Mind the Game JJ Redick LeBron James Credit: Mind the Game on YouTube

Mind the Game, the new basketball podcast from LeBron James and JJ Redick, is like if you slammed Redick’s interview show The Old Man & the Three into Detail, the old Kobe Bryant breakdown series for ESPN Plus.

That is to say, it’s a basketball nerd’s dream, a video guidebook for an aspiring hooper, and a project that may not be for everyone.

Given Redick’s open disdain for sports media takery and the fact that the legendary James is an All-Star athlete still actively competing in the NBA on a nightly basis, nothing about the show’s tone is a surprise. The show’s social team is already fast at work rolling out its origin story, which seemed to start with a tweet by James praising Redick’s work on the call for ESPN last year. James shouted out Redick’s attention to detail, which probably felt to the sharpshooting journeyman like when God put a rainbow in the sky as thanks to Noah for building the arc.

In the opening episode, James and Redick go through their respective ingredients for how a basketball player goes from good to great. After several detours, Redick concludes by riffing through questions about Steph Curry and making reads. The audience will either wonder how they got to some of the topics or simply bask in the opportunity to hear from James (who seems genuinely interested throughout) in his element. If his earnest approach in the debut episode holds, James will learn to stay on topic more naturally. His only experience in media is The Shop, after all, where the point was to chill. The studio’s burnt-out lighting and the vintage wine James brought for the occasion may make Mind the Game feel like an offshoot of The Shop, but both hosts clearly want it to be more sophisticated.

This is also where it may lose some people.

Its weekly drops will soar to the top of r/NBA, but the show feels produced for a different audience even than Redick’s OM3. Given Redick’s opening monologue, the introductory Xs and Os glossary (a stuffy solution to a clear issue the show faces translating coach speak into good content), and the instructive tone with which both hosts speak in the premiere, it seems Mind the Game is being made with young athletes in mind.

In a sneak peek article from Andrew Marchand at The Athletic, Redick indicated Mind the Game will cover the Olympics and even youth basketball. Unless these two busy individuals plan to break down AAU tape on mic, the more likely strategy for covering the wider world of hoops would be with their basketball czar hats on. International basketball and the youth pipeline are two areas the NBA league office is particularly focused on right now, and with both James and Redick involved in the space as parents and well-connected athletes, their thoughts would certainly come with weight.

It just means this will be a different show than the mountain of NBA player pods launched since Redick and others pioneered the medium a half-decade ago. Fortunately, if James can get a movie studio to make a Space Jam sequel, the heft of his celebrity and production company alone can likely monetize Mind the Game to a point that it can be whatever he and Redick want it to be.

As with all of those player pods, though, dedication will be an open question. It’s hard to imagine personal schedules will allow James to join Redick in a full studio setup frequently enough to meet a weekly production schedule. James also wasted no time in episode one reminding us that he plans to own an NBA team in the not-so-distant future. Will this be a miniseries that gives James a platform to get thoughts off his chest that have built up over five years following Bronny and Bryce around SoCal in AAU games? The carcasses of abandoned athlete podcasts are shaking their heads yes, but the involvement of James’ Undisputed brand and Redick’s staff putting real work into the launch at least is a sign of some seriousness.

No matter how long its run is, Mind the Game is not designed for everyone. Its hosts have earned their chance to make content the laymen won’t love. After 40 minutes, the show so far is granular, prescriptive, and jumpy. A youth coach could pop it in an email to his players and their parents and the hoops hounds will devour it, but it very well could be a quick skip for Joe Lakers Fan or Jane Podcast Listener.

[Mind the Game on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.