Back In The Day
Every Buckeye remembers that one play, that one game, that one player that hooked them as a fan for life. Even those of us born into raging religiously devout Buckeye families still had that singularly seperate beat that distinguished our fandom from the collective and became a personal obsession. I have earlier memories of Buckeye basketball than those from the Jim O’Brien era. Even as a child I remember my father rooting for Lawrence Funderburke, Chris Jent, and of course Jimmy Jackson. My allegiance, and subsequent obsession, did not take hold however until watching Michael Redd in 1999.
Before he started high school at West Senior High School Michaels father James told him “this is my house“. James had been a star at West Senior and was recruited by the big names in college basketball at that time. But by the time Michael was finished he averaged 25 points per game as a senior and had effectively turned WSHS into his house. As a local kid growing up in Columbus, Michael became a fan of Jim Jackson and Ohio States All-Time leading scorer Dennis Hopson. Redd was recruited coming out of high school by the likes of Iowa, Cincinnati, and even Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Luckily, Michael decided that his place was at home and chose to play for the Buckeyes, fifteen minutes from where he grew up.
Redd In Scarlet And Gray
His first season at Ohio State was, let’s say, rough. Even though Redd made his mark early on and led the team in scoring with 21.9 points per game, the team had a 15 game losing streak in the middle of the season and finished 8-22. It was the worst finish for an Ohio State basketball team since 1928-29. However, as the lone bright spot, Redd came to college with the ability to put the ball in the hoop and put that on display every game. At the end of his first year his average was the highest in the Big Ten. It was the first time ever that a true Freshman led the conference in scoring. Even with names from the past like Dennis Hopson, Rick Mount, Isiah Thomas, Steve Alford and Eervin “Magic” Johnson, Michael Redd was the first.
In the 1999-2000 campaign, Michael Redd captured the hearts of all of Buckeye Nation, including this skinny, wanna-be hoops star from Lima, Ohio. I remember watching how fluid and quick his release was and thinking that he reminded me of NBA great Pete Maravich; I would emulate the way he would cross over from right to left, almost rock the ball to sleep cradled in his left hand before he sprung from his feet and launched a pull up jumper. It was borderline aqueous.
Along with Boston College transfer Scoonie Penn in the backcourt and swat-specialist Ken Johnson down low, Michael Redd led the Buckeyes to a 23-8 regular season in ’99-’00. Then came tournament time. Back in them days the Buckeyes weren’t quite the consistent staple in the tournament as they are now. So Ohio was excited for the action to come. Behind Redd the Buckeyes upset No. 1 seed Auburn in the third round, only to find themselves playing against a St. Johns team led by “The Artest formerly known as Ron”. (I refuse to call him by that new ridiculous name that is even more ridiculous in light of recent elbows) Coached by Black James Lipton, the Red Storm fought against the Michael Redd led Buckeyes but could not get past them. The Buckeyes won that game 77-74 and earned a trip to the Final Four. Redd had 20 points 6 rebounds and 5 assists in that game.
Their next opponent turned out to be the eventual champion UCONN Huskies. Michael Redd battled fellow future draft pick Rip Hamilton, but the Huskies came away with the win. Redd put in work with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, but in the end the Redd/Penn duo was not mightier than the UCONN sword. (Terrible pun. I apologize.)
Redd finished that season with a 19.5 average, again leading the team. In just two years at Ohio State he was among the top 20 scorers in school history. The turn around from Redd’s freshman year to the following year was the best Division I improvement in the previous 25 years. Without Redd, that would never have occured. As a junior Michael Redd averaged 17.3 ppg and helped the Buckeyes reach a 20-11 record, but could not recapture the magic of the previous Final Four run. Nonetheless, he was among the All-Time great basketball players at Ohio State. Michael Redd put Ohio State back on the path towards national status even before the arrival of Thad Matta and his recurring star-studded line-ups.
Redd entered the NBA draft after his Junior year at Ohio State. By all accounts leading up to the draft he was expected as a mid-to-late first round pick – early second round at the latest. His size and quickness were thought to be a perfect fit for 2-Guard in the League. However, his name was not called until he was drafted with the 43rd overall pick by, ironically, the Bucks. That is, those of the Milwaukee persuasion. I remember thinking how perfect that would be for Redd who had already drawn comparisons to Bucks shooting guard Ray Allen.
Redd has played 11 seasons in the NBA. All but the current season were with the team that drafted him. He has a very respectable 19 ppg average over his career. After Ray Allen was traded to the Seattle Sonics in 2003 Redd became the leader of a very young Milwaukee team. At one point, in 2004-2005, Redd considered leaving the Bucks organization and returning to his home state to play for the Cleveland Cavs. In the end, he decidedly loyalty (not to mention an $18 Million difference between paychecks) would win out and stayed in Wisconsin.
In 2008 Michael Redd had the greatest scoring output of his career. Against the Utah Jazz, in a losing effort, he dropped 57 points on 18 of 32 FGs. With a franchise whose greatest player is the All-Time NBA scoring leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a young quiet kid from Columbus, Ohio owns the team record for most points in a single game.
Redd White And Blue
In 2008 Michael Redd was privileged to be a part of what was being dubbed “The Redeem Team”. As the U.S. Mens basketball team had not performed in the previous Olympics, expectations were high for the new squad. Redd played an integral part as a back-up to Kobe Bryant, averaging 15 points through the tournament. “The Left Handed Assassin” (as he was known around the league) also set a tournament record with 28 three pointers made. Redd and the rest of the Redeem Team brought back the gold medal to the United States.
Broken But Not Beaten
After initially tearing his ACL and MCL in 2008, then again in 2009, Redd played an Oden-esque 61 games between the 08-09 and 10-11 seasons. General opinion was that he had accomplished enough to be proud of and should retire his high-tops and deadly jumper. But Michael Redd is, if nothing else, persistent. He felt that he had more gas left in the tank and rehabbed his way back into the league.
On January 29th, Redd made his return. Suiting up with the Phoenix Suns he scored 12 points in a loss to the Cavs. On February 7th the Suns played the Bucks in Milwaukee and Michael Redd received a standing ovation from the fans to whom he had given so much as a pro, and from whom he received much respect.
The man just keeps scoring. Just last week he dropped 25 on the Houston Rockets, his season high. Last night, in fact, the Suns lost to the Utah Jazz, ending their bid for the playoffs. Redd had 15 points in just 20 minutes of action.
My Favorite Buckeye
To me, Michael Redd signifies the heart, determination, and will that is needed to have a long productive career in the NBA. But his hard work as a Buckeye, and his stroke that was deadly sweet like sugar cyanide, is what endeared him to me when I was just a young Scarlet and Gray bleeding basketball fanatic. His humility and grace are rare within players with Michael Redd’s level of talent and potential. That is why he is My (and many other fans) Favorite Buckeye.
I’ll Never Forget: This shot
Below is video of Ohio State vs Kansas in 1997, Michael Redd’s freshman year. Although it was a loss for the Buckeyes against KU and future Celtic Paul Pierce, it’s a great display of the all around game that Redd would showcase for the entirety of his collegiate career. If you don’t feel like watching the entire ten minute video, jump to the 9:40 mark. The oopty-oop Redd hits is just ridiculous.