August 3, 2020
Fun story about J.J. Redick from today's NYT. I admire how hard he has worked on his game to have had a long-term career in the NBA.
JJ Redick of the New Orleans Pelicans came prepared.
Ahead of the N.B.A. season’s restart at Walt Disney World last month, Redick crammed his luggage full of everything he would need for a stay of indeterminate length — and that included his podcasting equipment. Laptop. Microphone. High-tech digital recorder. He also made sure to pack some reading material: “Our Time Is Now,” by Stacey Abrams, the former candidate for governor in Georgia and one of Redick’s upcoming podcast guests.
“My prep for Stacey Abrams is going to be way different than my prep for Joel Embiid,” Redick said.
Consider the evolution of Redick, who has long been a subject of fascination for basketball fans of a certain vintage. Once upon a time, he was the brash and oft-reviled star at Duke, a shooting guard whose confidence irritated opposing crowds to the point of madness. Now 36, he is one of the N.B.A.’s more esteemed figures, a mentor to younger teammates and a 14-year pro whose work ethic borders on compulsive.
“I kind of see him as an older brother,” said Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a 21-year-old guard for the Pelicans.
In recent years, Redick has added another dimension to his public persona by hosting his own podcast. He has interviewed athletes and chefs, authors and bankers, politicians and actors. For a self-described introvert, Redick thinks of it as an exercise in personal development — and as a way for him to connect with an even broader audience.
“It’s given me a medium to express myself,” he said.
Now, Redick hopes to expand his platform. In a telephone interview, he said he was set to start his podcast company, ThreeFourTwo Productions, this week with his co-host and business partner, Tommy Alter, along with a new weekly podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” which ticks the obligatory podcast box of having a pun in its title.
“It’s a little play on Hemingway,” Redick said. “I’m the old man in this scenario.”
Redick’s final podcast for The Ringer website, which had produced his namesake show since 2017, was released on July 24. But he said the idea of starting his own company had been percolating for months when he brought the idea to Alter, 29, a producer for shows like “The Shop” on HBO and “Desus & Mero” on Showtime.
“He has this institutional knowledge of the industry already,” Alter said, “so this was just the natural progression.”
Redick and Alter, who are partnering with the podcast company Cadence13, said they hoped to build out a small network of additional podcasts over the next two to three years. (ThreeFourTwo represents Redick’s routine of making 342 shots every Sunday in the off-season.)
“We want to bring on people we know in different industries, whether that’s doing another basketball pod or a food pod or a political pod,” Redick said. “These are the sorts of conversations we’re having right now. But the focus right now is on launching the new podcast.”
The first two episodes — one featuring Abrams and another with Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers — are scheduled to drop on Wednesday.
Redick, who continues to score for the Pelicans, averaging 14.9 points this season, said it was never his intention to moonlight as a podcaster. He sort of stumbled into it. In 2015, he was playing for the Los Angeles Clippers when the sportswriter Adrian Wojnarowski, who was then working for Yahoo Sports, approached him about writing personal essays for a series on the site. Redick said he briefly considered the idea before he succumbed to his anxiety.
“It’s taking me back to college,” Redick recalled telling Wojnarowski, “when I’d procrastinate and have to write a 20-page paper the night before it’s due — I don’t want to do this.”
A few months later, Wojnarowski came to Redick with another possibility: Would he be interested in hosting a podcast?
“I did not know anything about podcasts,” Redick said.
Redick’s wife, Chelsea, advised him to check out “Serial,” the true-crime podcast that had become a phenomenon. It probably was not what Yahoo Sports had in mind, he recalled telling his wife. But after sampling a few more conversational podcasts, Redick decided to take the plunge. He figured it would be good preparation in case he wanted to work in sports media after he retired from the N.B.A.
For his first show, Redick booked a telephone interview with Jared Dudley, one of the league’s chattiest players and someone he had known for years. But Redick still treated it as if he was studying for the LSAT exam. He compiled 15 pages of notes. He knew more about Dudley than he ever thought he would need to know about Dudley.
“I was terrified,” Redick said.
It got worse before it got better. On the night he was supposed to record the episode, the power went out at his home in Southern California. In search of power and a reliable internet connection, Redick scrambled over to the Clippers’ practice center. After setting up an ad hoc studio in the media work room, he got some bad news from his engineer in New York: There was a lot of background noise from the traffic outside.
“I was just like, ‘Well, this is not going well,’” Redick recalled.
It was an inauspicious start, but he pushed through the growing pains. Early on, he said, he would self-medicate by chugging a beer before each episode. He would also work up a list of questions for each guest that looked more like a flow chart: “If he answers it this way, then I’m going to ask this.” By his own admission, there was room for growth.
“But I think it was still such a novel thing at the time that people really responded to it,”
Redick said. “And by the fifth episode, I felt like I had something here.”
Like anything else, he said, improvement required reps. He said he had now made exactly 100 episodes: 40 for Yahoo Sports, a single episode for Uninterrupted and 59 for The Ringer. Over time, Alter said, a crustier segment of the listening public seemed to come around to viewing Redick in a different light.
“You could see it in the comments,” Alter said. “People were like, ‘I want to hate you, but I can’t anymore.’”
At the same time, Redick has instant bona fides with many of his guests, particularly with fellow players.
“I think there’s a level of candor there that’s unique,” Alter said, “and fans have picked up on that.”
That dynamic was clear last month when the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, one of the league’s most tenacious defenders, was a guest on one of Redick’s final episodes for The Ringer. Beverley prefaced the interview by asking a pressing question of his own.
“We can curse on this, right?” Beverley asked. (Yes, he could curse.)
Beverley spent parts of the next hour sharing stories from his childhood in Chicago and from his playing days overseas. He recalled how he once wrote his dream of reaching the N.B.A. on a scrap of paper when he visited the Western Wall, the iconic holy site in Jerusalem, and how he still scribbles his goals on Post-it Notes.
“These are stories — I’ve never told anyone this,” Beverley told Redick.
The goal is always authenticity, Redick said. He wants his guests to open up. In the process, he has done the same.