Richard Jefferson had a successful NBA career: 16 years and eight teams, an NBA championship plus two trips to the Finals. Nearly 15,000 points and nearly 5,000 rebounds.
Now, four years after the end of his playing career, RJ has a new career and he might ultimately be as successful as a broadcaster as he was as a small forward.
Nowadays, he’s hard to miss, as Shlomo Sprung writes Tuesday for Boardroom. In addition to his gig as an analyst on YES Network, Jefferson can be found as a studio analyst working NBA games for ESPN and college hoops for FOX Sports and Pac-12 Network. He also has made appearances on Extra.
Long-term Nets fans of course know Jefferson as both a player and an analyst, When YES hired him to work with Ian Eagle, Sarah Kustok and Ryan Ruocco, it was as if a free agent finally signed after a long period wooing.
YES Network’s Nets producer, Frank DiGraci, played the role of GM. He regularly peppered RJ with entreaties starting 10 years into his NBA career. DiGraci would simply ask him when he was going to retire to become a YES analyst. Finally, after winning an NBA title with the Cavs, he agreed and joined the network as an analyst for the 2018-19 season.
There wasn’t much of plan on how to use Jefferson, Eagle told Sprung.
“Where I think viewers have seen the development is how smart RJ is,” Eagle said. “He’s got that kind of unique skill-set. As an analyst, I think initially he was trying to figure out where he fit in. Would it be X’s and O’s? Would it be stories? What he determined was it’s a little bit of everything. He’s really good at this, and he’s figured out pretty quickly what works and what will garner attention.”
One of his “stories” got attention early in the 2019-20. In talking with Ruocco, Jefferson noted that he knew his career was done when only the Knicks were interested in his services.
Richard Jefferson says he chose retirement over playing for the Knicks
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) November 25, 2019
The Knicks were so offended they issued a formal denial that they had wanted RJ on their team.
What’s Jefferson’s long-term plan? Look to two athletes who have made big jumps beyond sports: Michael Strahan and Nate Burleson, two NFL stars who work jobs on morning shows, Strahan on Good Morning America and Burleson on CBS Mornings.
“Nate Burleson, what he’s been able to accomplish has been special,” Jefferson told Boardroom. “Michael Strahan was always just kind of that north star that everyone could point to, because he was such a trailblazer for athletes post-career. But as I’m trying to do this, it’s more of just finding a way to establish yourself as a legitimate person in this industry.”
He even spent a day with Burleson at the CBS Studios.
“I’m trying to see what these guys do and how they prep,” Jefferson said. “And that’s when I had the opportunity to meet Nate and watch his professionalism, watch how hard he works, watch his confidence in the way he approached the entire thing. Every time he makes a successful move, it opens up another pathway for an individual like me.”
- Welcome to Richard Jefferson 2.0 – Shlomo Sprung – Boardroom