In all aspects of life there is a “before”, an “after”, and then there is, of course, the “now”. Michael Redd, the 6’6 guard for the Milwaukee Bucks knows the importance of all three.
Before Redd was shooting hoops with the big boys in the NBA, he was gaining honorable mentions and setting records at The Ohio State University. Before that, he was a star at West High School, class of 1997. Before that, he was a child who excelled at basketball at an early age and was supported and coached to greatness by his mentor and father James.
Now Redd, who moved from Buckeye to Buck in 2000, returns to his hometown every off-season. Instead of taking a break, however, Redd chooses to not only better himself, (he spends the summer doing hard-core workouts and training and playing with the USA Men’s Basketball team), he also works hard at making change happen in his community and for the young people who look up to him.
The Michael Redd Foundation is a non-profit organization co-founded by Redd and his wife, Achea, who were married in the summer of 2006 and are now the proud parents of 3-month old Michael Wesley Redd II.
The purpose of the foundation is threefold: To (1) promote the holistic development of all people, to (2) educate and develop youth and adults to succeed in life, and to (3) promote racial and denominational reconciliation (which the couple happily defined for us during our interview). It also falls into that “after” bucket, because what he and his wife do with this organization will not only affect their future, but the people whose lives they touch on a daily basis.
Sitting with the couple in their Lewis Center home you quickly understand the bond they have between each other and their faith, both in this foundation and beyond.
Is there any call that bothers you, even with as long as you’ve played?
Redd: [The] carrying call, because it’s tough to judge when someone is carrying or not. When you think you are not carrying, they call it on you.
What is the basis of your foundation and how involved are you on a regular basis?
To empower people spiritually and reach out to our young people… basically, bringing all cultures and denominations together in unity. At the center of everything is Christ. That’s the key.
Who do you still idolize in the NBA?
No one in the NBA right now. I just came back from playing with the U.S. team this summer and gained a lot of respect for those players. They are the cream of the crop in the NBA.
Who do you look up to outside of the basketball world?
I look up to my dad and how he treated my mother and how he was a good father. Those are things that will last longer than basketball will. He completely personifies character and integrity.
What do you still love about the game?
The competitiveness of it. I’m a competitive person so every night going out and playing against the best players in the world is the greatest challenge you could ever have, besides being a dad.
Why is it important to keep residence in Columbus?
I love Columbus, so I keep my home here. My wife and I will always live here. Our families are here, our friends are here and this is home.
Why does the U.S. team not fair well internationally?
Well, we won the gold medal this year. In past years, I don’t know if we had the right components to win. You can’t just put every superstar in the NBA on one team because it may not work. You need guys who can play certain roles. I think U.S. basketball has done a good job in the past years doing that. Plus, I think chemistry is important. Teams overseas play together for three to four years straight. We just come together for one summer and try to get a chemistry together. We’ve been together for a few years so hopefully it will fare well for us in the next Olympics.
What is your impression of the “crooked ref” Tim Donaghy and how do you think that scandal will affect the league?
I don’t think it will affect the league too much. It was a bad situation but the NBA will be able to move on. We are already moving on. I really don’t believe every referee is doing that. It’s behind us now and we’ve got to move on.
There are a lot of temptations in the world that you work in. How do you keep your life on the straight and narrow?
Jesus Christ is the reason I am who I am. Without him in my life, I know I wouldn’t make it at all in this world as far as temptations go. Also, I don’t have a lot of “yes” people around me and my pastors and friends hold me accountable for my actions. I have a lot of people who will tell me when I’m wrong. That’s really key. Also, my wife and son. I don’t want to fail God or them.
You’ve played college, NBA and for the U.S. team. What else in your professional career would you like to accomplish?
Now the only thing is to win a World Championship in the NBA and win the gold medal next year in the Olympics in Beijing. Those are the only things left on the list of things that I’ve yet to accomplish.
When you hear about college basketball players getting in trouble for accepting cash from alumni or other sources, what are your thoughts? Since most college basketball players can’t hold a job while playing and going to school, what are their choices for income?
I think colleges should pay athletes. It’s very difficult sometimes. As a collegiate athlete it was very hard. I would hold on to $20 from my parents as long as I could. Obviously, you can’t break the rules, but you have to just be patient and find your job in the off-season. But I definitely think colleges should pay student-athletes. They are making millions and millions of dollars and the student athlete sees nothing. That’s why you see so many kids leaving school, especially in NBA basketball. The mindset is, “Hey, you’re making millions off of me and I need to make millions for myself.”
How are you able to balance a family life and an NBA career? What are the hardest points to consider, especially during the basketball season?
Priorities are key for us and for me. Family takes priority over everything else. Basketball fits into that mode, too. You just have to know how to balance them. Take wisdom from your mentors. Find mentors. Learn from your elders. I don’t want to make the same mistakes they made.
What about you [Achea], as the wife of a professional athlete?
Achea: You have to learn how to balance both worlds. It’s normal to miss your husband on the road. He plays about 82 games in a season and half of them are on the road. Sometimes, I have even gone with him just so we have the opportunity to spend time together. That’s so important to make the marriage work and grow as a couple.
Redd: I do take every moment that we’re not playing and spend it with my family. Even with my wife, we’ve got to keep that fire burning as far as having date nights and going to the movies like we used to before we got married. Grandmas have been wonderful. We’ve got to keep it going, but when I’m on the court or at the gym, it’s all business. When I’m home, I’m really at home.
What means more, high personal stats or high team wins?
Team wins all day. You’re remembered for winning more than anything. Look at Michael Jordan. Even though he had a phenomenal statistical career, he is more known for his six rings. Winning is ultimately what you’re remembered for and that’s how it should be.
How many hours a day do you practice? Do you have a routine that you follow when you practice on your own?
I work on cardio and strengthening and conditioning twice a day. I hired a trainer/nutritionist this summer. He’s been terrific in my family’s life and eating right. Really being fit is more important than anything. To go 82 games and then go to the playoffs you run out of gas. It’s a commitment and dedication, so in order to excel, you have to do certain things. For me, I had to get a trainer to take my game (and ultimately my life) to another level that goes beyond basketball. Being healthy is key.
How good are you at the game of Horse? Is it even fair to play with you?
Redd: It’s never fair to play me at this point. Me and Carmello played the last two summers on the U.S. team and he calls me up and says he’s going to get me this year. He still couldn’t beat me. I’ve played Lebron [James] too. I won.
Aside from basketball, is there any other sport you excel at?
Redd: Honey, what sport would that be?
Achea: (laughs) Tennis and bowling. He could go pro in tennis.
Redd: I was all-district in high school for singles. My coach asked me “Is it basketball or tennis?” I needed to be focused on one or the other and chose basketball even though I was getting looked at in tennis.
When you reach your type of status, when does it seem like enough is enough in as far as the financial aspect?
Ultimately, as much is given as is required. That’s a biblical principle. The more God blesses me with finances the more I try to give back to people who are less fortunate, either through a Now or Never conference, through my foundation, or giving back to a homeless shelter in Milwaukee. I’m always trying to find ways to give back to people, so I guess that’s why God can trust me with more finances.
What was the first thing you treated yourself to once you realized you were financially sound?
A car. A 2003 Benz.
Describe this year’s U.S. team in terms of ability and character?
The ability was ridiculous, obviously because it has the most talented players in the world. Integrity wise, everyone was awesome. They knew their rest was important, that coming to practice with a business like attitude was important. We approached each game focused. Egos were put aside. We could all score. The top five scorers in the NBA were there but we didn’t care about scoring; we just wanted to win the gold medal.
What’s the craziest thing you or the team has experienced while traveling.
Flights. I’ve been flashed a lot by women and girls showing up in your hotel room.
Someone poured hot sauce in my mouth when I was a rookie. I had my mouth open when I was sleeping and they poured it in. It was actually Ray Allen. They trashed my car. It’s a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff can’t be said. Pay back is something else.
Fastest diaper change?
Redd: 30-40 seconds.
Craziest place you’ve changed a diaper?
Achea: On an airplane. I didn’t realize there was a changing table so I had him on the toilet seat in there and changing him and it was a BIG diaper.
Crib or your bed?
Baby talk or real talk?
Both: Real talk.
Number one quality any great father must possess?
Give me your top five dream players you wish to be playing with in the next year or so.
Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Kevin Garnet.
Your red-hot season average last year of 26.7 points in 53 games is the highest scoring average for any Bucks player in 32 years. What does that mean to you and how does it add to your day-to-day expectations for your performance?
It means very little. Obviously, it’s a testament to your hard work individually and to do that in the NBA is pretty special and you don’t want to take that away. At the same time, you want to win and that was the worst season we’ve had in a long time. It’s cool to do that on a winning team, but our team lost.
You said in another interview that: “I’m building my body up this summer, and I think people will see a totally different Michael Redd this year.” Explain this in more detail?
Basically, I really worked on eating right and conditioning in the weight room more. So those are things I was committed to doing this year. I had a knee injury against Cleveland and just wanted to build my body up. If I hadn’t had that injury, I don’t think I would have gotten a trainer. It was a blessing in disguise, even though the team suffered. But in the end, it will turn out better for all of us.
What was the single best piece of advice given to you in the league and who gave it?
Irving Johnson still. We talk about life more than anything. Enjoy your family and don’t get so consumed with basketball.
We read you used to shoot literally hundreds of shots in practice with Ray Allen until your fingers blistered. Well, you’re on fire now. Give us an idea of what goes into your practice regiment.
It’s about quality now more than quantity. My goal now is to make seven out of eight before moving to another spot. Seven out of eight doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you try to make net on every shot, that’s a lot.
Does time slow when you are in stride and are able to stop and pop a shot without a flurry of hands in your face? Is it kind of like a boxer suddenly recognizing a chin or rib perfectly exposed—slow motion and then matrix speed?
Yeah, it does slow down. You may only have a split second. The off season is worse than the regular season because training is brutal. I can’t wait for the season to start.
Define: denominational reconciliation.
Achea: You pulled that from our mission statement. Michael and I, both of our fathers are pastors and we grew up in an Apostolic denomination. If you know a lot about denominations, it’s very segregated. Not necessarily racially, but within the denominations and spiritually. We are separated because we believe this and you believe that. Michael and I just focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ and getting it out to people who are lost and don’t know. We just want to see the denominations that are different, come together and say you know what, “That is what it’s all about.” Because it’s not about we believe this and you believe that and we can’t be friends now. Just that you believe and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Redd: I don’t think Christ would be caught up in the denominations if he were here. His message was: Just believe in me. You can’t get to the Father unless you come through me.
Please enlighten our readers on the vision of the Michael Redd Foundation in terms of goals and accomplishments.
Redd: Empowering people. It’s Christian-based. Empower people to become leaders.
Achea: With that message of empowerment, it’s not about pulling someone along; you got to teach someone how to do it so they can go and teach someone else. It’s a revolving door and it should continue to happen all the time. Michael and I really have a heart for young kids, not even just underprivileged ones, just kids. You can grow up in a home that is privileged and still be kind of messed up. We just want to hit on every area with these kids and just say, “You are somebody because you have Jesus Christ who loves you, God made you and you are special and you can do anything through him.”
The moment I wish I could forget was when I ____?
We lost at the buzzer to Notre Dame my junior year, the first game of the year.
At what point does a game become a sport?
When you are a free agent or when you get traded.
Are there any sports that you think do not deserve to be called sports?
Hot dog eating, I guess.
What is the difference between winning and losing?
A trophy. (laughs) You lose and you learn from it in that scenario. When you win, you’re the best.
What is the greatest victory in life?
Successful pregnancies, seeing your great-grandkids.
What’s the biggest extravagance you’ve ever seen another player spend money on?
I watched someone lose $500,000 gambling.
What’s the biggest problem, if any, with the NBA, and what’s the cure?
Too much individualism. The cure is the San Antonio Spurs and how they play basketball. No selfishness. Basketball is marketed as an individual sport and it’s really not. Kids have lost the fundamentals of basketball. They see the spectacular dunks and moves but they don’t know that these are the most fundamentally sound players in the world.