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J.J. Redick Talks About Being A Villain, Podcasting, And His Pick For MVP


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J.J. Redick is the most famous podcast host in the world.

Fine, that may be a stretch. But on the long list of people who host podcasts, few are an active NBA player who spent his late teens/early 20s as one of the most notorious athletes in the country. Although, he does have some stiff competition.

Redick is a long way from his days as college basketball’s premier provocateur of opposing fan bases, though. In fact, the Clippers’ guard recently teamed up with Dove Men+Care as part of its Real Strength Manifesto, which seeks to celebrate the experiences that bring fans together and the impact they can have on other fans, players, and environments.

You can read the Manifesto right here. Below is our interview with Redick, who discussed his decision to get into podcasting, the NBA’s MVP race, and what it was like drawing the ire of basketball fans when he was a teenager.

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Let’s start with podcasting. Why’d you decide to get into that venture?

Well when Woj started the Vertical with Yahoo, he approached me about writing some articles for him. He wanted to have a current player with input and content creation on his site.

Initially I was kind of hesitant to that, but he came back to me and said a while later, “Well, what about doing a podcast? I’m doing a podcast, Chris Mannix is doing a podcast.” And I had never listened to a podcast before so I didn’t really know what I was getting into. My wife told me to listen to Serial season one. I don’t know if you listened to Serial season one, but it’s about murder and teenage sex and a lot of weird stuff. So it wasn’t exactly what I was going for on my podcast, that was not a good reference point for me.

But no, it’s been a lot of fun, I’m taking a little bit of a break right now and I’m gonna pick it back up after the season ends. But it’s been great and I’ve really enjoyed the conversation side of it and picking people’s brains and having discussions on everything from shooting to race relations in America.

You mentioned Serial but how else did you prepare for this? Was it a lot of listening to podcasts that people were recommending to you or did you just go, “You know what? I’m talking about basketball. I know how to do that, I’m gonna go out and do that.”

I’m not a trained journalist, so initially, I think the first 5-10 episodes were maybe a little choppy and then I started to figure out my own style and what things I wanted to talk about. My goal was always to have guests on that were relevant to different conversations that were being had, whether that was in sports or politics or whatever.

In terms of other podcasts, I listened to a few. Tim Ferriss, I listened to his a little bit. I got really into The Bowery Boys, actually, I love the whole history of New York City so that was right up my alley. They don’t really have the same sort of style or roles as I do on my podcast. I don’t necessarily think I was influenced by one podcast or anyone else, it was really Woj and Yahoo and Digital Media and the production team that I use gave me a clean slate and autonomy to just do whatever I wanted because that was kind of one of the things that I asked for, to just talk about whatever I wanted week to week.

So back in the day, you made so many headlines because of the poetry that you wrote. Are you still doing that?

Oh god no. No, no. [Laughs.]

Does podcasting scratch the creative itch that you had during your poetry writing days or is it something a little bit different now?

It’s different. First of all, I’m very introverted, which is ironic to say for someone that has a podcast that has to be in front of a camera most days. I’ve always had sort of a creative side, the poetry thing was not a good creative side but it was an outlet for me during my late adolescence and early 20s. It was an opportunity for me to explore some things with myself.

And now, the podcast, having to create content, I did 40 episodes, 40 straight weeks. So having to create an hour of content for 40 straight weeks as a 31/32 year old with a kid, then a second kid, was a huge challenge. That to me was the funnest part, sort of mapping out each episode and really coming up with where I wanted the conversation to go and how I wanted the guest to come across and all that stuff.

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Let’s talk basketball for a sec. The Clippers had a killer first month or so, some injuries start piling up, and you guys are currently in fifth place. Is there a sense that when you guys are healthy, you guys can go out there and compete with and beat absolutely anyone?

Well, I think most teams probably believe that. If you’re a team in the playoff hunt and you have championship aspirations, you believe that. And I believe that about our team. I believe that when we are right, both physically and mentally, we’re as good as anybody in the NBA. For stretches we have proven that, but whether it’s injuries or whether it’s consistency, we haven’t been able to get it together the last few years for long stretches other than the beginning of this season.

With the injuries this year and certainly last year, it seems like the last two years we’ve been trying to find ourselves, find our identity with different lineups. It’s been a bit of a challenge, and even now with everybody back, we’re still searching a little bit and hopefully by the time the playoffs roll around, we’re clicking.

I think you’re a really interesting person to ask about this since you’re going up against these guys, but this year’s MVP race, it’s just getting so much attention. You’ve gone against all four of the dudes who are in the running for this – Westbrook, Kawhi, Harden, and LeBron are considered the four frontrunners. If you had to vote right now, would you say one of them gets it, or is there someone that maybe hoops fans are sleeping on a little bit?

Those four guys, you can’t really argue with them being in the running. If I was to add a couple people, I would put Isaiah Thomas in it, he might even be in the top-4 for me. I think you have to put somebody from the Warriors, I think Durant or Curry had an argument a few weeks ago to be in the running with the injury to Durant and sort of their … I’d guess you call them “struggles” even though they’re still pretty freakin’ good.

And then the other guy who is having an unbelievable season is John Wall. They got off to a really rough start and since mid-December I think they have like the second or third-best record in the NBA, and he’s had by far his best season. So you have to put him somewhere in the top-5 or 6.

I don’t know if I had a vote, it’d be hard. It’d be hard to vote for one guy, and the numbers that Harden and Westbrook are putting up on good teams, teams that are gonna be in the playoffs, it’s hard to argue with those guys. I am a little partial towards Kawhi, he’s one of my two or three favorite players in the NBA, one of my two or three favorite guys to watch play. So he may get my vote.

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You’ve teamed up with Dove Men+Care as part of its Real Strength Manifesto. Why was it important to you to get involved in this?

Well it just seemed like a natural fit. Going back to when I was in school, I was always conscientious of the energy and the atmosphere that fans can bring to the court, good and bad, and some of my bad experiences have been documented. But when I read the manifesto, it just clicked with me and I’ve always believed, sort of, I am and we all are part of something bigger than ourselves, whether you’re a player or a coach or a fan, it really is just an honor and a privilege to be a part of this game.

The manifesto speaks to that, it’s about unifying all of us and really practicing fandom with some civility. I love that message, I really do.

For a lot of people, you are still to this day the face of Duke basketball, but that isn’t always in a good way. So when you’re an 18, 19, 20 year old who happens to be a villain in the eyes of basically every college basketball fan, how did you tune out that hate and just focus on going out there and getting he job done?

It’s difficult to be 18 or 19 and be labeled a villain and how people say things about you, say things to you, and handle that with maturity and class. That was a huge challenge, especially my first two years at Duke, and my response to that was to sort of create a persona, a very brash, sort of cocky persona on the court.

Looking back, it probably just added fuel to the fire for opposing fans. My experience at Duke was incredible, and I got the opportunity to play for four years in front of the Cameron Crazies and play in some unbelievable arenas, whether it be neutral sites or the NCAA Tournament. And I’ll sort of always remember how awesome the fans were in all those places.

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