For an entire generation of Pacers fans, nay, Indiana sports fans, there will never be another Reggie Miller. His impact while with the Indiana Pacers between 1987-2005 was impossible to measure. His place in resurrecting a once proud ABA franchise, helping take down the black curtains covering seats at Market Square Arena, and making the Pacers one of the Eastern Conference's premier franchises deserved no other ending than a spot at the Hall of Fame.
It was fitting that Reggie Miller would be the closer to the Hall of Fame ceremonies, as he often did in his career, having the final say in the outcome of the events. His opening words, "This is awesome," led off a great speech full of thanks, humility, and wonderful stories. Miller's awkward shot was always a trademark, and as he was quick to point out, one of his idols was fellow inductee Jamaal Wilkes, noting that if it worked for Silk, it would work for him, despite his own failures.
Reggie also had many thanks for Mel Daniels, affectionately Uncle Mel, who was one of the first people he talked to when he arrived in Indiana. It was Daniels who helped Reggie understand the history of the Pacers, the greatness of the franchise in their ABA glory days, and what it meant to play for a team that had set standards in the basketball world, despite the franchise's decade of futility while in the NBA.
Miller was accompanied by his sister Cheryl Miller, as well as Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson, citing his friendship with Chuck, while also expressing gratitude for Magic in taking Reggie under his wing, teaching him how to "lie and cheat" while at UCLA. Miller explained that in pick up games in those days, it would be impossible to win because of Magic's tactics, leading Miller to understand the need to win by any means necessary.
Understanding his journey wasn't made alone, Miller took time to thank his teammates, giving a standing ovation for those in attendance, including Travis Best (decked out in a very loud, very awesome shirt), Austin Croshere, Jeff Foster, and Chris Mullin. He would go on to thank his coaches, from the values he learned from UCLA to Larry Bird, who showed Reggie what true pressure was: playing for Larry Bird.
Miller was excited to remind his former coach that the pressure worked; they had never lost at Boston Garden, something Bird was quick to remind Reggie that they had, in fact, suffered a loss at Boston under his tenure as head coach. Reggie was of course skeptical about ending up in Indiana, he didn't take Donnie Walsh's general silence during his visit to mean good things for ending up there, but was grateful to get the opportunity to come play in Indiana.
Of course, it was the state of Indiana, the fans of the Pacers, and the ones who had made the trek to Springfield to be at the ceremony, who Reggie shared gratitude with as well, feeling they together helped remove those curtains that closed off the seats at MSA, allowing the fans to grow. Reggie of course spent time thanking his sister Cheryl, thanking her for pushing him and bringing him to the spot he was at; and his family, his supportive and dedicated parents and his competitive and open siblings.
At that point, Miller found it appropriate to "confess some sins," as he put it, apologizing to Greg Anthony, who he says, he did push during the 1995 NBA Playoffs in the infamous Game 1 comeback, and the storied 8 points in 9 seconds. He also confessed that he did push Michael Jordan in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, citing that he had seen Michael do it time and time before, feeling it was okay, all part of Magic's lesson to win by any means necessary.
Reggie offered up his "Welcome to the NBA" moment, where as a rookie during a preseason game against Chicago, he was urged to talk a little trash to Jordan, where in the first half Reggie put up 10 to Michael's 8, the game finished with Jordan totaling 40 points, while Miller had only twelve. It helped Reggie realize that he needed to let his game do the talking, something he would do his entire career, though never shying away from letting his mouth carry the weight.
Miller offered one last round of thanks as he officially became enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, allowing him and Mel Daniels to become the first Pacers in the Hall of Fame to have made their marks in the league as Indiana Pacers. Both Daniels and Miller may have been overdue, but it's better late than never, and per Daniels's wishes, he hopes that he and Miller can hold the doors open for future Pacers enshrinement. Congratulations, Reggie Miller. His impact as a player and as an icon are so much more important than can be measured, and his great speech couldn't have been any better of an indicator to that importance of character and success.