Ever been dumped unexpectedly?
You know, everything's going great; your gal or guy is making you dinner, giving you massages, squeezing lemons for fresh lemonade and then, without warning, it's over and they've moved on.
Total sucker punch.
J.J. Redick knows what I'm talking about.
Six months ago he was the center of the college basketball universe breaking records, winning awards as Duke University's sharpshooter. But now the 22-year-old is muddled in the kind of obscurity that's usually reserved for people like William Hung and Nancy McKeon. The 11th overall pick in the June NBA draft is on the inactive list with the Orlando Magic. Although he's now healthy after missing the summer and preseason with a back injury, he's behind nine other perimeter players in the rotation.
A Web site supposedly dedicated to him (www.jjredick.net) hasn't been updated since he was drafted. Not even June's DWI charge was able to keep Redick's ink flowing by summer's end. It's interesting how the Wooden and AP Player of the Year can fall out of our consciousness so quickly. But what I found even more interesting is that he says he doesn't even really miss it.
"I felt like 99 percent of the exposure I got was positive, but there were times I really struggled with all of the attention being on me," Redick says. "As a team we were having an unbelievable year but all anyone wanted to talk about was me. It really wore me down.
"I'm not going to lie I miss the attention sometimes, but you know what? I'm getting the chance to play basketball for a living. It's hard to be down when you remind yourself about that."
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, poor J.J. had to do too many photo shoots" or "He's just saying that to appear more human." But he's not A-Roddian. The guy sitting at the end of the bench for the Magic sounds exactly like the guy who was pursued by nearly every major media outlet in the country last year at this time.
Reflective. Humble. Thankful.
When I called him up, I was expecting some sort of change. You know, like anyone would be after they've been dumped. But not J.J. This time of peace has afforded him the time to reconnect with his inner peace.
"I know God has a plan and purpose for my life," he says. "I trust in him. My faith and my spiritual life has gone through ups and downs this past year, but I am only human and the Bible teaches us that we all fall short of the glory of God."
And as for the embarrassing DWI arrest days before the NBA draft?
"I'm fortunate I got caught," he says. "Yeah, it was bad press and all of that but it stopped me from possibly doing more harm to myself and others. That night I made a bad decision but there was some good to come out of it."
J.J., who missed most of summer play because of a herniated disk in his back, went on to talk about God's role in his life as well as the strong influence of his close-knit family. He was excited about his sister's wedding next summer and was happy his best friend from college moved with him to Orlando.
He still has that competitive fire from his Duke days and he desperately wants to get off the inactive list and play in his first NBA regular-season game. But he's not looking to recapture the spotlight. Apparently his source of warmth comes from a different place.
"The thing I think people sometimes misunderstand about athletes or actors or singers is that because we're famous they think we're special," he says. "But we're really not. We're just people trying to do the best we can, just like them."
From where I'm sitting, I think J.J.'s doing all right.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN the Magazine and host of the ESPN360 talk show "Game Night." He is currently working on his first book. LZ can be reached at email@example.com.