Sport is universally defined by eras, and we as fans can use these eras to place ourselves in an exact place and time in our lives. Quite often, given the fickle nature of sport in the modern day, these eras are defined by coaches or a certain group of players.
Whenever I talk about my own Clippers fandom, I’m immediately taken back to the Lob City era which places me back in my university days. It was during those days that my curiosity for the sport of basketball had spilled over, turning me into a fully-fledged fan of the sport. It was during, and also in the aftermath, of the Clippers 2014 Game 4 loss to the Golden State Warriors that I knew I had found my team. It was Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, and JJ Redick.
I loved Doc, CP, Blake, DJ, and Jamal in particular. Those five are a big part of my support for this ball club, the main characters in my origin story. But what about JJ? Well, to be honest, he was everything I should’ve hated in a basketball player and, to some extent, a person.
Redick’s reputation at college level is well known at this stage. He was loved by Duke and hated by almost everybody else. And why not? He was this obnoxious white guy, who walked around and played with a chip on his shoulder, which likely made him more of a hero to his team’s fans. Yet he still seemed like the sort of guy you’d have hated in the halls of your own university, especially if you were the sort who faded into the background compared to bigger personalities.
Yet, with such a low level of expectation already established, JJ was one of the guys who captured my imagination rather quickly. He was a player who Doc loved, for a start. Doc would have the Clippers running pindown screens regularly to get Redick to his spots, and the Blue Devil alum rarely shirked the responsibility of running, spotting up, and shooting his shot. And my god could he run.
Redick left a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball, but as a guy just falling in love with the sport, even the best defensive plays didn’t always stand out. It’s highlights such as the effort plays, the big shots, and the high-scoring displays, and JJ more than proved he was capable of all three of them as a Clipper.
Those aspects of his game came especially to the fore in a January 2016 overtime win against the Houston Rockets. Although the Rockets of course won the war in 2015, this game was a battle and JJ was a big part in helping his team come out on top. He dropped 40 points on 9-of-12 shooting from deep, and he was perfect through his first five 3-point attempts of the game. Those nine buckets are still tied for the most threes in a single game in this franchise’s history.
The biggest criticism you could have of JJ is that when the going got tough he was sometimes nowhere to be seen, and unfortunately his Clippers career ended as such during the first round seven-game series loss to the Utah Jazz. Redick attempted just four threes in the final two games, his last shots from deep before he walked in free agency. Still, he was a starter in 265 of his 266 games for the Clippers averaging 15.8 points per game on 47/44/90 splits.
Since then JJ has bounced from Philadelphia, to New Orleans, to Dallas, before he recently announced his retirement. I can’t say I had thought of him too much after his departure from STAPLES. That was until the NBA bubble of 2020 when I came across his podcast, The Old Man and The Three.
Considering I used to think this was just some obnoxious white guy with a chip on his shoulder, I was pleasantly surprised. JJ was entertaining, insightful, and passionate about the game of basketball and the fight for social justice which was particularly prevalent around that time. Since then I’ve only had fond memories of the man.
JJ not only reminded me to never judge a book by its cover — or reputation — but he’s also another example that enjoyment and emotion in sport can come from the sources you don’t necessarily expect. Sometimes the people who were part of a certain era don’t always jump out as defining, but it doesn’t mean their contribution was any less important.
That’s why JJ’s retirement announcement filled me with more emotion that I expected. Because it took me back to my university days, my Clippers origin story, and the Lob City era. He may not have seemed like an important part of my own basketball journey in the beginning, but just like on Doc Rivers’ team, he had played his role to perfection.