Any time a successful, experienced, and respected professional athlete joins a new team, he will no doubt hear a number of clichés attached to his name, like veteran voice in the locker room and mentor to the young players and, of course, team leader.
JJ Redick is no exception.
When the 76ers held their annual media day in 2017 shortly after Redick signed with the team, the familiar phrases started to pop up and Redick did his best to shy away from them. The idea that he could be a newcomer and also be some sort of mentor to teammates with whom he hadn't even played was not one that he was going to admit.
He laughs at the idea of waltzing into an NBA gym and proclaiming himself the veteran voice of a team. That's fair. It would be weird if that's how it happened.
"I've always looked at leadership, mentorship, as something that requires a certain amount of diligence on both sides," he said. "It requires an organic process rather than just assigning roles to people."
But according to his teammates, Redick doesn't have much of a choice in the matter.
"Whether he likes to believe it or not, it's just his personality. Guys flock to him because of the type of person he is and the type of player he is and his work ethic," T.J. McConnell said. "For him to say that he wasn't going to come in and be a mentor early on is just crazy."
That's usually how it works. You don't get to choose whether someone looks up to you, especially in professional sports, when reputations precede people. Redick himself said that Elton Brand, the newly appointed general manager of the Sixers, had no idea that he was a mentor to Redick early in his career.
What's interesting is that the way Redick talks about guys like Brand, or former teammates Keyon Dooling and Rashard Lewis, is the same way many of the younger Sixers talk about Redick.
"Whether he knows it or not, Keyon had a big impact on me and provided encouragement for me when things were looking grim," Redick said. "I remember my spirits being lifted by just simple words. You don't know the impact you can have on someone. Elton and Keyon didn't realize it probably, so hopefully, I'm doing something right and I'm not even realizing it and I'm having an impact on someone."
The shooting partner
It was the Sixers' first day of practice in September and afterward, rookie Landry Shamet started putting up some shots on the southwest basket at the team's practice complex in Camden. That particular basket is the one Redick shoots at.
"He's like, 'What are you doing?' I didn't know what to say, I was just getting some shots up. And he says, 'This is my hoop, I do this every day,' " Shamet said. "He was just messing with me and he laughed, then he says, 'All right, let's shoot.' "
Now, the two shoot at the basket together every day. It was the same situation with Redick and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot last season. For these young players, hoping to someday leave an imprint on the game, going through daily shooting drills with Redick is like hitting the lottery.
"When we look back at history, he'll be one of the best shooters and a guy that everybody remembers," Shamet said. "It's crazy that I to get to work with him."
McConnell has been a fan of Redick's for as long as McConnell has played basketball. As soon as Redick joined the Sixers, the two struck up a friendship.
"I think it was my first day here, playing pickup last September, and me, T.J., and Nik [Stauskas], sat around and just chatted and I immediately picked up on something," Redick said. "We talk about everything."
Redick sees a lot of himself in McConnell and understands the trials of being a starter, then coming off the bench, playing heavy minutes, being doubted, and having to adjust, much like McConnell has in his time with the Sixers.
"That was literally my career for my first eight years," Redick said.
Some players will learn lessons about basketball from their teammates; some will walk away having learned valuable life lessons. Along the way, though, there are friendships that are formed that could last long after a career ends.
"It's just the type of person he is, he's so easy to get along with and I consider him a really close friend and I've only known him for less than two years," McConnell said.
The big brother
Redick has publicly been one of Markelle Fultz's biggest supporters from Day 1. He has defended Fultz against the media, against doubters, and everyone in between. Behind the scenes, though, he was careful.
It's no secret that Fultz had a difficult rookie season. It was especially unique for a No. 1 overall pick. Redick didn't want to be one more person who was making things difficult for Fultz, but he wanted to be there for the young player.
"There were so many people that I knew were trying with him and I think you have to be cognizant of that and respectful of that because you don't want to overwhelm him," Redick said. "So with Markelle, I had to kind of consciously pick and choose my spots of when to chat with him, which, at times for me, was a little frustrating, but I had to do that because the situation was different."
Now, heading into his sophomore NBA season, Fultz gives a lot of credit to Redick for helping him through what could be the most trying time of his career, and he looks at Redick as more than just a helpful teammate.
"JJ is like a big brother to me," Fultz said. "He's talked to me about a lot of stuff both on the court and off the court. I'm very thankful to have JJ here, he's taught me a lot about fighting through things. It's been good to have him on my side."
When Fultz's words are relayed back to Redick, he doesn't shy away from the comment and he doesn't laugh it off.
"That gives me goose bumps that he would say that," Redick said.
Whether or not he realized it, JJ Redick has become a mentor, a respected veteran voice, a leader. It is very likely that another NBA player will say, "He probably doesn't know it, but JJ Redick had a huge impact on me."
In the end, that's what matters — the impact.
"It's great to have stats and awards, and if I go down as one of the better shooters in NBA history, that's great, but that really is not important," Redick said. "That's not what lasts. What lasts is the impact that you have on people."
In Redick's mind, it took him a while to get comfortable with the Sixers, to settle into a role in which he felt he could add value by talking to someone.
But, for the rest of the Sixers, his reputation preceded him. The team knew he could teach players with more than a decade of NBA experience under his belt.
They would later learn that he has a strict schedule and routine, that he is a fiercely loyal friend, and that he is great teammate. But even before they learned those things, Redick was a leader from the moment he stepped in the gym.