Decade’s Most: Underrated

by December 11, 2009

by DeMarco Williams

Two nights ago, my dad, wife and I were on our way to the Hawks/Bulls game. We had about 10 minutes to go before tip. Needless to say, the streets surrounding Philips Arena were at a standstill with Atlanta’s fashionably late. The traffic gave me a chance to ask my loved ones’ help with this very story. “Between Tayshaun Prince, Derek Fisher, Bruce Bowen, Antawn Jamison and Michael Redd,” I asked, “who’s the most underrated player of the 2000s?”

My pop, a wise, old-school cat who swears everything from air to the alley-oops was better in the 80s, tussled with the question before giving his nod to Jamison or Redd.

My wife, bless her soul, could only manage the following: “Babe, who is Michael Redd?”

Heaven only knows how many times husbands have been asked that one.

If casual fans can’t even tell you what team Redd’s been balling below the radar on for these past nine seasons (20/4/2 career average), there’s definitely a problem somewhere. If the masses don’t know that Redd’s finished in the NBA’s top 10 in scoring four times this decade, that’s an issue and I’ll be damned if I let the slept-on sharpshooter get sidestepped any longer. In fact, I’m declaring this story be the platform for naming the three culprits that have had the heaviest hand in Redd’s mainstream obscurity…

Michael’s City- Milwaukee is a great place. Laverne & Shirley reruns and Miller Lite commercials tell us as much. Still, if a pro athlete’s name is not “Favre” around those parts, local media and the Journal Sentinel have a hard time selling the story. Prince Fielder and Donald Driver are amazing area talents, but few outside of Wisconsin would ever recognize any of them in a Burger King line. With Redd specifically, there’s no reason folks are clueless to the fact the super steady 30-year-old is already No. 5 on the franchise’s all-time scoring list and coming off a sixth straight year of leading the Bucks in scoring average. OK, so fans in the Bay Area (Stephen Jackson), Charlotte (Gerald Wallace), San Antonio (Bowen, Manu Ginobilli) and Sacramento (Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kevin Martin) have similar arguments for their overlooked stars. But from where I’m standing, those places have all done marginally better jobs selling their hoops stars than Brew City has.

Michael’s Recent Injuries– At this very second, Redd’s somewhere nursing a strained tendon that has left him sidelined much of the year. The Columbus, OH, native has only averaged 52 games the past three seasons. It’s hard to get people to see your genius when, well, they haMichael Reddve such a hard time actually seeing you. Had Redd, who’s quietly already eclipsed the 11,000-point plateau, been healthier for a few more road trips the past few years, people would witnessed one of the purest jumpshots—Michael’s 45 percent from the field, 38 percent from deep and over 85 percent at the stripe for his career—Stern’s league has to offer. And who knows, a Redd at 100 percent last year may have even been enough for the Bucks to earn their first Playoffs appearance since ’05-06.

Michael’s Personality– The Bucks have a rookie, Brandon Jennings, you might have heard about. Good kid, great game. Doing a hell of a job shooting holes in my paragraph about Milwaukee’s media negligence too. The camera loves Jennings’ flair and his flash. Redd’s not about any of that. Yeah, the humble scorer can drop 57 on you like he did against Utah back in ’06. He might even shoot an NBA-record eight threes in a quarter like he did versus Houston in ’02. But for the most part, he’s centrally concerned with getting his 25 and not ruffling any feathers. That’s great when you’re trying to impress your future father-in-law. Not so much if you have dreams of ESPN highlights and energy drink commercials.

But what’s important now isn’t any SportsCenter reel, or reasoning behind his one career all-star game appearance or even an explanation as to how Ben Gordon made SLAM’s top 50 list over him. Nah, what’s most vital is making sure Michael Redd finally gets the props he deserves. For nearly a decade, the dude has been a certified beast. The stats speak volume. Sadly, so too does the silence. With a different city and a different persona, things may have played out differently. But all that’s a “What if…” for a different time.

Right now, Michael Redd is a proud, ever-dependable Milwaukee Buck. And I’m the only person to blame for my wife being completely oblivious to that fact.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.