The folks over at Grantland have chosen to get in spirit of March Madness by constructing a bracket of the most hated college players of the last 30 years — and letting readers decide the champion. Duke was awarded an entire region unto themselves, for two reasons, mainly: 1) they have that many hated players (for a multitude of irrational reasons the public has decided on), which leads to 2) they might as well have just skipped the first two rounds and done an all-Duke Elite 8.
One of those hated players is J.J. Redick (a 2-seed), who, thanks to a solid NBA career, has made a lot of people forget about his days in Durham (as we all should, really). However, as part of the Grantland tournament’s coverage, Redick took a walk down memory lane with Robert Mays, copping to the villain role he assumed while wearing a Blue Devil uniform:
When Redick arrived at Duke in 2002, he was an 18-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia. He knew admittedly little about the world of big-time college basketball. Duke’s lack of non-conference road games delayed the awakening, but when Redick arrived at Clemson his freshman year, the reality dawned on him. “It was instant,” Redick says. “You come out an hour and a half before the game. I remember I had pretty bad acne on my shoulders, and there were kids who’d paint red dots on their shoulders. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
That was early in his career, but by 2004, Redick was soaking in every ounce of full-blown hatred:
With Duke up by six at Maryland in the final minute, Redick waited at the free throw line between shots. A chorus of “Fuck you, J.J.” began, and as Redick took the pass, he raised his eyes, looked at the student section, and smirked. The shot went through, good for his 26th point, a season high.
Redick reveals what went through his mind at the time, and how it appears today, looking back:
“I probably deserved it,” Redick says. “I was sort of a prick.”
“I think I created this persona on the court to deal with the antics of the other crowd, to kind of combat that,” Redick says. “It’s not who I was. It was never who I was. I look back on that, especially my first two years, and I probably deserved a lot of the animosity.”
“I embraced it, for sure,” Redick says.
There’s no doubt in my mind a lot of people probably rooted for Redick to fail in the NBA (and for all the reasons mentioned in the piece), so it’s nice to see him quieting the naysayers by turning into one of the league’s most highly-sought-after shooters.