Being selected to USA’s 2008 “Redeem Team” was the first major recognition Michael Redd received since making an All-NBA team and the All-Star Game in 2004, the same season he emerged from Ray Allen‘s shadow and into the next high-scoring shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks.
From there to 2008, Redd, the slingshot-shooting lefty made over 600 threes, exactly 2,000 free throws and over 8,500 points, good for a clip of 23.7 points per game. He helped lead 2008′s Olympic squad to a gold medal in Beijing, which just happened to occur the same summer Allen won his first NBA championship.
But Redd’s now the first player of that Olympic team to retire. Injuries derailed his final years with the Bucks just as the team was turning the corner from lottery-bound to playoff contender. We all remember ‘Fear the Deer’, the Bucks of 2010, but Redd played only 18 games that season before tearing the ACL and MCL of the same knee he injured almost a year earlier. While their franchise cornerstone since 2004 was on the sidelines, the Bucks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks in seven games. Six weeks later, Ray Allen would make his second Finals appearance as a Boston Celtic.
Had Redd helped carry the Bucks to a first round upset over the Hawks, we might remember more of him. Sure, memories of the lefty who effortlessly “flicked” his shots are still fresh in the minds of those who followed the NBA from the mid-2000s and on, but 20 years from now that might not be the case, especially with the number of three-point shooters the NBA has today.
After first round exit, there was still time for Redd to change any negative perceptions of his career when the Suns gave him some run in 2012. He played 51 games, arguably the most memorable one coming in Utah to decide the West’s final playoff seed. Redd scored 15 points that night on national television, including a stretch of eight straight that brought back memories of how he played nearly a decade earlier. But the Suns lost at Utah, then dropped the final game of the season versus San Antonio. It was the last we ever saw of Michael Redd, at least until a shootout with Kenny Smith last season: (Note: The video below is one I wish never happened. It’s the homeless man’s version of Michael Jordan‘s return to the NBA as a Washington Wizard. Just burn all the tapes of each.)
But in 2013, something else happened that reminded me of better days from Redd: Tracy McGrady signing with the Spurs for their postseason run. Ever since then, I wonder if Redd could’ve ended up somewhere else in 2012 for a postseason run of his own. Why didn’t Miami, a team that’s tried resurrecting (with mixed results) the careers of Rashard Lewis, Eddy Curry, Greg Oden, Roger Mason, Chris Andersen, Erick Dampier, and Michael Beasley, take a chance on Redd? Surely Miami would’ve enjoyed another three-point shooter in 2012 before Allen signed with them in 2013 and eventually won another ring. We know now the Heat ended up just fine in 2012, riding the hot shooting of Mike Miller in the championship-clinching game, but the what-ifs still linger.
Such is the story of NBA careers. What-ifs surround so many of them. We hear them most often with players who had their career cut short due to injuries and careers spent on unsuccessful teams during their respective eras. Redd dealt with both, and instead of following the career path of Ray Allen he became something like this era’s Mitch Richmond.
But Redd did make that one All-NBA team in 2004 behind the shooting guards of Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. In making third team All-NBA, Redd beat out Allen Iverson and former Bucks teammate Allen who had a similar skill set like Redd’s but was just a bit better of a basketball player, had better health, and more team success. For one season, the factors that helped make Allen so much more memorable were on Redd’s side. It’s not at all meant to celebrate the injuries (or in Allen’s case, surgeries) of the candidates for the All-NBA teams. Redd was the only one of the shooting guards mentioned to play more than 70 games that season, and he played all 82. That would never happen in his career again.
There’s a couple other ways to remember Redd though. He holds the NBA record for most threes in a quarter with eight and the Bucks’ record for most points in a game with 57. Here’s the latter:
Whether that career night shapes how we remember Redd 20 years from now is anyone’s guess. He could be remembered as a great scorer, he could be remembered as the best player on those mediocre mid-2000s Bucks teams, he could be remembered as that one shooting guard for the Bucks after Ray Allen, he could be forgotten.