BY CHAD SMITH
We all know championships mean a lot, sometimes they mean everything. So, how much does everything else mean?
In today’s world where LeBron James teams up with Wade and Bosh, and where the “Big Three” in Boston have had their greatest success as a trio of well-aged players, there are those that choose to stay loyal. Those that choose to go forward with the long haul.
This is not Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Amare Stoudamire wanting to go to New York. This is not Paul Gasol being gift wrapped and shipped out to L.A. for nothing in exchange. This is something more meaningful, something more true and loyal. This is one man sticking with one franchise because they believed in him from the beginning.
Reggie Miller made the long trip from UCLA to Indianapolis as the eleventh pick in the 1987 NBA draft. Virtually the entire state of Indiana wanted the Pacers to take Steve Alford, the Indiana Hoosiers standout player, but the Pacers believed Reggie was the guy for them. Hearts broke when the Pacers passed on Alford and took the lanky kid out of UCLA. Fans didn’t know what to think. In their eyes, his older sister was more famous that he was.
It would be interesting to hear from those same fans today. Although nobody can tell what is going to happen, it is clear that the Pacers made the right choice.
Reggie became one of the most deadly shooters the NBA has ever seen. His clutch shots acted as bloody daggers to fellow NBA stars. People in New York and Knicks fans everywhere cringe at the very sound of his name. What Reggie did to the people in that state, and that organization, was just simply electrifying. One of the most memorable plays in NBA history belongs to Reggie, of course involving the Knicks. It is simply known as; eight points, nine seconds.
He is the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers. He is every meaning of the word clutch. Even the greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have said that Reggie was the toughest player they have ever had to guard.
This time next year in Springfield, Reggie should be ceremoniously inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are some that question his status there, because he never won a championship, and didn’t have the regular season statistics that most other superstars had. To them I would ask, have you ever seen a Pacers/Knicks playoff game? When the playoffs would begin, Reggie came alive. He became this creature that seemed to be built for playoff type games.
Reggie could become the first full-time Pacer to ever make it into the Hall of Fame. Although others should be in (Slick Leonard, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown, and George McGinnis) nobody is more deserving as a Pacer than Reggie.
Miller currently ranks as the 14th leading scorer of all time with 25,279 points. There are 15 NBA players who have scored 25,000 points or more, and every one (besides Miller and current players Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant) are in the Hall of Fame.
When the Pacers lost in the NBA Finals to the Lakers, they pushed it to six games. Before that, they had made the Eastern Conference Finals five of the past seven seasons. Not counting his rookie year, the Pacers only missed the playoffs twice during Reggie’s 18-year career. Jordan and the Bulls often indicated it was the end of the road.
Only John Stockton played more games for a single franchise. The only other teams Reggie really played for were the numerous All-Star teams, and when he joined the 1996 USA Olympic Team that won a Gold Medal.
In his 18-year NBA career (all with Indiana) he was tireless in his work for the community and the franchise, and he was eternally loyal. He could have chased rings at the end, could have come out of retirement and grabbed one with the Celtics, but being a Pacer for life meant more.
Next summer in Springfield…it’s Miller time.