The NBA needs Jimmer Fredette.
Sure, he’s waded through the league’s school of hard knocks and plenty of people are painting the mosaic they claim is his NBA ceiling. And that’s OK.
It’s true that Jimmermania, which came to life during Fredette's crazy senior season at BYU, is gone and will never return. Few storybook seasons are ever repeated in the real world. But Fredette remains the same deep shooter with remarkable range, and the faithful legion that believe in him aren’t letting go. Is he a great defender? Of course not, but there are plenty of NBA players playing matador defense every night.
The league needs this face, this kid. He remains an unburied icon.
What Fredette gives the league is a refreshing attitude and approach with the NBA badge. He’s a walking, running, jumping example of how to deal with adversity. He's showed honor in embracing a role and being a supportive teammate and minuteman when called upon to perform. Fredette could author the NBA guidebook on sportsmanship and how to be an ambassador for the sport.
Ever since new leadership tossed out an actual role for Fredette with the Sacramento Kings a few weeks ago, he’s responded like a thoroughbred. He’s as hot as he’s been in his short three-year NBA career, converting 47 percent from the field and 47 percent from the 3-point arc. He’s made 60 percent of his shots during the Kings' past 10 games.
Last month, rumors surfaced of a trade involving Jimmer and Denver. USA Today's Sam Amick commented on that rumor and Fredette's NBA life, which has been like being on a wheel in a hamster cage.
“The former BYU star deserves immense credit for his professionalism in these last few frustrating years, and that's the very reason you won't likely hear him complain publicly (or even privately) about his lot in Kings Land,” said Amick. “But with Sacramento hoping to get at least a second-round draft pick in return for him in any possible deal, count me among the masses who hope he's on the move sooner rather than later and that he finds a better fit elsewhere.”
During his current stretch, many Kings followers believe Fredette is looking more and more like Steve Nash and some have done the third-year comparisons, taking minutes played and interjecting production stats. They say, yes, there is a case.
But on-court cases to be made are hard without minutes played. And there lies the Fredette matrix. He is close to shooting enough 3s to qualify for NBA statistics (he needs four attempts) and if he hit half of them, he would be the current NBA leader in that category.
Fans and media around the NBA respect Fredette. Oh, there’s the few that boo him, especially in EnergySolutions Arena, but that ilk booed a little kid in a BYU shirt when a cameramen put the tyke on the big screen.
The fact is, Fredette is not just a great example of patience and endurance, but proper manhood, something professional sports could certainly use a crash course on. Anyone who has been around the NBA circuit knows what I’m talking about. The disrespect for women is chronic, almost sick.
Fredette rarely passes up a chance to express his love for his wife Whitney and credit her for her undivided and unwavering support. His fidelity is that of a real man. He doesn’t have a corner on handling media interviews, but if one must know, he is legendary for being polite, courteous, kind and accommodating, even when his role defies the number of requests he gets. His magic has not waned.
My daughter who lives in Houston is astounded that her husband, approaching his 40s, is absolutely obsessed with Fredette. He is a die-hard Houston Rockets fan and Jazz hater. But Jimmer transcends it all. Even after 12-hour work days as a teacher and coach, Aaron Bales never fails to find a way to watch Fredette and the Kings — knowing beforehand that Fredette’s situation will be a "DNP" or minutes that are crumbs. He combs the Web for Fredette morsels. He follows him on Twitter and is as devoted to him as many of us are to Marvel and DC Comic heroes.
“Dad,” my daughter says, “I think he’s a Jimmer stalker.”
He is not alone. There are soldiers in the army that wait for Fredette to be free from the Kings and on to something else, whatever it may be. They are many and strong and faithful — even if reality may cheat them in the end.
His charity, the Fredette Family Foundation, is successfully battling bullying in elementary schools in Utah and New York City. On Friday, the Kings finished a video featuring Fredette and his anti-bullying effort. His charitable work with children from gyms and hospitals to schoolyards lifts spirits and strengthens bonds.
I asked J. Blair Giles, the CEO of the foundation, what makes Fredette tick since he sees it firsthand every week. It centers on unselfishness and recognizing how he fits in the world.
“Jimmer gets it, which is refreshing to see in the NBA,” said Blair. “It is a very 'me-centric' world, but Jimmer is doing things the right way. We get letters from fans. We read it in the media about him being a consummate professional. Jimmer is handling things with dignity and class amidst the challenges of professional sports. None of these stories are scripted.”
Who knows Fredette’s future or where and how his playing days will come.
But a case could be made: The NBA needs Jimmer Fredette.
The mania may never return, but the magic has not faded away.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.