Commentary

Nobody's perfect

Originally Published: December 22, 2011
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Jimmer Fredette Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesIt's early in his NBA career but Jimmer Fredette has quickly dispelled the idea that his game peaked at BYU.

It takes me 16 minutes to do Eight Minute Abs.

I have a time share in Pyongyang.

I once asked the ship's captain what time the midnight brunch was.

But this is the first time my tiny brain has cost me $5,000.

Back in March, I said that BYU hoops star Jimmer Fredette wouldn't be a good NBA player. "In five years," I wrote, "he's got a really good chance to be your Provo area Isuzu dealer."

I was so sure that I said if Fredette started even one game his rookie season, I'd give five grand to his favorite charity.

Well, Fredette's a rookie now with the Sacramento Kings and he finally started a game.

His first game.

Things are starting to shimmer for The Jimmer. In just over a week, the Kings have sold more than 1,000 Jimmer jerseys and now have two full-time employees affixing his name on the backs of blank ones to meet demand.

He scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, with four assists. And now it looks like he has a chance to become the Tim Tebow of the NBA.

Wanna buy an Isuzu?

Tuesday I handed him a check for $5,000 made out to the Fredette Family Foundation, which helps families in New York, Utah and Sacramento.

In the check's memo line, I wrote: Crow.

"That's one thing that's different about you," says Steve Young, a BYU grad and longtime Jimmermaniac. "Most people have an opinion and stick with it for four or five years until they're proven wrong. You're wrong after the first game."

At least Fredette wasn't all I-told-you-so about it. He could've been.

"I wasn't really sure myself," concedes Fredette, who led the nation in scoring last season. "It depended on what team took me. I thought, 'What if I get stuck behind a great guard for 82 games?'"

Don't even try, kid. I was wrong as poodle sweaters.

I said he wouldn't be able to get off his shot off in the NBA. So far, in two preseason games, he's averaged 16.5 points. He's been pyrotechnic from the wider NBA 3-point arc (67 percent). His handle is tighter than a coffee pot's. His rebounding and defense still have more holes than a Danielle Steele novel, but, all in all, he's been jaw-droppingly good.

"A lot of my friends and my family, they were mad about it [the article]" Fredette says. "They kept saying, 'That guy is going to have to pay!' But I really didn't read it, to be honest."

Touche.

I should've known Fredette would be fine in the NBA. This is a guy who can do anything, including a terrific jerk and a standing back flip, a trick taught to him by his petite blonde fiancee, Whitney Wonnacott. He'll marry her on June 1 in Denver, once she's done cheerleading for BYU and graduated in broadcast journalism.

"So excited about that," says Fredette, who, like Tebow, has publicly stated he's a virgin. "Getting married is the most important decision I've ever made."

Does Fredette want kids?

"We'll wait a few years," he says.

If it's a boy, might I suggest Jimmest?

Anyhow, things are starting to shimmer for The Jimmer. In just over a week, the Kings have sold more than 1,000 Jimmer jerseys and now have two full-time employees affixing his name on the backs of blank ones to meet demand.

Plus, he's getting monster minutes from Kings coach Paul Westphal, who's a Fredette Freak already. The other day in practice, Jimmer was coming up to the hash mark -- 28 feet from the hoop -- when Westphal hollered, "Shoot it!"

"Why not?" Westphal says. "Every time he shoots it, I think it's going in. It's beautiful and effortless."

"I like how much space there is in the NBA," Fredette says. "And if I get double-teamed, the guy I pass it to is an NBA player. He can hit shots."

His dad, Al, saw all this coming.

[+] EnlargeRick Reilly and Jimmer Fredette
Jason Wise/Sacramento KingsRick Reilly pays up.

"Nobody ever thinks Jimmer can do what he does. I remember he was in the eighth grade. He was playing in a high school tournament. This one coach said something beforehand about the 'chubby kid being so slow.' Jimmer lit them up. Afterward, I walked by the guy and said, 'Hey, how'd you let that chubby kid beat you like that?'"

The chubby kid isn't chubby anymore, but he's still a little person in the NBA -- 6-foot-2 (maybe) and 195 pounds (sort of). He'll try to use that body to stop Kobe Bryant -- Bryant's injured right wrist willing -- and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kings' opener the day after Christmas.

"I've never met him," Fredette says, "but I've always been a big fan."

Kid's got a lot to learn about trash talk ...

... and defense. Can he score more than he gives up?

"That's what we're about to find out," Westphal says.

... and the rookie wall. He's going to be playing a lockout-shortened jailbreak season that will have him playing 66 games with only 56 days off. And, unlike BYU, the Kings want him to work both ends.

But seeing how he's playing on a Kings team that would love to put Tyreke Evans at shooting guard, Fredette may be the starting point guard before long.

Former ESPN NBA analyst and current Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson thinks Fredette could stick as a starter. He got his first pro look at The Jimmer in his Warriors' loss to the Kings on Tuesday night and declared, "The kid is going to be a very good pro. He can play. He's tough. He competes. You can see that."

Why didn't he tell me that $5,000 ago?


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "Monday Night Countdown," "SportsCenter," and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


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