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Column: Thanks for the memories, JJ, and happy retirement
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Column: Thanks for the memories, JJ, and happy retirement

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Knicks Mavericks Basketball

Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Redick, 17, shoots the ball as New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley, 5, looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 16, in Dallas. A former standout at Duke, Redick retired at age 37 Tuesday after 15 NBA seasons with the Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas.

As I awoke Tuesday morning and began to scroll through social media, the following headline grabbed my attention: “JJ Redick announces he is retiring from the NBA.”

I knew this day would come, but I didn’t expect it to arrive quite so soon. You see, JJ Redick is my favorite basketball player of all-time, and I’ve been watching him put an orange ball through a hoop for over half of my life.

He played at Duke from 2002-06, back when it was still the norm to stay in school for four years. He was the national player of the year during his junior and senior seasons, and was a lottery pick in the 2006 NBA draft.

After initially struggling to earn playing time on an up-and-coming Orlando Magic team, Redick finally began to find his way during his third professional season. He made the first five starts of his NBA career during the 2008-09 regular season before starting eight times in the postseason during Orlando’s run to the NBA Finals.

Redick shot 40.4% from 3-point range during the 2009 playoffs, but it was his defense — yes, you read that correctly — that really caught my eye. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the sharpshooter was matched up against a player he surely looked up to during his early years, fellow 3-point marksman Ray Allen, as the Magic battled the Boston Celtics.

Not only did Orlando defeat the defending NBA champions in seven games, but it also upset the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers — led by a 24-year-old LeBron James — in the Eastern Conference finals before running into Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Although the Magic ultimately bowed out in five games and were never able to reach those heights again, Redick would continue to improve.

An occasional starter for the rest of his time with the Magic, Redick was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2013. After struggling to find a meaningful role with his new squad, he was acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a sign-and-trade deal that also involved the Phoenix Suns that summer, and that’s when things really changed for the better.

During the 2013-14 season, Redick became a full-time starter for the first time as part of a Clippers squad that included point guard Chris Paul, power forward Blake Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and sixth man Jamal Crawford. Head coach Doc Rivers believed in Redick, and his numbers began to climb as his time in Los Angeles progressed.

Following an injury-plagued debut season with the Clippers that ended with him starting 34 of the 35 games in which he played, Redick made at least 200 3-pointers each of his final three seasons in Los Angeles while starting 75 or more games every year. He shot a career-high and league-leading 47.5% from behind the arc in 2015-16, also competing in the NBA’s annual 3-point contest for the first time during All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

Despite more playoff disappointments during his time with the Clippers, Redick was a highly sought-after free agent during the 2017 offseason, eventually signing the largest contract of his career, a one-year, $23 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. He flourished alongside the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, averaging a career-high 17.1 points per game in 2017-18 before topping it the following season, when he scored 18.1 PPG.

During his second year in Philadelphia, Redick knocked down a career-best 240 3-pointers while averaging 31.3 minutes per game, his highest total since playing 31.5 minutes per game during his final season in Orlando. And while the 76ers were ultimately eliminated from the 2019 playoffs on an unforgettable buzzer beater by the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, there was reason to believe the franchise could make another run the following season.

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Alas, it was not to be, as Redick was not resigned and eventually agreed to a two-year deal with the upstart New Orleans Pelicans, who had a number of former Duke players including the top pick in the 2019 draft, Zion Williamson, on their roster. Unfortunately, he missed the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career despite being one of the Pelicans’ most consistent scorers.

Redick’s minutes decreased significantly this past season, and he was ultimately dealt to the Dallas Mavericks on March 26. He only played in 13 games for Dallas while dealing with a right heel injury that plagued him throughout the season, but provided veteran leadership for the youthful franchise as it returned to the playoffs for a second straight year.

It wasn’t the ending that I’m sure he envisioned — nor was it the ending I was hoping for — but what a career it has been. Redick retires at age 37 after 15 seasons in the NBA, during which Duke’s all-time leading scorer, 3-point shooter and free throw shooter made 1,950 3-pointers to rank 15th all-time.

Not only that, but Redick is also 17th all-time in 3-point field goal percentage at 41.5%, meaning he’s one of only four players in NBA history to rank in the top 20 in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage. The others are Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver, three deadly shooters in their own right.

But those are all stats, and while stats are nice, what really matters is the impact you have on others. Former teammates have spoken of Redick’s relentless work ethic and willingness to offer advice, and I’ve never heard any of his NBA colleagues utter a bad word about the guy.

And like I said, he just so happens to be my favorite basketball player ever. Like him, I’m a white guy who grew up as a shooter — technically I played in the post when I first started competing in organized ball, but most of my teammates soon outgrew me — spending countless hours in the backyard pretending I was him.

I could never shoot the ball like him, that’s for sure. I don’t think I would be here right now if I could. But he made me strive to become better, and he still does.

I also started my own podcast, “4 Quarters with Josh McKinney,” because he started his own podcast. And I look forward to listening to many more episodes of “The Old Man and the Three.” I still dream of one day interviewing him, and that will certainly be a highlight of my life if and when it happens.

Thanks for the memories, JJ, and happy retirement. You seem to be at peace with your decision, and while it couldn’t have been an easy one, I know your wife and kids will be happy to have you around more often. You’ll also get to play more golf, something I know you’re looking forward to.

Selfishly, I wish I could watch you play at least one more season. Heck, I’d settle for one more game. But I’ll always remember being there in Charlotte in 2019 when you led the 76ers to a 118-114 win over the Hornets, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as you posted your first career double-double at any level.

We were both in the Spectrum Center that night, although you didn’t know it. But I’ll never forget.

And basketball will never be the same.

Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. Reach him at jmckinney@hickoryrecord.com.

Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. 

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