Bill Simmons, First Take, JJ Redick Screen grab: ESPN’s First Take

JJ Redick’s return to First Take last week spurred no shortage of conversation regarding the former NBA shooting guard’s fit on the show.

But Bill Simmons’ take on the matter — which, yes, I will aggregate — is pretty straightforward. According to “The Sports Guy,” if Redick doesn’t enjoy being on the ESPN morning debate show, he shouldn’t go on it.

“He just shouldn’t go on the show,” Simmons said of Redick on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast.

“You really think that, huh?” guest Ryan Russillo replied.

“He obviously doesn’t like doing it. He gets to do basketball games. He has his own podcast,” Simmons said. “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.”

The Ringer founder went on to state that’s why he never went on First Take — except for one time during the 2012 NBA Finals and one time in 2020 to debate Michael Jordan’s legacy, the latter of which he’s seemingly forgotten about.

“In general, it’s not the kind of show I would want to do,” Simmons said. “I wouldn’t want to exchange three-minute monologues and do the schtick thing. I just personally wouldn’t want to do it. So I guess my question is, why is JJ doing it if he doesn’t like it?”

Simmons and Russillo discussed the matter further, expressing varying degrees of disdain for debate shows. Both also seemed to agree that, like them, Redick doesn’t enjoy First Take, which I’m not so sure is true.

Does the former Duke star sometimes have issues with the show’s content, format, and hosts? Sure. And it would be more than fair to accuse him of acting like he’s above it all. Conversely, the best art often blurs the lines between fiction and reality. And I’ve always read Redick’s First Take performances as an attempt to do that more than a genuine dislike for the show.

“I love being on this show,” Redick told Stephen A. Smith just last week. “I love chopping it up with you guys. I appreciate you allowing me to be on this show. No issues. You’re my guy.”

Taking Redick at his word — which is always dangerous to do in the world of sports debate — there’s no reason to think he doesn’t like being on First Take. Instead, I’d argue that his attempts to match the firepower of the likes of Smith and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo often get misinterpreted as him not being willing to play along.

But if anything, I think Redick is playing along better than anyone realizes. On a show best known for its manufactured arguments, he happens to have the rare ability to make the audience believe he’s being authentic. Whether he is or not is ultimately irrelevant so long as the audience believes him.

[The Bill Simmons Podcast]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.