Miller's loyalty could bring him back to Indiana
Through all his trash talking with Knicks fan Spike Lee, his long-range jumpers, clutch shots and playoff wins, Reggie Miller hopes when fans recall his career that one quality stands out - his loyalty.
Miller played his entire career, almost two decades, with the Indiana Pacers. He will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, and he likes the fact that there's no question he will be thought of as a Pacer.
''I hope what people remember is that I had the chance to play 18 years with one organization,'' Miller said in a telephone interview. ''If anything, I hope people understand that you can be just as successful in a small market as you can in New York or L.A. or Chicago. I wouldn't trade those 18 years for anything.''
That loyalty could eventually bring Miller back to Indianapolis. Team president Larry Bird is unsure he will return next year and Miller wouldn't mind running the franchise, whether it be next year or down the road.
''Absolutely, it's a great possibility,'' said Miller, now a TNT analyst. ''Even though I wasn't born in Indiana, I call it my home state. It's something that's definitely a possibility.''
Miller's loyalty drew him to another Indiana legend, former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Though Manning has signed with the Denver Broncos after 14 years with Indianapolis, Miller said Manning shared his love for Indy.
''I know Peyton very well,'' Miller said. ''I had an opportunity to speak with him. He wanted to stay, he wanted to end his career there, but obviously, the Colts were going in a different direction, and they have every right to do that. But I'm just speaking from a personal relationship because I'm a homer and I'm a loyalist and I love guys who want to be in small markets. I'll always be on Team Peyton because he wanted to stay.''
Miller helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference finals six times and the NBA Finals in 2000. The five-time All-Star is in the Pacers' top 10 in 13 categories. He scored 25,279 points in his career and up until last season, was the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point field goals with 2,560. He once scored eight points in 8.9 seconds during a playoff game against the New York Knicks.
Though Miller fondly remembers those games with New York, one of Miller's best memories is how the 2004-2005 team, short-handed after suspensions from the brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans early that season, rallied to reach the second round of the playoffs.
Bird played against a young Miller and knew when he later coached him that the guard was good enough to join him in the hall.
''They had a scoring team when I was playing against him,'' said Bird, who played his entire career with the Boston Celtics. ''You always had to faceguard Reggie, try to make him put it on the floor. You always knew that he was going to be a very good player in this league. You really don't think about the Hall of Fame until you get done playing, but when I was coaching him, I knew he'd have a great shot at getting in.''
Bird remembers that Miller's work ethic stood out, even among other successful, hardworking players such as Sam Perkins, Dale Davis, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson.
''I think that it was all because of Reggie,'' he said. ''Not that them guys wouldn't work hard, but Reggie tended to stay after practice, do a lot of shooting, and back then, we'd have all 13 guys out there after practice for at least an hour.''
Miller said part of his success comes from having played for three Hall-of-Famers - Jack Ramsay, Larry Brown and Bird.
''What I had was a chance to be a fly on the wall and take something from each of them,'' he said. ''Dr. Jack Ramsay preached and talked to me about fitness and staying in shape, Larry Brown taught me how to win and how to pay close attention to detail. Larry Bird is a perfectionist and all about sacrifice.''
Miller's ability to shine in critical situations stood out to former Pacers president Donnie Walsh, the man responsible for drafting the skinny guard from UCLA in 1987.
''He has had a Hall of Fame career and I'm very happy for him,'' Walsh said in a statement. ''I thought he was going to be a very good player, but what you couldn't predict was Reggie became a great player because he could rise to the occasion and hit shots in the most crucial times of games. He was able to elevate everyone around him because of how hard he worked and how he could win the game at the end.''
Miller believes that Walsh, who built the Pacers into a powerhouse, should join him in the hall.
''When the voters reconvene and they're talking about guys getting ready to go into the Hall of Fame, they need to mention Donnie Walsh,'' Miller said. ''You talk about my 18 years, well I only had one general manager/president for all that time, and that was Donnie. He had the same vision that I had, to build Indiana from the ground up.''
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