Clippers scoring guard J.J. Redick is having a helluva season, posting highs in scoring and 3-point percentage. The 31 year old move without the ball, uncontested shot maker, is directly responsible for the Clippers high achieving season, particularly their dominance on the road. In this, his ninth year, is Redick’s best as a pro, and therein lies the irony. As great as Redick has been playing off of Chris Paul, and with a non-functional small forward to help ease the burden, the Clippers fortunes are tied, not to Redick’s shot making skill, but to Blake Griffin’s ability to get on the court and play pain free. Can Blake Griffin return and get into basketball playing shape before the Clippers playoff run begins? If not, then Redick will have a short stint in the playoffs, adding one more year to his 6 year NBA Finals drought.
Before that happens though, before the NBA regular season ends mid-April, the NCAA tournament is front and center, sucking all the air out of the room. Duke alum Redick is frequently pulled aside to talk Blue Devil hoops. While Duke isn’t as dominant a team this year as they have been in years past, as long as Coach K is pulling the strings, they still have the possibility of a tournament run. There are no great teams anymore, thanks to the NBA stealing upperclassman. The experts call it parity, others call it mediocrity. Regardless, Duke has as much chance as anyone else, so Duke basketball life is the same as always.
This is the same too, according to Redick. White Duke players hated by the media.
No one who witnessed the Redick vile years can possibly say that Redick didn’t absorb more than his fair share of fan abuse while he was at Duke. That writers wrote scathing treatments about Redick’s play and his pro prospects, that his family was often targeted just because it was Monday, that racial bombs and sexual pejoratives and violent threats were tossed his way, gives him a less than objective eye when discussing Duke and what white players experience on the road. He knows what he is talking about.
If Chrstian Laettner is the most hated Duke player of all time, then J.J. Redick is second. Everyone outside of Durham hated Redick for what he represented. One more Duke player, one more 1%-er cramming their privilege down the rest of our throats. Redick sees it through a racial hue and perhaps there was a lot of white boy you ain’t tight going on but a lot of it has to do with Duke itself and their institutional advantages and the players who play for them who represent the antithesis of what the rest of the basketball country represents. Very few go to Duke because they need to play basketball in the way Ben McLemore needed to play basketball, to rescue his family. Most go to Duke because they want to play basketball, they are good at it. They are McDonald’s All Americans. They freely join the clique.
“The media has perpetuated this white Duke villain myth.” Redick accused.
In his view, writers put out copy about players that give the green light to hate. But it’s only white players. No one writes hate Kyrie Irving or hate Justise Winslow or hate Luol Deng. But what Redick has dead wrong is that fans pick up these articles, absorb the content, and then agree to hate the Jon Scheyers of the world because the media tells them to. If only it was that simple. If only the media influences culture the way athletes think they do. The media crafts an image; that is true. They reduce an athlete to good human or bad human. They pick apart their psyche. They exaggerate their talents and hype up their flaws. But it is the athlete’s play that determines how fans receive him. It is his attitude and how he acts on the court. It is his willingness to sign autographs. It is his sense of entitlement that fans pick up on. Is he one of us? Or does he think he is better than us?
Redick admits he was cocky, arrogant, a show-off and played with an edge. But that was in response to fan treatment that was obsessively cruel and demeaning. It was a defense mechanism. To prove his point, none of Redick’s college swag came with him to the NBA where the fraternity of athletes, more often than not, think Duke players are spoiled, overrated, babied by Krzyzewski, not very good and have to be tested.
You can count on one hand the active Duke NBA All-Stars. Kyrie Irving. Luol Deng, Elton Brand.
You can count on one hand the active Duke lottery picks that disappointed. Mike Dunleavy. Austin Rivers.
You need multiple hands to count the rest: Seth Curry, Gerald Henderson, Rodney Hood, Tyus Jones, Ryan Kelly, Josh McRoberts, Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, J. J. Redick, Kyle Singler. Nolan Smith, Lance Thomas.
“It’s almost like every time there’s a player at Duke, the media says ‘oh you should dislike this guy’. I can remember being in school my senior year, Greg Paulus was a freshman and there were numerous articles that year. ‘Greg Paulus is the next hated Duke player’. The media was choosing who we should hate. The following year, or the year after, it was Jon Scheyer. And now there was an article on ESPN and (Dana O’Neil) kinda said the same thing, like now we’re supposed to dislike Grayson Allen, he’s the next in line. Why though? Why? Why does there have to be a next in line.” (J.J. Redick)
Because J.J., sports is Shakespearean. It is tragedy. It is comedy. It is theater. It is loving Steph and hating LeBron. It is copying Kobe and dismissing Carmelo. It is wanting Durant and trading Blake. It is never logical and linear, and a lot of times doesn’t make a lot of sense. And then this is a factor too. Name the last white Duke All-Star? You can’t. There has never been one.
Perhaps, the white players at Duke are overhyped because they are at Duke. Duke represents pure and good and holy and money. It’s a lot to live up to. Duke athletes are good players, I’ll grant that, but not great players. Nevertheless, their presence at Duke hangs a greatness sign over their head and the 99%-ers can’t stand entitlement and privilege and getting something for free you never, ever earned.
Nothing Redick says is going to change the Duke hate.
Familiarity breeds contempt. But, Redick didn’t carry that hate with him into the NBA where he struggled his first couple of years and then figured out how to adapt his game when he wasn’t going to be the most athletic on the court. Redick had the last word to all the haters that said he only was a star at Duke because he was white. No. He was a star at Duke because he was good. He is good in the NBA.
Not like Ryan Kelly and his pitiful 4.6 points and 16.7% three point shooting. Now he is a Dukie worth hating. Being white has nothing to do with it.
photo via llananba