Richard Jefferson Visits the ONE37pm Office to Talk About His Future

The former player—and blossoming broadcaster—talks about basketball, social media and more

Across 17 years in the NBA, Richard Jefferson earned the reputation as one of the friendliest, funniest guys in the league. He won a title in 2016 with Cleveland. He played in an Olympics. As a young player, he was a cog in a New Jersey Nets team that made a lot of noise in the early ‘00s. But it was something he did on the side that pointed toward his future career.

In early 2017, Jefferson—alongside then-teammate and lifelong friend Channing Frye and host Allie Clifton—launched Road Trippin’, a player-driven podcast that featured conversations with LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan and Kyrie Irving as well as more loose episodes meditating on life in the NBA. Through that experience, Jefferson developed a precocious feel for the contours of modern media—only recently retired, he’s appeared on CBS, a slew of ESPN shows as well as YES! Network’s Brooklyn Nets broadcast, broadcast many NBA experts consider the best in the league. 

While possessing wise-cracking wisdom, he’s attentive to his audience. Stopping by the ONE37pm office recently, he reflected on the Kyrie Irving episode of Road Trippin, one where Irving outlined a handful of very fringe conspiracy theories.

“It was the talk of All-Star Weekend,” Jefferson remembers. But then, something weird happened. “But then, our Instagram got shut down for four days.”

No one knows what happened. But Jefferson is still sour about the followers Road Trippin’ could have picked up if the account hadn’t been deactivated.

“Adam Silver was talking about it!” Jefferson says. “We could have doubled our followers in a weekend.”

Jefferson pauses for a moment, then clarifies, leaning toward the recorder. “I do not believe the world is flat,” Jefferson says, referencing a controversial Irving position (one that he later backed off of).

On his visit, Jefferson sat down to talk about his seedling broadcasting career, the modern state of social media in the NBA and more.

ONE37pm: You've spread it around as a broadcaster, doing both conventional broadcasting on YES! Network as well as making the rounds on more commentary-centric programming. What’s the biggest challenge in approaching these opportunities? 

Richard Jefferson: [The shows] are all different genres. It's very similar to music where it’s all about how you digest the music. The audience that you're talking to is different [for each show]. There’s the Nets broadcast, where you need to allow for dead air, and then there’s a show like Get Up or First Take where it's more of one side versus the other. It's all different.

So for me just to learn all of the different cadences, all the different kinds of flows. A lot of times you're working with partners and learning their ins and outs. I don't want to say that that was the most difficult thing, but it was the most eye-opening thing—how you have to switch your brain to a different kind of mindset. You can go for something like fun and jovial and joking to all of a sudden being on First Take in an hour and you're like, I need to prove my point. And you need to back it up multiple times.

The Nets acquired two of the league’s most recognizable superstars this offseason. Does that change how you cover the games? What’s the challenge there?

Jefferson: It’s actually not a challenge at all. I think when you have a guy like Ian [Eagle], he's been doing that job for 25 years. That means that he was there in the Stephon Marbury days and the Jason Kidd days and the Jason Kidd coaching days. He's been there through so much.

The one thing that I’ve learned is that you want to have the exact same approach, whether the team is on a 10-game losing streak or the team has a chance to go to the NBA Finals. If you approach it with the same type of intensity and fun and focus, I think that will kind of come through in the broadcast. And I think that's something that again, you learn from Ian. 

Social media has given players not only a way to reach fans directly but to build huge platforms that easily overpower traditional media. How has that changed the culture of the NBA?

Jefferson: I think the challenges are always going to be the same. Ultimately, this league is giving 20-year-olds millions of dollars and access to hundreds of thousands—if not millions of—people. Whenever you have that, I think there's a level of scrutiny that comes with hat type of celebrity, that type of fame, that type of money. 

And if that’s not enough pressure, then there's a pressure to perform. It's something that it's cool to watch and see how it evolves. Because when I first came in—I don't give a shit about dating myself—there was no Instagram, there was no Twitter. I didn't join Instagram until I retired because I was like, I saw too many issues. I don't need this.

But I see some of these guys now that have 800,000 followers right before they even step on foot on a college campus. These guys have two million followers before they ever play an NBA game. I don't think people fully understand the amount of pressure that is already on these kids. And now when people are telling them to focus on their brand and do you have other things that you're passionate about and people are reaching out to them because they have a following. I think the new generation has handled it extremely well.

You’re from out West, and it seems like basketball culture is moving out West—in particular, L.A.—after being associated with the East Coast for decades. Do you sense a change in basketball culture, in terms of location?

Jefferson: That has always been the case. That's why these UCLA runs and the Drew League exist. But now people are able to see it. There's more social media. You see where guys are living. Before, no one knew where Isaiah Thomas lived in the offseason. Right? Unless you randomly read an article or saw him at Trader Joe’s. It's like even now I run into guys... I see my friend Caron Butler, and he says, “Oh, I'm out in, you know, Toluca Lake.” Where the fuck is that? Is that still Southern California? 

New York is still the mecca. It's a great place to train. It's a great place to work out. The culture there for basketball is extremely high. You know, New York is definitely the mecca of a basketball, but LA is basketball central when it comes to guys working out and training together.

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