Yesterday, in a win over the NBA Finals hopeful San Antonio Spurs, Reggie Miller became just the 13th player in NBA history to score 25,000 points. This puts him in a rare class – a group that includes Kareem, Jordan, Wilt, Hakeem, Domanique, and Malone (both Karl and Moses) – and cements him as a NBA Hall of Fame player.
So why is it that so many people downplay what he’s done?
Reggie Miller has scored more points with the same team than everyone in NBA history, aside from John Havlicek (with the Celtics) and Jerry West (with the Lakers). He needs only 179 points to pass Jerry West, and just 1,392 points to pass Havlicek. This is something that, in today’s big money league of little loyalty, will probably never be done again. In fact, the only two players I could see getting close to doing this are Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, and both play power forward, a physical position that may very well shorten their careers before they reach the milestone. On top of this, Miller has played more years with the same team than almost anyone else in NBA history, trailing only John Stockton.
Aside from Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller is considered the best clutch player in NBA history. Without a stat to quantify this (like baseball, which has stats like “average with runners in scoring position” and “hits after the 7th inning”) basketball players can really only rely on what people remember, and Miller has ended more games with a clutch three pointer than Knicks fans would care to count. He is, simply put the second best clutch shooter in history, and the best from behind the arc.
Reggie was the best, and was at his best, when he was getting into other players heads. This is where many basketball fans develop their disdain for the turtle-shaped head Miller. According to Sam Smith in an article that I pilfered heavily (and could be the best way to sum up Reggie Miller’s career), the Reggie Miller that everyone knows…
mugs with Spike Lee and so frustrated John Starks he attempted to strangle Miller. He even drove Michael Jordan to perhaps his weakest moment as a pro when he raked his fingernails across Miller’s face in an apparent attempt to disfigure him.
once spit into the crowd, has bowed to all four sides of a visiting arena after a game winning shots, got up loudly cursing Shaquille O’Neal after a collision and dared O’Neal to hit him harder.
This is the same player who, after the greatest 8.9 seconds in basketball (where Reggie buried a three-point shot, stole the inbounds pass, walked back behind the arc and buried another three-point shot, then followed up with two free throws to end up with eight points in the final seconds) went on the David Letterman show and showed everyone in the audience (which was, predictably, compiled of Knicks fans) the choke sign. You hated him on the court. Like you’re supposed to hate your opponent. And he used that to his advantage.
But, most of all, aside from how he conducts himself on the court, Reggie Miller is one of the best examples of a kind, thoughtful superstar – the kind of basketball legend that hasn’t let his legend go to his head. Reggie Miller has hung on years after his prime to coach and tutor the Indiana Pacers’ young stars – players like Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington (now with Atlanta) and Jonathan Bender. Reggie Miller keeps his promises, like when he found himself with conflict, yet still chartered a plane to be with a bench guy who never played because he had promised. That bench guy? Fred Hoiberg. Reggie Miller calls schools to ask if he can come in and sign autographs, to counsel the kids. Reggie Miller is an elder statesman that makes the league proud, for once, instead of acting spoiled and full of himself.
Reggie Miller, for five years, wore braces on his legs while watching his sister, Cheryl, become a Hall of Fame basketball player, because he couldn’t walk correctly with pronated hips. He’s never been the best player at his position – let alone in basketball (his prime was during the time of Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, and Joe Dumars) but he is the best clutch shooter of his time.
Reggie Miller is a Hall of Famer. Reggie Miller, the face of the Indiana Pacers franchise for nearly 20 years, is everything that you hate in an opponent, and everything you love in a teammate.
Reggie Miller is a superstar, even today. And Reggie Miller is better than most people ever give him credit for.