Reggie!....Reggie!.....Reggie!....Reggie!...echoed throughout the Springfield Symphony Hall, in Springfield, Mass, as Reggie Miller was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, on September 7th, 2012. He headlined a class that also featured a former Pacer, Mel Daniels (Uncle Mel as Reggie puts it), and one of the NBA's greatest coaches, Don Nelson. Rewind 35 years and ask a 12 yr old Reggie if he ever could have imagined such an honor? I'm sure he would have found it hard to believe because by his own admission, he didn't even consider himself the best basketball player, in his own house.
"I just so happened to live across the hall from absolutely, positively the greatest woman’s basketball player ever," Miller said as his sister stood by his side. "I'm proud to say that I am not on this stage if it wasn't for you, Cheryl Deaan. We rode your shoulders all the way here. So thank you for your help." Such humble words, from a guy that many would say, was anything but humble during his playing career. I think Cheryl always had a nach for humbling Reggie, though. Reggie often spoke of his sister blocking his shot growing up, and then telling him,"Go put on your big boy pants, and then come back!" From a male's perspective; I don't think there could be anything more humbling than getting your shot blocked by your sister. Reggie said that's how he developed his high arching, unorthodox shot- The shot that ended up tormenting so many NBA teams. That’s also how he began to develop his gritty determination, and ability to get under the opponents skin. Little did Cheryl know, that she was helping mold the most prolific 3 point shooter, (at the time he retired) in the NBA's history.
Reggie had a special thanks for Pacers long-time GM, Donnie Walsh. Who will if you can recall, passed up on hometown hero, Steve Alford, and took Reggie with the 11th pick in the 1987 draft. This move was unbelievably un-popular at the time. Ask any Pacers fan now, if they have any regrets in taking Miller over Alford, and I would be shocked to hear anything other than, "absolutely not." "Thank You to Donnie Walsh, for taking a gamble on a skinny, big eared kid from Riverside," Miller said. Miller went on to praise the state of Indiana. "Thank You to the great state of Indiana." "Blue and Gold nation, thank you so much." This statement was followed by possibly the loudest ovation of the night. Reggie absolutely loved Indiana. He proved this by spending his entire 18 yr career in a Pacers uniform. Something we can't thank him enough for. Some of the greatest sports memories of my life were during the mid to late 90's, when Reggie was in his prime.
I'll never forget the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks. This was the series that made Reggie Miller a household name. In game 5, Reggie scored 25 of his 39 points in the 4th quarter. That outburst led to a 93-86 victory at Madison Square Garden; which ended up putting the Pacers up 3-2 in the series. That performance was highlighted by Reggie Miller, and Spike Lee, engaging in a back and forth theatrical discussion about Miller's performance. That discussion eventually led to the most publicized feud, between a player and fan, in the history of sports. Miller famously wrapped both hands around his neck, demonstrating what he thought was the Knicks choking in the clutch. Needless to say that Spike, and pretty much every single other New Yorker, took exception to that gesture. Thus, the Knicks, and Pacers rivalry was born.
The very next season, in the 95 Eastern Conference Finals, Miller had another extraordinary performance against the Knicks. With 18.7 seconds remaining in game 1, the Pacers had the ball, and were down 6 points (105-99). They inbounded the ball to Miller, who immediately banged in a 3. Miller then stole the inbound pass, had the presence of mind to take two dribbles backwards, and then hit another 3 to tie the game with 13.2 seconds left on the clock. I had never seen anything like it. It was unbelievable! The Knicks got the ball in bounds, and the Pacers fouled John Starks. He went to line, and missed both the free throws. Reggie corralled the rebound and was fouled. He stepped up and sank both free throws, which put Indiana up 2. The final score ended up 107-105. Miller out-scored the entire Knicks team 8-0 in the final 18.7 seconds. These heroics were documented in a movie titled, "Winning Time, Reggie Miller vs New York Knicks." (a must see!)
Reggie Miller made a name for himself, by thriving in the clutch.
You loved him, or hated him, either way he didn't care. He enjoyed being the villain, just as much as being the Hero. Whether he made you stand up and cheer, or cuss at the TV in disgust, he was always entertaining. Ask almost any guy who played against him, and they would probably shake their head, and say they didn't like him. Although, I bet in the same breath, they would say they not only respected him, but also feared the consequences of motivating him. He was the guy that when you first saw him, you didn't expect much, but he surprised you every time.
Reggie Miller had his own unique kind of swagger; a swagger that usually pissed people off. That was just Reggie though. Not that many athletes can talk the kind if trash he did, and then back it up. He was always that itch, you just couldn't quit scratch.
I'll never forget all the excitement Reggie brought to central Indiana throughout the 90's. Reggie Miller was a once in a lifetime kind of player. Thank You Reggie for all you have done for the game of basketball. Congrats on the much deserved HOF nomination!