UPDATED 11/24, 4:40 p.m. ET: JJ Redick continued to defend LeBron James, this time on his podcast channel The Old Man & The Three.
“We, collectively as a society, have damn near tried everything to discredit or dismantle LeBron’s legacy,” Redick said on Wednesday.
“And all that guy has done is win, break records, build enterprises, build schools,” Redick added. “There’s certainly a level of respect. But for the fear factor, if you get into a playoff series with LeBron, you’re certainly fearful of who he is as a player — physically.”
He then talked about taking a charge from James, which resulted in him getting stitches. “I was standing there knowing he was going to make that spin move,” he said. “And was I standing there in fear? Abso-f*cking-lutely I was.”
See original story below.
JJ Redick may be a recently retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten what it’s like to face off against one of the greatest to ever do it.
On Tuesday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take, Redick was quick to defend LeBron James against Stephen A. Smith, who claimed that the definite future hall-of-famer “has never been feared” by opposing players. The conversation came after LeBron’s one-game suspension, which he earned this week after a hard foul on Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart, who tried to fight James before being ejected.
“In all the years I’ve covered the league, we talk about the Jordan’s of the world, the Kobe’s of the world, people like that,” Smith said. “You saw LeBron when he first came into the league, you saw when they went to the finals, you saw when he was… taking pictures and playing around and being jovial and all that other stuff. LeBron James is too phenomenal and too great not to be incredibly respected, but in my estimation, from the people that I’ve spoken to covering the league, [LeBron] has never been feared. … With LeBron, you believe you can take him. You believe he can be had.”
A surprised Redick told Stephen A. that he was having a tough time believing that the TV personality believed what he was saying.
“If you’re talking physical confrontation, nobody’s ever challenged LeBron like that,” JJ said. “Why would they?”
Smith hit back, starting a sentence with, “If you watched the game,” before Reddick reminded him that he actually “played the game.”
“I played against LeBron for 15 years,” Redick added. “LeBron has grown up in a completely different world [than what] existed in the ‘80s and ‘90s. There was no First Take in the ‘90s. Could you imagine, in the New York Knicks series, MJ going to Atlantic City the day before the game and coming home at 2 a.m.? Social media, this show, that’s all you would talk about for days.”
Smith then argued that it wouldn’t be the case, but Redick explained that LeBron lives in a “24-hour news cycle” and that players have a similar fear for LBJ as they did for MJ back in the day, but in a different way.
“To say that his peers don’t fear him, opposing coaches don’t fear him, you think people want to go into a playoff series against LeBron,” he said. “More than one, find me a player who’s attacked LeBron.”
Fans are now, for the most part, siding with JJ’s take, with some even thinking that Smith might want him permanently axed from the show, much like he did with Max Kellerman. Check out some of the more notable reactions to the exchange between Redick and Smith below.