Usually watching the talking heads of the professional sports world is an activity left to barber shops and dentists’ offices, understandably utilized as background noise while teeth get drilled and buzzcuts are delivered. So much of what is said can be attributed to “back in my day,” hazy at best, incorrect at worst recollections of eras gone by. Comparing one time to another is risky when it comes to the history of the world, much less the NFL, MLB, or NBA.
But especially in the National Basketball Association, there seems to be a noted longing for the “Golden Age” of professional basketball. When men were men, fouls were decisive, defense was beautifully violent and Michael Jordan could do no wrong.
Redick, a 15-year player in the NBA from 2006 to 2021, has entered a career in broadcasting with ESPN. In that time, he has made it pretty well known that he will not suffer fools that he disagrees with. Never has that been more clear than in a recent exchange with Stephen A. Smith and Mike Greenberg on noted “hot take factory” Get Up!
“This nostalgic standard that you’ve set for players to the 80s and 90s, and then comparing us to it all the time like we are a substandard to that, it gets annoying.” pic.twitter.com/S8OCh2Cs8F
Smith and Greenberg once again took the side of the 1980s and 1990s style of NBA play and stardom — longing for a time when officiating was not complained about as often and the play on the floor was the focus of players more consistently. But as Redick points out, numerous players from that era — Michael Jordan in the ’80s and ’90s, and Tim Duncan in the ’90s (and ’00s, as Stephen A. Smith mentions, hence why he didn’t mention him) complained about how games were officiated, at times on a nightly basis.
There’s been a complaint among fans of the modern NBA game that those who cover the league now have either been in media for a while (Greenberg, Smith) or are former players from the 1980s and 1990s (Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Mark Jackson just to name a few). They seem to see the style of play as “lesser than”, or not up to the level of what they experienced.
That view of the present mucks up the product. Instead of enjoying the best athletes on the planet playing the game at the highest level (in this case the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics), mentions of past successes make it seem like the exploits of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and everyone else in this series simply aren’t as good as what we had before.
Curry, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant are NBA legends and in the same stratosphere as Jordan, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird. Nikola Jokic is a back-to-back MVP and Joel Embiid has a legitimate argument for not just being Jokic’s “1B” in the “best big” discussion but perhaps “1A”. Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards … the list goes on and on of remarkably talented young players primed to be the next generation of NBA superstars, hell-bent on making theirs the best iteration the league has ever seen.
Redick is one of the better players from the James/Durant/Curry era whose NBA career has ended and media career has begun. He also is very knowledgeable of the game’s past and understands the greatness that once was. But where Redick differs from most of his colleagues is his ability to both appreciate those that came before while also amplifying the greatness we’ve gotten to enjoy from this generation of players.
Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter ever. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are leading a historically great franchise via physical play and tenacious defensive effort with a modern offensive twist. So many moments and memories are being made in the here and now that can add to the illustrious fabric of NBA history. Redick simply wants more shine on the current stars of today and tomorrow, and less longing for yesterday.
Hopefully, more and more of his colleagues will heed his example and actual analysis and appreciation of the current product will replace the clips of scissors, and the pain of a root canal won’t be preferred to hearing more about how this era isn’t as good as the last.