Redd makes rendezvous to launching pad

Former Bucks great announces retirement as NBA player

Michael Redd announced his retirement in Milwaukee.
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Michael Redd transformed himself from a wanna-be whom most of the National Basketball Association’s 29 teams didn’t want into an NBA All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist.

Redd tore the medial collateral ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee twice within a span of a year, yet went through an arduous rehabilitation process and made his way back to play portions of two more NBA seasons.

On the night of Nov. 6, 2013, Redd took the floor at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and did something that, in some respects, he considered even more difficult than his emergence as an NBA player and his comebacks from injury.

He announced his retirement as an NBA player between the first and second quarters of the Bucks’ game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“That was hard, man,” Redd said afterwards. “Going out there … that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I still love the game. I still love Milwaukee.”

Redd was born in Columbus, Ohio. He became a three-time most valuable player there at Ohio State University and has spent the majority of his summers there.

He made it clear, however, during his recent visit how he feels about Milwaukee.

“This will always be home for me,” Redd said.

During the summer of 2000, the odds were stacked heavily against Michael Redd making a home here.

Though Redd and backcourt mate Scoonie Penn led Ohio State to the 1999 NCAA Final Four and became the Buckeyes’ sixth-ranking all-time scorer with 1,879 career points, he wasn’t selected in the 2000 NBA Draft – rated by several pundits as one of the worst drafts in league history -- until the Milwaukee Bucks called his name with the 43rd overall selection.

Redd called the situation “an awakening” – one that rudely let him know what his chances were of fulfilling his dream of becoming an NBA player.

“It looked impossible, it really did,” Redd said. “They had Ray Allen, Lindsey Hunter … other guys who played my position. I didn’t know how I was going to play. I was just happy to be in the NBA. (Then Bucks Head Coach) George Karl challenged me. He told me I wasn’t going to make it unless I was willing to work. And I did. All I needed was my foot in the door.”

Redd still considers his selection by the Bucks as the highlight of his NBA career. He did make their roster, but his rookie season amounted to 35 minutes spread over six games, during which he scored a grand total of 13 points. Milwaukee went 52-30 in winning the Central Division championship and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Redd could have chafed while sitting on the bench watching the playoffs and wished he were elsewhere. To this day, though, he remains grateful for his situation.

“I had some great teammates over the years, starting with the veteran teammates I had – Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, Ervin Johnson,” he said. “That whole group kind of helped shape my career.”

During the ensuing six years, Redd accomplished something that only one other player in NBA history had ever done – he increased his scoring average in six consecutive seasons. He peaked in 2006-07 at 26.7 points per game, an average that ranked fifth in the NBA.

One of the most memorable moments of Redd’s 2006-07 campaign came Nov. 11, 2006, when he set a Milwaukee franchise individual scoring record with a 57-point outburst against the Utah Jazz at the Bradley Center, breaking the mark of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (55 points) that had stood for nearly 35 years.

“The 57-point game was incredible, but I just remember us losing that night,” Redd said. “That wasn’t fun. I was in tears.”

Redd’s home state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had tried to lure him back to Ohio via free agency in 2005, but he signed a contract extension with Milwaukee instead.

“I visited Cleveland back when I was a free agent,” Redd said. “But my heart was here in Milwaukee. I knew that. It wasn’t a popular decision in Cleveland. It was a tough decision at the time, but I have no regrets with that.

“I had a wonderful time here in Milwaukee … a great journey. People here treated me wonderfully. Senator (Herb) Kohl was gracious to me. This organization believed in me from Day One. Forty two teams passed me over back in 2000. I’ve just had great relationship here with Milwaukee.”

Not all of Redd’s fondest Milwaukee memories came on the basketball court. He became one of the Bucks’ most active community service volunteers.

“Working with the House of Peace was pretty cool,” he said. “There are so many organizations and charities that my wife and I worked with for so many years. We’ll always give thanks for this city. This will always be home for me.’

“It was wonderful to be able to get out in the community and be in touch with people. It was very humbling, and I was very honored to be in a position to do the things in the community that I did here.”

Redd, an NBA Eastern Conference All-Star in 2003, won gold medals as a member of Team USA in the FIBA Americas Championships team in 2007 and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

He played 11 seasons in Milwaukee, averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He ranks among the all-time Bucks career leaders in the following categories: points (fourth – 11,554); scoring average (fifth – 20 ppg); games (seventh, 578); minutes (fifth, 19,334); field goals made (seventh, 4,063); field goals attempted (fourth, 9,045); 3-point field goals made (second, 1,003); 3-point field goals attempted (first, 2,619); 3-point field goal percentage (eighth, .383); free throws made (second, 2,425); free throws attempted (third, 2,887); and free throw percentage (10th, .840).

On Jan. 24, 2008, Redd tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during a game against the Sacramento Kings and missed the rest of the season. Then on Jan. 10, 2010, he tore both ligaments again during a contest against the Los Angeles Lakers and missed the remainder of that season.

“It was tough,” Redd admitted. “I questioned myself, ‘Why me?’ But God had his reasons, and I know that now. I was blessed to last as long as I did. It was great.”

On March 28, 2011, Redd returned to the Bucks following a 14-month recovery from the injury. He played 10 more games with Milwaukee during the balance of that season before becoming a free agent and spending the 2011-12 campaign with the Phoenix Suns, averaging 8.2 points in 51 appearances.

Several NBA teams attempted to persuade Redd to make a comeback this season, but he opted to return to Milwaukee and announce his retirement as a player.

“This summer, I just decided not to come back and play,” he said. “I wanted to be home with my wife and my kids and spend time watching them grow up. I love the game, but it just didn’t have the push to go play it anymore.”

Redd, a devout Christian, is convinced that God has other plans for him, and he has always committed himself to such plans. When he signed his contract extension with Milwaukee in 2005, he purchased a church for his father, James, a pastor in Columbus.

“My career might have been longer, but that wasn’t the plan,” Michael said. “I’m a man of faith, and I believe God has purposes for everything that happens. I could have played. I feel healthy now. My body feels good. I’ve continued to train up until this summer when I chose to retire. I feel good.

But I don’t look back and say what could have happened or what should have happened. It happened. I’ve accepted it. It’s life. I was blessed to last (as an NBA player) as long as I did. It was great.”

These days, Redd is making himself useful at home.

“I have family duties to take care of,” he said. “I have laundry to do. I take my kids to school. I’m enjoying it. My wife (Achea) is sure happy to have me home. She sacrificed a lot for all those years of me traveling while I was playing the game.”

Michael said during his career with the Bucks that he hoped to become more active in Gospel ministry after his playing days ended, and he has done that.

“My wife and I have a ministry in Columbus,” he said. “That’s our passion. I’ve always wanted to get involved with ministries here in Milwaukee. That will be part of the next phase of my life. That hasn’t stopped.”

While Redd is convinced his professional playing days are over, he would like to become involved in some capacity with an NBA team – one in particular.

“I’d like to be here, with the Milwaukee organization,” he said. “I had a conversation with Senator Kohl the other day about doing that in some capacity -- not necessarily right now, but I’d love to get back with this organization somehow, in some way, if they allow me to.”

It sounds like Michael Redd is waiting for an opportunity. The Bucks ought to be well aware of what he did with the last one they extended to him.