to the NBA, as they should. They should be able to participate in the market that they’ve helped build.
I think Overtime Elite will be a home run. I really do. I’m hoping that it grows, and I’m hoping the NBA can work in partnership with a lot of these different ideas about creating a system similar to what we have over in Europe with the professional soccer leagues.
I actually played golf with a guy the other day, he’s got a 12-year-old son. He’s an American guy. He’s got a 12-year-old son in London; he’s playing for one of the Premier League teams. He’s got a contract. He gets paid as a goalie.
If we’re going to identify great athletes early on that have an opportunity to build generational wealth, we should give them every advantage possible to work on their game, and Overtime Elite is going to do that.
Not only that, they’re going to provide them with nutrition, teaching, tutoring, coaching, film study. I think that system is going to be great.
Q: I know in your retirement announcement you mentioned how your best seasons were once you had kids, and I just was interested in maybe hearing you elaborate a little bit more about that and also just what you guys did for Halloween yesterday as a kid thing.
JJ REDICK: Sure. Yeah, my son was born the summer I turned 30. I had a pretty good year that year with LA but was hurt for most of it. I would say other than last season when I was injured most of the season, the other six years that I had children were my best years of my career.
I think the biggest thing is perspective. When you are a highly motivated, highly OCD person who holds yourself to a standard, it can be difficult to sort of bounce back from the inevitable down game or a slump, but when you come home and you get to hang out with your kids and they’re your hero no matter what, it just gives you a little bit of comfort, a little bit of peace.
I would say as a player, I was way more stressed prior to kids. That performance anxiety that I spoke about earlier was there throughout my life, and it certainly was still there at the end of my career, but I don’t know, kids just lighten you up a little bit. It’s not to say I got less competitive, but I certainly had more joy in my life.
We were in Sag Harbor yesterday. We did a little pumpkin tour down on Main Street, trick-or-treating at all the shops, and then our friends live on Elm Street, which of course a little connotation there with Halloween. So we went to Elm Street, the police block it off, and they trick-or-treated at all the houses there for about an hour. It was a great time.
Q: I was curious from what you’ve seen of the Heat in the first week, at this point would you be surprised, at all surprised, if they make the Finals, something that would have been seen a couple of weeks ago as probably unlikely against Brooklyn or Milwaukee?
JJ REDICK: Sure. Again, I’m not going to make any predictions eight games into the season. I would say this: This is one of the things that I would like to watch play out over the course of the season is how much depth matters. We’re coming off a shortened season, very condensed schedule, right after the bubble, quick turnaround there, another quick turnaround here.
I know how I felt. I was exhausted by the end of last season, and I didn’t even play that much. So for the guys that have had to carry a large load of playing time, depth is going to be something that’s really important.
Roster construction I think matters, as well. Miami has, in my opinion, done a fantastic job of building out that roster this year. They’ve got tough guys. They’ve got shooting. They’ve got depth.
To win playoff series, and we’ve seen this bear out multiple times in the last few years, you have to be able to play different ways. You have to be able to play different defensive schemes. Miami has the personnel to do that.
They’re going to be a very tough out in the East for sure, but again, I’m not making predictions eight games into the season.
Q: I was just curious, when you talked with ESPN, were they inquiring at all if you were interested in doing college basketball commentating, or because of where you spent the last 15 years, you were kind of only interesting in NBA analysis at this point?
JJ REDICK: Sure. We had a conversation earlier this summer. I did a Zoom call with some folks on the college basketball side and the NBA side. My agent and I expressed to ESPN that I was only interested in doing NBA basketball.
There may be some opportunities at times over the course of this year to talk a little bit about Coach and Duke, but other than that, I’m solely focused on the NBA.
Q: In terms of what kind of analyst you’re going to be, being fresh out of the league, are you comfortable kind of — we might hear you criticize a player if he makes a bad shot or criticize a coach for drawing up a certain play, or are you interested in explaining to the viewer why the player might have taken that shot or why the coach might have drawn up that play?
JJ REDICK: Yeah, it’s a good question, something that I’ve thought about a little bit. Truthfully it’s something that I constantly am balancing already on the podcast. Hopefully I’ll use my emotional intelligence, whatever capacity of that I have, to be truthful and speak truth.
But yeah, look, there’s certain guys, like Josh Hart, Tobias Harris, TJ McConnell, Drew Holiday, I have no problem criticizing them. I have zero problem. I will trash them all day; that’s not an issue (laughs).
Q: After the question about Westbrook and the Lakers, I naturally thought about how great of a fit a prime JJ Redick would have been on this current LA team. I just wanted to know during your career, were there ever any teams that you looked at and said, man, this team could win it all if they had a player like me spacing the floor?
JJ REDICK: Yeah, the Warriors for sure. The Warriors.
Q: What year are we talking about, though? For example, like a 2018 Milwaukee Bucks.
JJ REDICK: So I read this interesting stat. There was like a three-year stretch where the two players that had the most wide-open threes in the NBA were Steph and Klay. That seems counterintuitive, but the reality is the more shooting you have on the court, especially if you have elite shooters, the better looks you’re going to get.
So the idea of — and I lived this out at different points of my career. The idea of like bringing me in as the shooting specialist doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to get open looks. It might mean more spacing for other guys.
Probably the most looks I got, the best looks I got towards the tail end of my career was when I played for three months with Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova and the 76ers when Joel went down and we just had four shooters around Ben.
Shooting begets shooting. That’s how I would describe it. When I think about teams I would have liked to have been on, you go down the list, you pick a team with great shooting, I’d like to be on those teams. Would make my life a lot easier.
Q: You’re doing the podcast obviously with a cohost and that I’m sure helps in some regards with in studio and game coverage, but being on a team, being on NBA teams like the Clippers during your career, that aspect of being a teammate, how do you expect that to help you in your new career here in broadcasting?
JJ REDICK: It’s an interesting question. One of the things that I love about basketball is that it’s collaborative. It requires cooperation, and when you’re on a really good group, there’s really good chemistry, and you just love going to work every day.
I’m approaching this in the same way. I’m approaching this in a very collaborative mindset, and I don’t have any ego with this, and I just want to enjoy being around the people that I work with and hopefully put out a great product. That’s ultimately my goal.
If I execute that well and we do that well at ESPN, I think everybody is going to be really happy.