Dream On

Feb. 3, 2009

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Michael Redd would often dream.  Dream of one day becoming a primetime collegiate basketball player.  Dream of being selected to an NBA All-Star team.  Dream of playing for Team USA and winning a gold medal in the Olympics.  As of August 24, 2008, while standing atop the Olympic podium in Beijing,  Redd did not have to dream any longer.

"You dream about it, you just never know if it can actually happen. I dreamed about it as a little child. Being in the NBA and playing in the Olympics was the highest level," said the 29-year old NBA veteran.

Redd began his ascent to the highest level at West High School in Columbus.  Entering his senior year, he was rated by Ohio Roundball Prep as the second-best senior in the state of Ohio and would later be selected to the Associated Press Division I All-Ohio Team.  Redd led the Cowboys to an 18-4 record, averaging 25.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 steals. 

Continuing his rise, Redd accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball at Ohio State University, a mere five miles from West High. In his first season with the Buckeyes, Redd spent little time on the bench.  In fact he led the team with 37.9 minutes per contest.  He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and led Ohio State and the conference in scoring with a 21.9 average.  His 658 points set a new OSU and Big Ten freshman scoring record which still stands.

In his three seasons with the Buckeyes, Redd earned MVP accolades all three years, a trip to the Final Four in 1999 and shared the honor of captain with teammate Scoonie Penn in his final campaign. 

Redd chose to forego his senior season at Ohio State in hopes of being drafted to the National Basketball Association.  The Milwaukee Bucks selected Redd with the 43rd pick in the second round and within four short years the dreamer from Columbus, Ohio was playing in his first NBA All-Star game.  Redd has since been revered around the league as a perennial scorer, averaging over 20 points per game throughout his nine years in the league.

On the court, Redd can be compared to such names as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Paul Pierce.  But off the court he is in a class all his own.  When most high profile players land their first big contract, the initial purchase is a either a tank on wheels or an estate so grossly oversized it needs its own zip code.  After signing a six-year $91 million deal, what was Redd's first purchase?  A $1.4 million gift to his pastor father and his childhood community in the form of a church.  In a recent Newsweek interview, Redd had this to say about the relationship with his parents and his faith.

"Growing up in a household that included parents that were pastors and people that were involved in ministry, that's all I've ever known. It wasn't until I left home that I really developed a personal relationship with Christ. For so long as a teenager and a kid, you piggyback off mom and dad. They're ministering, they're pastoring, so I think I'm automatically getting a pass to heaven. And that wasn't the case at all, I found out. I had to develop my own personal relationship with Christ and begin to communicate with him on a deeper level pretty much when I left home to go to the NBA."

Today, teammates look to Redd for spiritual guidance, even in the locker room.  He recites passages from the Bible in attempts to help them with their life problems.  This sort of leadership and behavior can be viewed as a breath of fresh air in a league that has recently seen a decline in public perception.  When asked how the NBA's image will change in the eyes of the public after Team USA's gold-medal performance, Redd was seemingly optimistic.

"I don't know. Hopefully for the good," said Redd. "We exhibited team work, unselfishness and tenacious defense. Hopefully it was for the better."

Whether league perception was altered or not, Redd can undoubtedly be considered a model for aspiring hoopsters to idolize.  This degree of respect is not only for his strong moral fiber and willingness to help others but for his ability to fantasize.  And although the distinction is credited to the 1992 squad, Redd was certainly part of his own "Dream Team" in 2008.

"It was a great experience - not only to represent your country but to win a gold medal," said Redd.  "It's the greatest achievement basketball-wise that we could ever achieve."