Richard Jefferson has been working a lot since he retired. You've probably seen him on, well, any channel that shows basketball. He works NBA and college games and hosts a podcast with Channing Frye that was turned into a television show. I spoke with Jefferson last week about his jobs, being in a bubble, LeBron James' future, and which media gig he covets the most.
But first, an ad for Rockin' Protein. Jefferson was polite enough to chuckle when I asked, "If the protein was a rockin' should you go a knockin'?" The answer was yes, but I'll let him do the rest of the pitch.
Richard Jefferson: Well, you know what’s so funny is that if you as an athlete, you take everything seriously, especially if you’re a professional athlete. Now so much I think players have done a better job of it from the ages of like 20 to 25 now. They’re doing a better job but especially as you get older and you’re trying to slow the decline and making sure you get the right nutrients. You’re not eating chili dogs and french fries all the time. You know, making sure that you’re getting the protein right after your workout so that your muscles can use that as energy to help rebuild and to strengthen that’s the key. Like when you’re 35 trying to chase around 23-year-olds, that’s not a fun job so you've got to make sure that you’re getting all the necessary things in your body to make sure you can do that now.
SD: So was this something you found on your own, or did they reach out to you because they thought you needed more protein?
RJ: You know for me it was more of like I grew up drinking them and I see them, they were right next to the gym where I used to go every single day after basketball. They had this huge sign like a billboard that is still up to this day so you know it was one of those things that was just like a natural fit. When they called I was like, oh a hundred percent I’m drinking it anyway and it tastes great if you guys want me to talk about this and spread the word I’d be more than happy to.
RJ: Well, it’s great because we started a couple years ago we started recording a television show on Spectrum like Road Trip the TV show. We did that and because I own the content we’ve been able to distribute it to the YES network, to Altitude Network, NBC Northwest and now once you’re in the FOX Sports family it’s gone from you know FOX Sports Ohio to FOX Sports Arizona and hopefully we can continue building out in all the regions.
SD: If they offered you and Channing [Frye] the same timeslot, but you could only debate Michael versus LeBron every week, would you do it?
RJ: Yes, and it would have been fun. It would have been fun just from the standpoint of like hey if this is what I’m paid to do I’m pretty much going to do it. Not saying that I’m going to do whatever somebody offers, but I enjoy basketball and I enjoy arguing about it and debating about it because that’s what you did at the park growing up. That’s what you did in barbershops like that’s just what it is. Shoot, you know everyone’s sitting here arguing about Biden versus Trump like that’s just kind of what America is based off of like your opinion, freedom of speech, you know and so you know that we to do it via basketball it just makes it so much more fun.
SD: When the Lakers were filling out their roster ahead of the bubble, did a part of you hope they would call?
RJ: No. I am done playing basketball. The stress and the emotional stuff like I’m not good. I’m pretty much in a good mood 99 percent of the time now. When I was playing and the older I got the less my good mood was.
SD: If you did have to go to the bubble at some point during your career, which team would you have wanted to bubble with?
RJ: Oh, my 2016 Cavaliers team. 100 percent. It was, uh, you know just you want guys there that you enjoy spending time with and that you enjoy the way you want them to play.
SD: Next season is going to be different again, with fewer fans and the season at a different time of year. Are the Lakers still the favorites?
RJ: Yeah, look, I will say this. I think the Toronto Raptors did a great job proving to people that when you’re the defending champions, you are the champions until somebody knocks you out. They weren’t picked to do well and here they were very, very close to a conference finals and had the second-best record so being a champion is something that you don’t literally just let go of. It’s something that you know is a title that you’re going to have to take from them. I think that roster is going to be improved. They know that there’s areas that they need to improve on and you know they did it without their third-best player. Avery Bradley was their third-best player and that was a big conversation about that team all year long, who was their third-best player and they were still able to do it. So I do think it’s going to be difficult to knock them off. Not saying that they won’t, but it’s going to be difficult.
SD: Who do you think comes out of the East?
RJ: I think all of those teams in the Eastern Conference have things that they need to address, but I think the Miami Heat are good. I still like the Milwaukee Bucks right? Like when you have all of the things necessary to be a champion, I’m going to give you credit until you prove me right or wrong.
SD: At what point should the Bucks start to worry about Giannis maybe going elsewhere?
RJ: Every day. The Lakers should be nervous about Anthony Davis. You should always be nervous. You know that that’s the thing in professional sports, keeping that edge. And that’s not just the player, that’s the owners. That’s teams. That’s fans. You should always have an edge to you. You should never feel comfortable because that’s when bad things start to happen in professional sports.
SD: How much longer do you think LeBron can be at this level?
RJ: I think he’ll be a top-five player, in my opinion, until he probably retires. Three to five years, I think he could be a top player. I think he’ll be the number one player. You’re going to have guys that step up, whether it’s James Harden or Steph Curry or Giannis that might have a better statistical season and that will get MVP’s, but when it comes down to it until he retires there’s not going to be a player that you would feel more comfortable with on your team.
SD: So do you think he has a real chance to play with his son?
RJ: Well, his son is a sophomore. Yeah, so he’ll probably, I think, so that’s two more years, one year college, so that’s three more years. I think it's more about his son than time.
SD: Are you still working with the Pac-12 this year?
RJ: Well, we’ll see. I hope so. You know I’m waiting to see what the sports situation is going be like this year and what opportunity. Shoot, I’m not even sure you know when the NBA season is going to start again so, yeah, we’re going to see.
SD: How optimistic are you for college basketball after seeing how college football is going?
RJ: I am pretty optimistic and I am pretty excited. You know, I think going to try their best at the end of the day. Right now the only thing that you can do is truly try. That’s the only thing you can do is try. And think they’re going to do their best. I don’t know the bubble that we were in was super locked down. You know obviously even the White House had an outbreak. I think they’re going to do the best that they can to protect these kids and make sure that they can play these games.
SD: So how many jobs do you have right now?
RJ: Hopefully, you know what it is, I’m trying to work as many jobs as possible until I find out that just really hits. I like this, but I really want to start focusing on calling games. I think that’s the area that so far has probably piqued my interest the most that I want to spend a little bit more time trying to hone that skill.
SD: So does that mean you’re pulling for Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy to get new jobs?
RJ: I’m pulling for Mark and Jeff every day. I’m glad that Chauncey Billups got a job, but now Vince Carter is retired so he’s going to get some of those jobs. Man, I got to figure out a way, you know, to really open up a block of jobs. There’s a lot of great players, Mark and Jeff are two of the best in the business and you know they’ll have that job, rightfully, so for as long as they want it. But hey, if they want to coach I’m all for it. Go coach guys because I don’t want to coach.
SD: Who would you most like to work with?
RJ: I enjoy working with Doris [Burke] and I would love to work with Mike Breen at some point.
So there you have it. Richard Jefferson has all of the jobs and he still wants all the other ones. Fueled by protein shakes and the motivation to never have to play professional basketball ever again. Even if that means debating LeBron James versus Michael Jordan forever.