A year ago at this time, I was goin’ all Robby Benson on the Hall of Fame Voters. Reggie Miller, the face of the Pacer franchise, had failed to even make the list of finalists.
Fortunately, this year, I won’t have to go searching through YouTube for clips from Ice Castles or Ode to Billy Joe, as Reggie Miller was one of 12 Finalists for election to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame announced Friday. Here are some of the folks that join Reggie on that list:
- Bernard King and Mo Cheeks – two of my favorite players from the 80s.
- Don Nelson and Dick Motta – a couple of coaches whose performances in the 80s were unfortunately overshadowed by the presence of Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Showtime Lakers.
- Jamaal Wilkes – Silk was a prototypical small forward, winning titles with Golden State and the early Showtime Lakers.
- Ralph Sampson – Believe it or not, there was a point in time where he was bigger (metaphorically) than Jordan. The 7’4″ phenom whose career was best described by Chuck Klosterman when he said, “He was needed to remind people that their own self-imposed mediocrity is better than choking on transcendence.”
- Katrina McClain and the All American Red Heads from the Women’s Committee, and referee Hank Nichols
- Rick Pitino and Bill Fitch – two men who had profound impacts on two key people in the Pacers’ current leadership. Pitino gave Pacer coach Frank Vogel his first NBA job – as Video Coordinator for the Boston Celtics. Larry Bird has cited Bill Fitch as the best coach he ever played for, crediting him with helping instill the work ethic that Bird feels was so much a part of his success.
Now it is time for Pacer fans to wait for the induction. As a finalist, Reggie Miller’s credentials are as good, if not better, than those brought by anyone else on this list. However, if most Pacer fans are like me, it’s not the numbers or awards that make Reggie a Hall of Famer.
The reason we know Reg belongs in the Hall is engrained in our NBA DNA. It is burned in our memories. Our recollection of how it felt both when Miller tormented the Knicks and Spike Lee with 25 4th quarter points, and just a few days later when we sobbed with him in the locker room after losing game 7. Moments of glory both permanent and fleeting. Superman T-shirts in Milwaukee and a past-his-prime post-brawl Reggie Miller gathering up his remaining strength to salvage an unsalvageable season, even winning a playoff series.
For some, we remember leaving a message for Alex Yovanovich, bemoaning the Pacers’ loss in Game 5 of a 2002 First Round Playoff series to the Nets, but being interrupted by a banked in 40-footer by Uncle Reg. The result: first one, then two overtimes, and an everlasting moment of hilarity for Alex and his wife, Andrea, as they played back the stammering voice mail.
For all, we remember playoff success, trash talk, and of course, 8 points in 9 seconds.
Being of fan of any team in any sport is an act of public intimacy. Many people love the same thing, but each at their own way, and each for their own intensely personal reasons. For me, though basketball has been deeply entwined in my history, no team has had more personal importance than the Pacers, and no single player or person outside of my family has meant more to my relationship with basketball than Reggie Miller.
Intellectually, I understand the Hall of Fame, and I have a great deal of respect for all of its members. Emotionally, however, the Hall of Fame has remained empty – incomplete – as long as Reggie is not there.
Friday, February 24th was a step in the right direction. If all goes right, Monday, April 2nd will be a day for all Pacer fans will remember for a very long time.