JJ Redick Questioned If ‘Fans Actually Want To Be Educated Or Not’ About Basketball

JJ Redick has been one of the fastest rising personalities in the NBA media space since he retired in 2021. Redick became a fixture on ESPN studio shows, launched one of the more popular NBA podcasts, and is now set to be part of ESPN’s lead broadcast booth after stepping into the spot vacated by Doc Rivers when he left for the Bucks job earlier this year.

What’s been fascinating is watching Redick put on different hats and learn some of the dirty truths about the sports media space, namely why things are the way they are. Redick, like many diehard NBA fans, wishes there was more actual basketball commentary and breakdowns provided to fans. He wants more discussion of actions and sets, defensive strategy and what works and what doesn’t, but he’s come to learn what TV networks have known for a long time, which is that fiery rants and hot takes draw far more eyeballs.

That frustrates Redick, but he also can’t help himself but to dip a toe in those waters. Most recently, he went on First Take on Tuesday and torched Doc Rivers for a lack of accountability, becoming the lead story in the NBA world on a day without basketball. On Wednesday, Redick expressed his frustration with how that took off while a breakdown video he spent a lot of time on detailing what the Pelicans are doing on offense gets a small fraction of viewership. For a brief moment it seems as though Redick has a crisis of faith, asking whether “fans want to actually be educated or not?” (starting at the 8:14 mark of the video above).

Stephen A. Smith seemed to delight in this moment of realization and couldn’t help but prod at Redick over it, as he’s heard the comments from Redick in the past about the issues with the sports media and how they don’t talk about the right things. Smith is someone that pores over viewership numbers and tailors First Take‘s approach directly to what draws the most eyeballs, which is also why Redick and others join the show to hop in the mud with him.

That said, there is an oversaturation of that approach and for those that don’t do it as well as Stephen A. and company, it doesn’t work nearly as well and there is a place for the kind of conversation Redick wants to have. While 54,000 views isn’t a staggering amount, it’s really not bad for a fairly niche post about the Pelicans’ offensive actions with Zion Williamson as the lead ball-handler. The problem that you run into as a national person trying to do those things is the only people that will particularly interested in the nitty-gritty of each team are fans of that particular team. That naturally shuts out the vast majority of your audience, even those who are interested in that kind of stuff, because most fans are only really interested in diving deep on their favorite squad.

The answer isn’t that there’s no market for deeper basketball content, but you have to be more targeted at a local level. It’s why the team-specific podcast industry is growing and why local coverage is so vital, especially as we lose beatwriters to belt-tightening at newspapers and other outlets that serve local audiences. Fans do want player breakdowns and deep-dives into schematics, but mostly just about their team. There are some who want to know everything about every team, but very few people have the time and energy for that. That’s why you end up with 54,000 views on a video about the Pelicans offense, because I’d venture a guess that 95 percent of that viewership is Pelicans fans (who probably greatly appreciated that).

The NBA is less localized than MLB but moreso than the NFL (but even there, fans aren’t going to engage as much with scheme stuff about other teams), and that means the deeper you go into one specific team, the narrower your audience gets. That’s why the big national shows talk about the things they do, because it’s what will get the masses to engage, as Redick begrudgingly is learning.