The Villain of Washington Fans: Not Andray Blatche, Not LeBron James
[J.J. Redick - via flickr/Keith Allison]
The shutting down of Andray Blatche for “conditioning” meant less jeers being thrown about the Verizon Center, as the power forward has been infamously booed by the hometown crowd almost all season. Fans sometimes express displeasure for their team (or an individual) after a bad play or sequence, but the audible disgust for 7-Day Dray would start when he went to the scorer’s table to check in and again every time he touched the ball. It even seemed like the Wizards coaching staff would sneak him into the game during timeouts to avoid igniting the negative reaction. Wizards opponents indicated they had never seen such behavior by home fans, and many gave Blatche advice on how to deal with his unpopular aura. TAI’s John Converse Townsend even penned a compelling piece on how his own booing of Blatche as a fan seemed counter-intuitive.
This unfortunate storyline overshadowed the fact that there are actual opposing players that Wizards fans still heckle on a regular basis; the normal way crowds are supposed to do it.
Ex-Wizard Kwame Brown has been a target for years; Wizards fans of a certain age will never forget that he was a bust as a No. 1 overall draft pick. For being the playoff adversary to Agent Zero and the Wizards back in the mid-2000s, Lebron James is still lustily yelled at; his decision-quest from the Cavaliers to the Heat simply propelled how Wizards fans felt to mass audiences. Even the presence of Juwan Howard can still spark bad memories of him never living up to his egregious contract in Washington. And surprisingly, Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough has heard it from fans in the Phone Booth this season, which one would assume derives from his days at North Carolina and “Psycho T” being a relatively unlikable player in Maryland Terp country.
But the player most consistently served up as the number one Verizon Center villain over the past several years is by far Orlando Magic guard, and former Duke Blue Devil, J.J. Redick. Naturally, there is crossover between Wizards and University of Maryland basketball fans, and due to the always antagonistic rivalry between Maryland and Duke, Redick was often the target of College Park faithful.
In 2004, the Terp student body chanted “F.U. JJ” on national television, while one fan carried a sign boasting of sleeping with Redick’s sister. His mobile phone number was also distributed by a Maryland student, and Redick was later forced to change his number because of the constant harassment.
However, during Orlando’s last trip to Washington in late February, a 102-95 Magic victory, Redick created little reaction from fans when subbing into the game. Afterward, I asked him about the unusual difference:
“I noticed when I first stepped to the free throw line, I got some boos. But when I made the shot, I got some cheers, so I was confused by that too, but whatever. I guess it means they haven’t forgot about me, I guess.”
Redick claimed he was over it, but I got a sense from his tone that he still harbors animosity toward the DMV area:
“I don’t care. It was six years ago. I have clearly moved on. I still love Duke and proud of that team this year.”
About two weeks later, Redick’s Blue Devils were upset by Lehigh, a 15-seed, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. With the Magic in town tonight, has the Wizards fanbase actually moved on from hating on Redick? Or will Redick still receive the visible ire of many? Stay Tuned…
J.J. Redick talks about getting booed in Washington, DC: