This is fascinating.
A reason to retire
Simple missed free throw confirmed Miller's plan to walk away from the game.
By Mark Montieth
The moment of truth came Jan. 15, with 3.3 seconds left in a game against Orlando at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Reggie Miller stepped to the line for three free throws after drawing a foul on a 3-pointer. The Pacers trailed by three points. He had faced similar situations so many times before, and seemingly came through each time.
Not this one. He missed the first attempt. After hitting the second, he tried to miss the third to create a scoring opportunity off an offensive rebound, but scored again.
Miller shrugged off the odd turn of events after the loss. "I just missed it," he told reporters.
Several weeks later, however, he revealed that was the moment he decided to retire.
"I never thought that ever, ever, ever would happen," Miller said. "I thought, 'There's no way. This would never have happened before.' "
If Miller had hit that first free throw, would he be coming back next season?
"Maybe," he said. "Maybe."
Such irony. The seventh-ranked free throw shooter in NBA history based on percentage, and one of the game's greatest clutch shooters, based his decision to retire in part on a lone missed free throw.
The further irony is that Miller went on to win his fifth free throw title, with a career-best .933 percentage. Only Rick Barry and Bill Sharman led the league as many times. He hit a franchise-record 61 consecutive attempts from Feb. 5 through March 13, and later had a streak of 60.
Regardless of the impetus for his retirement, Miller's success over 18 seasons hinged on shot-making. His 3-pointers and all the drama that surrounded them, particularly in the playoffs, likely will stamp his ticket to the Hall of Fame. His foul shooting was just as influential on the outcome of games.
Miller is the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made (2,560) and attempted (6,486). Some believe that mark is untouchable. The player with the best chance to catch him is Seattle's Ray Allen, who has hit 1,486 3-pointers in 3,742 attempts. Allen, who turns 30 in July, would have to hit an average of 154 3-pointers for seven more years to do so. He hit 209 last season, so health and desire will be determining factors.
It wasn't just the 3-pointers Miller hit that made a difference. The mere threat of them stretched defenses, created opportunities and helped get him to the foul line for all those virtual gimmes.
"They go hand in hand," Miller said. "With my 3-point shooting and my mid-range game, that sets up me going to the free throw line. You always want to make teams pay.
"I treat it like Deion Sanders," he said, referring to the NFL defensive back who forced opponents to throw away from his side of the field. "I like when I come off screens and three guys jump out at me. (That means) somebody else is open."
Miller's foul shooting didn't inspire as much drama as his 3-point shooting, but it probably affected as many games. He finished his career with 6,237 free throws in 7,026 attempts for a percentage of .888. He's as proud of the volume as he is the accuracy. Of the top 30 all-time foul shooters, nobody else took more than 4,471 (Larry Bird).
"It's not like I've shot two here or three there," Miller said. "I've shot a lot of them."
Miller owns another more obscure record that probably will have a longer survival rate than his 3-point marks. He converted 24 four-point plays in his career while drawing a foul on a 3-point shot, 10 more than the next-highest active player, Dirk Nowitzki.
It's not an official NBA statistic, but one of many niche marks kept by league historian Harvey Pollack. Miller, however, takes nearly as much pride in it as any of his other imprints on the record book.
He didn't get his first four-point play until his third NBA season, his second didn't come until his sixth season and he had just four heading into his 10th season. Over time, however, that infamous leg kick while releasing his shot duped opponents and referees alike and serves as a legacy for his gamesmanship.
"I love that one," he said.
Call Star reporter Mark Montieth at (317) 444-6406.