Last week, LA Clippers' guard and sharpshooter, J.J. Redick premiered his podcast making him the first active NBA player to also host a podcast during the season. The Vertical Podcast with J.J. Redick weighed in at just under an hour and featured excellent moments such as an interview with the Washington Wizards’ sharpshooter Jared Dudley and a moment of retrospection upon Redick’s teammate Blake Griffin who continues to hold the respect of his peers.
This podcast, unlike most podcasts on the web, presents a unique opportunity to see into the inner-workings and routine of an NBA player without the filter or sieve that is usually manifested by the player’s interaction with the media. The repercussions of a player’s interaction with and, possible misinterpretation by, the media has created demand for things like Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune and individual players' podcasts. It is not unheard of for a player to half-heartedly suggest or even sarcastically remark upon a breaking story or rumor when the media immediately jumps on it with tweets and hearsay until the next news cycle. These new, and untraditional, media available to players create a more immediate and first-hand encounter with professional athletes. This has created a medium where they get to ask the questions they want to answer.
This week’s edition of Redick’s podcast premiered recently with stirring interviews with one of the great guards of all time, Steve Nash, in addition to LA Clippers teammate Jamal Crawford. However, before addressing those interviews, Redick made a point to discuss both his sleeve tattoo (inspired by his religious beliefs) and his upcoming participation in the Three-Point Shooting Contest during the All-Star break this week. While neither of these things is ignored by the media specifically, Redick’s inclusion of these details makes his podcast more personal, relatable, and deeper than an interview done post-game on television.
The player on player interview also provides a much more technical viewpoint than one from a sideline reporter who doesn’t shoot hundreds of practice shots a day. Before interviewing Steve Nash, Redick called him “the best shooting point guard ever” and referenced how important Nash’s career was as an influence on Redick’s development. This interview builds something far more interesting than the usual “What happened out there?” sports media interview and reporting that we are, unfortunately, accustomed to. Instead, Redick and Nash discuss the finer, technical, points of the game from a guard’s perspective and discuss the reign of Steph Curry as the premier shooter in the league. Both Redick and Nash praise the ability and evolution of Curry to handle the ball and make plays which is more informative and less contrived than the discussion of Curry purely by statistics or numbers that is the standard of measurement.
The Clippers, who sit comfortably in the fourth seed of the Western Conference, continue to thrive despite the continuing absence of Blake Griffin from their lineup. This capacity to succeed was discussed by Redick and his teammate Jamal Crawford. Listening to two of the Clippers’ important offensive forces discuss the intricacies of shooting for a sustained period of time, rather than an interview designed to fit between advertisements or garner clicks, was highly informative and revolutionary. The most telling anecdote related through this conversation is a question that Redick posed to both of his guests this week, asking them whether they will continue to shoot hoops after they retire. Redick, who answered his own question first with a no, was fascinated to find that Nash reported that he was barely interested in basketball anymore. Crawford, on the other hand, said that once he retires he will continue to shoot ball at local gyms and courts because of how important basketball is in his life.
The humanizing element of this type of player-run podcast is hard to overstate for a number of reasons: the way that the media addresses players, the way that players are presented as chess pieces of a successful or unsuccessful franchise rather than as people or individuals, and where these players (other than the elite superstars) become irrelevant after retirement. In a podcast run by an athlete their true concerns and beliefs are given reality and identity beyond their numbers.