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JJ Redick: How a Duke Villain Became a Respected NBA Vet

The 15-year NBA sharpshooter announced his retirement on Tuesday, capping a career that started controversially but ended with gravitas.

If you could go back in time and ask the 2006 version of yourself what they thought of JJ Redick, there’s a good chance that younger you would have a different opinion of him than the current you.

When Redick graduated from Duke in 2006, basketball fans outside of Durham loathed him. And that may be putting it lightly. Through a combination of playing for Duke, being one of the best players in the nation, cockiness, and, let’s be honest, being white, Redick is one of the most hated college basketball players of all time.

On Tuesday, he retired after 15 years in the NBA, and his current perception would have been unthinkable when the Cookeville, Tennessee native entered the league.

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Redick the (Blue) Devil

Redick came to Duke in 2002 as a consensus five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. With the Blue Devils filling the college basketball role of the Yankees or Cowboys — the extremely popular team that is hated by everybody else — Redick was never going to be nationally loved. His 15 points per game, 40% three-point shooting, and All-ACC selection as a freshman ensured that he would spend the next three years living rent-free in the heads of just about every other college hoops fanbase.

It didn’t help that, even by Redick’s own admission, he was “sort of a prick.” He’d smirk at the crowd, sarcastically wave at them after hitting a big shot, and he talked plenty of trash.

It was the perfect recipe to make him the next Christian Laettner. Just listen to how the Maryland fans serenaded him as a sophomore.

At one point, Maryland fans even found his cell phone number and harassed him with hate calls to the tune of 50 to 75 a day.

As a Blue Devil, he went to a Final Four, was ACC Tournament MVP twice, and was the Naismith Player of the Year as a senior. He finished his college career as the ACC’s all-time scoring leader and the NCAA’s all-time leader in made threes. Redick went on to go No. 11 to Orlando in the 2006 NBA Draft and Duke eventually retired his No. 4 jersey.

Redick the Near-bust

As a senior at Duke, he was one of two main stories in college basketball alongside Gonzaga star Adam Morrison. Depending on which player of the year award you prefer, Redick either won it or split it with Morrison, and the two seemed headed for a rivalry at the next level. Morrison went third overall that year to Charlotte, besting Redick by eight spots. But Morrison suffered a knee injury early in his career and was out of the league by 2010.

It seemed for a while that Redick might not fare much better. He struggled with his shot at the start of his pro career and compounded it with defensive lapses. Through his first four seasons, he averaged just seven points and 17 minutes per game.

But the tide started to turn in 2010, when the Magic reached the Eastern Conference Finals and he averaged 11.2 points and shot 50% from three in the series. Redick was never going to be a superstar, but it was beginning to look like he might carve out a role for himself — if not in Orlando, then somewhere else.

His grind to find a place in the NBA was a stark difference from his time at Duke when he hit threes relentlessly and knew he was the best player on the court.

It went a long way toward transforming his image, and he became a living, almost cheesy testament to hard work and stick-to-it-iveness, allowing him to play major roles for the Clippers and 76ers into his late 20s into his mid-30s, becoming an reliable, versatile plug-and-play teammate for contenders.

Redick the Veteran

Redick played parts of four seasons with the Clippers and started 265 of the 266 games he played, leading the league in three-point shooting percentage in 2015-16 (47.5%). Though he was never the star that he was in college, Redick the Clipper had moments reminiscent of his Duke days: his franchise-record-tying nine three-pointers against Houston, for example. Or his 62 straight games with a made three.

He even displayed improved footwork and anticipation as a defender.

That resulted in a massive raise in 2017 when he signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the 76ers; his previous single-year high in salary was $7.25 million in 2011 with Orlando.

Redick ended up playing two years in Philly, transitioning to the bench the next season — but that didn’t mean he was ineffective in 2017. In fact, 2017 and 2018 were his two most prolific per-game scoring years, as he shot around 40% from three and retained his near-automatic 90% free throw shooting rate. He scored his 10,000th point with the Sixers and, by the end of his career, he was 15th in NBA history in made threes (as well as 17th in three-point percentage), an unthinkable accomplishment during his early years in the league.

All told, Redick racked up $116,423,821 in estimated career NBA earnings, per Spotrac, over the course of seven total contracts. That figure ranks No. 98 all-time and would rank 45th among active players.

Redick the Podcaster

Redick’s NBA journey went a long way to changing his public image, and he couldn’t have done it without developing a voice of his own. In 2017, he brought “The JJ Reddick Podcast” to the Ringer, where it ran for three years and featured interviews with active NBA players and personalities around the game. It gave fans a level of accessibility to a prolific pro they don’t often get to experience so directly.

He later transitioned to “The Old Man & the Three” podcast and video show in 2020 via his own media company, ThreeFourTwo productions. The show’s YouTube channel has accrued 280,000 subscribers to date.

Redick didn’t shy away from discussing social issues, but also saves time for humor, like when he grilled Sue Bird about getting dropped.

Redick has been open about both his goals for the podcast, as well as the anxieties around it. As he told Ros Gold-Onwude on Boardroom’s “Risk/Reward,” he had to start “The Old Man & the Three” from scratch and had real concerns over not being able to grow an audience without the backing of an established brand.

That’s a far cry from the cocky guy at the rich kid private school from the mid-2000s.

Redick says the hate he got in college forced him to come out of his shell, something that was reinforced when he met his more extroverted woman who became his wife, Chelsea Kilgore. And it’s served him well as he moves on to the next phase of his career.

Redick’s done playing basketball, but the phrase of the day is anything but “good riddance.” He may be an Old Man in basketball years, but if his improbable arc in the public eye has taught us anything, it’s that the Old Man isn’t done learning new tricks.