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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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JJ Redick’s Hypocritical Potshots at the ‘Engagement Farming Industry’

  • Magic predicts Clark-Reese could be WNBA’s Magic-Bird.
  • ESPN is ripped for a glaring Stanley Cup miss.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve seen a lot of introductory coaching press conferences.

I don’t remember a rookie coach coming off as smug and self-serving as JJ Redick of the Lakers did Monday.

Dating back to his days at Duke, Redick has been perceived as cocky, which you have to be to a certain extent to carve out a 15-year NBA career and hoist more than 4,700 threes. But since retiring after the 2021 season, Redick built an all-new, lucrative career as an ESPN NBA studio analyst, then game analyst and podcast host. Yet Redick seemed to take a swipe at the legions of sports media talkers who’ve debated his hiring by the Lakers. 

During the presser, Redick was asked about what “misconceptions” he wants to dispel as coach. “I’ve certainly heard everything. It’s been a really interesting six weeks or so. Just in terms of being part of the engagement farming industry,” he replied. “You know, it’s really been interesting. However, I don’t really have a great answer for your question. Because I really don’t give a f***. Honestly. I want to coach the Lakers.”

Come again, JJ? Profanities aside, Redick’s snide comments about the “engagement farming industry” struck me as pretty rich. What was the sports media industry supposed to do? Ignore the accurate reports he was jumping from ESPN to coach one of the league’s most iconic franchises?

The 40-year-old Redick has an excellent future on TV if coaching doesn’t work out. I thought he was a terrific pot-stirrer on Stephen A. Smith’s First Take, if less impressive as a game analyst. But one of the reasons he scored the Lakers job—with no NBA coaching experience—is his meteoric rise as a TV analyst and podcaster. In less than three years, he ascended to ESPN’s No. 1 NBA broadcast team with Doris Burke and Mike Breen, then became LeBron James’s podcast partner. You could argue his rapid media rise was one reason why ESPN dumped Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson after 16 years. Was Redick part of the “engagement farming” industry when he was ripping Doc Rivers and firing off opinions during the last three years? Or nah?

It reminds me of the times Redick clashed with Smith and other analysts on First Take. Take his heated argument with Kendrick Perkins in February over whether racism impacts MVP voting. I usually had no problem with Redick’s arguments, which were typically direct and thoughtful. It was his holier-than-thou attitude toward First Take’s “embrace debate” format. “What we’ve just witnessed is the problem with this show,” complained Redick. “Where we create narratives that do not exist in reality.”

Fair enough, in a vacuum. But Redick wasn’t speaking in a vacuum. He was appearing on First Take, which has been on the air for 17 years. I have little patience for former jocks taking media paychecks and then still acting like they’re above it all. As former ESPNer Bill Simmons put it: “Who’s making him go on First Take? Just don’t go on the show. If you don’t like the format, don’t do it.” Exactly. Redick made $116 million playing basketball; no one made him sit and stew at South Street Seaport. 

So best of luck to Redick with the Lakers. It will be fascinating to see what he can do with the team’s aging roster. But please give us a break with the superior attitude toward a sports media that helped you score a four-year, $32 million coaching deal. If the media-savvy Redick was so against “engagement farming,” he wouldn’t have deliberately dropped the f-bombs that launched a thousand memes. Somehow, I don’t remember him doing that during the NBA Finals on ABC. 

Could Caitlin-Angel Become WNBA’s Bird-Magic?

The answer is yes, according to Magic Johnson himself. When Magic and Larry Bird entered the NBA in 1980, CBS was still showing NBA Finals on tape delay. But their rivalry revitalized the league’s TV ratings, paving the way for the Michael Jordan golden era. Johnson tweeted he sees the same dynamic playing out between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese as they extend their rivalry to the pros from college.

“When I think about Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese’s impact on the game, they remind me a lot of Larry Bird and me. Our first meeting, Indiana State vs. Michigan State, in the NCAA Championship set the all-time viewership record for men’s basketball. Caitlin and Angel’s 2023 NCAA Championship matchup and their 2024 Elite Eight games were the highest viewership records at the time,” he posted. “Larry and I heightened the NBA’s overall popularity. The Lakers and Celtics sold out arenas throughout the league and increased television viewership exponentially. The higher viewership numbers led to the NBA signing significantly larger TV contracts which then led to higher salaries for the players. Caitlin and Angel are now doing the same thing, selling out arenas and increasing the viewership. They have taken women’s basketball by storm and with expiring TV deals on the horizon, the WNBA is now in a position to negotiate higher TV contracts and increase salaries for all of the talented players.”

Hard to argue with Magic when you crunch the TV numbers. ESPN’s telecast of Clark’s Indiana Fever vs. Reese’s Chicago Sky on Sunday drew more than 2.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched game of the season and most-viewed WNBA game telecast across all networks in 23 years. Fox ratings guru Michael Mulvihill tweeted Clark doubles the TV audience for any game she plays in, with Fever games averaging 1.184 million viewers vs. 428,000 for other WNBA game telecasts—which is still major growth for the rest of the league. 

Mike Drops

The captain of the new Stanley Cup champions hoisting the most iconic trophy in sports is one of the classic shots in sports TV. But NHL fans were incensed when ESPN directors/producers somehow missed the shot of Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov initially hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head after Game 7 on Monday night, then skating up the ice. … NBC Sports says it will deploy 150 commentators for its coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics from July 26 to Aug. 11. The network’s on-air roster will include: Mike Tirico, Maria Taylor, Rebecca Lowe, Craig Melvin, Ahmed Fareed, and Damon Hack. Plus, celebrities such as Kelly Clarkson, Snoop Dogg, Jimmy Fallon, Peyton Manning, Alex Cooper, and Leslie Jones. … The NHL says an average of 9.7 million viewers across North America watched Game 6 of Panthers-Oilers on ABC, ESPN+, Sportsnet, TVA Sports, and CBC. That made it the most-watched Stanley Cup playoff game across North America in five years.

Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will, too.

This September, the column will come to life as a one-day event bringing together industry experts to discuss media trends and the future of fan viewership.

The event will take place in New York on September 10th at Times Center (242 W 41st St.)

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