Jimmer Fredette opens up about NBA career and 3x3 Olympic dreams
Jimmer Fredette has seen success in so many different seasons of life, from the “JimmerMania” days of college basketball superstardom at BYU, to his time in the NBA, and international career in Shanghai. Now, at 34-years-old, Fredette is chasing a new dream - the Paris 2024 Olympics, where 3x3 basketball returns to the world’s biggest stage for the second time.
The Glens Falls, NY native was part of the U.S. men’s team that took the silver at the 2023 FIBA 3x3 World Cup this summer in Vienna, Austria.
Fredette reflects on some of the monumental moments in his career, how he’s learned to be a more confident person on and off the court, and opens up about why he feels the most like himself at this stage of his life, in the conversation below.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start in basketball? When did you first fall in love with the sport and when did becoming a professional athlete become a dream for you?
Jimmer Fredette: I started pretty early. My brother is seven years older than me and my sister is nine years older than me. I was always watching them play sports and I just wanted to be out there with them playing constantly. When my brother was out there shooting baskets, I was out there dribbling on the side and working on my game as much as I could when I was that age. I started playing probably around five years old, and then just kept growing into it and I’ve loved the sport ever since.
When I was probably in second or third grade, I was one of those kids who from a young age, wanted to be a professional basketball player. I didn’t realize it was going to be able to happen until later on.
Fast forward to your college days, you had offers from BYU, Sienna, and a few other smaller schools. What led you to BYU and why did you decide to go there?
Fredette: First of all, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints so that definitely played a part into it. But also, my sister went to BYU so I was a little familiar with it. They had a great basketball program and I loved their coach, Dave Rose, who was just a great human being and was really changing that program around. I knew that they were going to be a good fit. I loved Sienna and their coach Fran McCaffery. They were really good but it just felt like BYU was the right situation and timing for me.
You went from playing 611 total minutes your freshman season to over 1300 minutes of playtime by your senior season. What kind of work did you put in physically and mentally to develop into being college basketball’s best player that year, the year you won the ESPY for Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year?
Fredette: A lot of work. Everyone puts in a lot of time when you’re becoming a great basketball player. But I think for me, it was the consistent effort every day, working on things that I felt like I needed to get better at, and doing it at a game pace. That’s something that I’ve always tried to do. It’s not necessarily the quantity of the shots. It’s more about the quality of the shots for me. That’s what I really focused in on.
I had to ask myself what am I going to get during the game? How do I feel like I need to work on this action so that when I get into the game and I have an opportunity to shoot, I feel like I’ve shot it hundreds and thousands of times. I was really deliberate in trying to figure out exactly where I was going to make my shots and then practice it over and over again and that really helped me out.
You went from being this small-town kid from Glens Falls, NY to being the face of BYU. I read that at one point professors asked you to stop coming to class because so many people would ask you for autographs and it was too distracting. For the people who don’t really understand can you describe what that level of fame, the “JimmerMania” what was it like?
Fredette: It was different. I wasn’t expecting it. It kind of happened overnight. I remember when it happened. It was against San Diego State my senior year. We were playing at home. Kawhi Leonard was on the other team. It was a top-10 matchup between our teams and everyone was watching it. It wasn’t easy to access. It was on the mountain channel (the Mountain West Sports Network) so people had to figure out how to watch the game.
But I remember it was a great battle, I was able to have a really good game, and we won. The students rushed the floor. After the game, I do my interview, take a shower, and then afterwards, they were like you can’t go outside to your car like you normally would. There’s thousands of people out there waiting for you. “What do you want me to do? How do you want me to get out?” They told me to tell my then-girlfriend (who’s now my wife) to go get the car and drive it under the arena to the loading dock to pick me up so we could drive out that way.
People started to figure out that’s what we did so they started to go over to the loading dock. People would start hitting on the car and stuff as I was leaving. I couldn’t really go out anywhere without pictures and autograph [requests]. It really changed pretty quickly, but it was an amazing experience and a super fun year.
What did you do as a college student who didn’t have the ability to go out?
Fredette: Not much. I spent time in my apartment hanging out with my roommates or my girlfriend’s apartment. I was either at an apartment or in the gym constantly, that or traveling to go to a game. It was different and little bit difficult because if my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I did want to go on a date, it couldn’t really happen because I’d be getting requests for pictures all the time. It wasn’t the easiest thing but the fans were incredible and I appreciate them. I wouldn’t be able to play the game I love without the fans.
What does the city of Provo, Utah mean to you?
Fredette: It means a lot. It’s a second home to me. Every time I go back there, I feel comfortable. I still know a ton of people there that are at the college and living there. I always feel like I’m welcomed when I go back and that is just a great feeling. I have some lifelong friends that I’ll have from Provo. It’s not a big city, but it’s a fun college town.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your time at BYU and how did it shape you into the person you are today?
Fredette: I just learned how to become a better person. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Obviously, basketball is awesome and I was able to get better and better. My coaches did a great job of letting me be who I am as a basketball player. But to me be it’s about being a good person. I learned how to become an adult at that point. You come in as an 18-year-old and leave as a 22-year-old. You grow a lot in those four years and the coaches, my teammates, all the people around did a good job of teaching me how to be a good person and continue to treat others the right way. If you do that, everything else will fall in line and fortunately, it did.
You were drafted immediately after your senior season in 2011. What was that adjustment process like of going from the level of notoriety and fandom you had in college to being a rookie?
Fredette: Yeah, it was different. The year when I got drafted was actually during the lockout so I didn’t even get a chance to go play in summer league that year. We didn’t get to go to the facility and practice with any of the guys or anything like that until November when they said the lockout was over.
All of a sudden they told us to come to the facility, we had a week, and then we started to play games. It was crazy. The level of athleticism, the level of talent, the height, the length is all just different than college. There was definitely an adjustment period and it took a little bit of time to figure that out.
Once you get into it and keep playing, you start to adjust and figure out where you can get your shots and what you can do on the court. But it definitely was a big adjustment. They don’t care who you are on the court. It doesn’t matter if you were college player of the year or anything.
Did your love for the game change in any way once you started playing professionally?
Fredette: There’s definitely times where you see the game more as business rather than this game that was your lifelong love growing up as kid. There’s just a lot that goes into it. Whether it’s training, money, contracts or being cut from teams it’s definitely a difficult league. But at the same time, once you get out there, it’s all the same. It’s a basketball game and it’s about competing at the highest level. To be able to do that and play against the best players that have ever played the game was an incredible experience. It was something I never thought I’d have a chance to do as a small town kid but I was able to reach that dream and I hope to be able to inspire other kids that want to do the same thing.
I want to walk down memory lane a little bit with you. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to give me one word back to describe each of these experiences and why. Starting with the Sacramento Kings.
Fredette: Learning process. It was just such a different time period for me to go into the NBA. The game, the organization that they were at the time, they were trying to sell the team and ownership was not there. My coach got fired two weeks into the season so I felt a lot of stuff right away and so did our whole team. I had to learn quickly that this is a business not a college type thing. This is the NBA. You have to adapt and be able to do that all the time.
Fredette: I’d say electric. It was super fun. I love the team that we played on. We had a veteran group of guys with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, and Derrick Rose. All of these guys played extremely well in the NBA and they knew what to do. The atmosphere in the arena was amazing. They played the Chicago Bulls theme song when you’d walk out and you have starting lineups, and you just think of Jordan and all those guys. Chicago fans love their sports, it was always packed, and they know who you were.
New Orleans Pelicans.
Fredette: Successful. We had a really great season that year. We were able to make the playoffs and I don’t think people necessarily thought that we were going to. It was great. I loved the guys, the city is awesome, super fun with great food, and really cool people. It was just a different experience coming from Utah or upstate New York to living in the South so I enjoyed that. We had a really good year that kind of launched them into a couple of years in a row of making the playoffs down there and having a pretty good organization.
Fredette: Fun is the word that comes to me. I loved it! It was such a great experience. They had a great setup for us in downtown White Plains, NY right next to the train. The guys that were there are just really good guys, we all got along really well. It was a lot of fun. They were all on the same boat trying to get somewhere besides the Westchester Knicks. That’s what the G-league is. You play there and you want to do well, but you want to eventually move on to either the NBA, or to Europe, or another league. So everyone was in the same boat, pulling for each other.
You said in the past you regret not having as much confidence when you were in the NBA. How has your confidence changed now and if you could go back in time and give NBA Jimmer advice what would it be?
Fredette: My confidence is great now. I feel really good. This is the most confident I’ve ever been as far as a basketball player, just with maturity, and all that stuff, you grow into it and know who you are as a person and as a basketball player. But there’s a lot of bumps and bruises as you go through it, especially when I was young. I just would have told myself to just play the way that you’ve always played. Don’t try to conform to whatever everyone else wants you to do or thinks that you should do on the court. You got there for a specific reason. Go out there and do that. If you fail, you fail, but you do it on your terms. I think that’s the biggest thing that I would have done is try to just go out there and be me more.
Can you talk about the challenges in staying prepared when you’re not getting play time? There’s so much time and sacrifice that goes into it but to not reap the benefits I imagine is mentally challenging.
Fredette: It’s really hard, especially when you haven’t been in that situation before. Usually guys that are in the NBA have never been in that situation before because they’ve always been the best player on all of their teams growing up—that’s how they got there. Once you get there, you have to conform and adapt. It’s a fine balance of trying to figure out okay, how much do I need to work out today versus am I going to play tonight?
You need to leave something in the tank so that if you do play, you can actually be ready and prepared to play. A lot of it has to do with being prepared mentally. You have to stay locked in, even if you don’t feel like you’re going to play because you never know when you’re going to get an opportunity to do that. It’s not easy, but it’s a part of being professional.
You played overseas in Shanghai. What led to that decision and what were your experiences like?
Fredette: I went over to Shanghai for three years, right after I got let go by the Spurs. I got called by one of the coaches over in Shanghai who’s an American, Brian Goorjian. He said, “Hey, come play for me. We want to have you here. It’s great. The people treat you really well, and we have a good organization.”
At that time, Yao Ming was actually the owner of the team so he called me up too telling me to come. I weighed the pros and cons of all the different places I had [offers from] and China was the best spot for me. It was an amazing experience. I was able to be me again. They wanted me to score the basketball and be a playmaker. I quickly learned that, that game suited me very, very well.
I know you grew up playing 3-on-3 basketball but tell me what led to the decision for you to make the switch professionally?
Fredette: I was playing over in China during the pandemic and that was a difficult experience. I have three children at home and I wasn’t able to see them or my wife for seven months. At that point, I asked myself, is it really worth it to go overseas for seven months and not see any of my kids and watch them grow? And I decided it wasn’t. So I didn’t go overseas the following season but I can still play, I’m in good shape, and I still feeling good.
I got a call from Fran Fraschilla who helps with USA Basketball and he asked if I wanted to play 3x3. It looked like it was a fun thing so I played a couple of events last year. 3x3 is obviously an Olympic sport now. If I had a chance to go to the Olympics, it would be a dream come true. It’s one of my favorite events of all time and I watch every everything. I have so much respect for the athletes and all the time that they put in with people not watching them to give them their five minutes of fame. So that really drew me to it. Plus, I’m able to be home more with my family and it just fits my lifestyle.
Do you have a favorite Olympic memory?
Fredette: My goodness! Well, there’s several! When Michael Phelps won eight gold medals that was unbelievable—just incredible! I was watching it on edge, every single race just hoping that he would win. In that relay that they had, where the U.S. just barely won by like a fingertip, that was one of my favorite memories. Watching Usain Bolt was super fun just because he was unbelievably fast. Those are two memories that pop out!
What do you think it is about the Olympic movement that sets it apart from any other sporting event?
Fredette: All of the pride from the countries that are all involved in it. Everyone is rooting for themselves but it’s not a bad blood situation. People are competing and trying to win, yet everyone is kind of in it together. They’re all in the Olympic Village and cheering each other on. There’s just a lot of amazing things that the Olympics provides. It’s a chance for people who are not in sports that you see every day, to get a chance to show off their abilities. I just love that because they’ve been practicing their whole lives, just like I have but basketball [gets more viewership] in comparison to archery, but they put in the same amount of time. I just love seeing those underdog stories.
If the U.S. Men’s 3x3 team qualifies and you’re named to that Olympic roster, do you still plan on playing basketball afterwards?
Fredette: I don’t know. We’ll see when we get there. The first thing is try to qualify for the Olympics and at that point I’ll be 35 years old and will have played professionally for about 13 years at that point. Right now, I’m happy with where I’m at. I feel good physically and mentally so we’ll see what happens in the year.
You talked earlier about growing up watching the Olympics and how different it is from any other sporting event. How much pride would you have in getting to represent Glens Falls, NY at an Olympic Games, what would that mean to you?
Fredette: It would be unbelievable. I just think about when you watch the Olympics on TV and they show an athlete who’s competing and then do a cutaway and you’re at their old high school and all these kids are there cheering them on. I feel like that would happen right at Glens Falls. It would be a really cool thing to be able to see and look back on. Not a lot of people get an opportunity to do that—to walk in the Opening Ceremony and experience the Olympics as an athlete. It’s a different feel. I’m really hoping it happens. It would be an honor.
You’ve walked through so many different seasons of life, from the college fame, the NBA and international seasons, now chasing after Olympic dreams. Not to mention the other chapters of life outside of sports—being a Dad, etc. When you think of all those moments, when do you think you’ve felt the most like yourself in your life?
Fredette: I’d say right now I feel most like myself. I just love being a dad. I love having three little ones and my wife to be able to support and I just feel like I’m more of a homebody. I’m a guy that’s pretty relaxed and chill. I love where I’m at—still being able to play a game that I love at a competitive level while doing other things on the side that I enjoy. I have a really good balance right now with a good lifestyle. I’m really enjoying it. I feel great and I feel like Jimmer for sure.