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By Conrad Brunner | Feb. 11, 2005 You want some breaking news? Keep reading.
Upon the occasion of Reggie Miller's retirement announcement, Chuck Person finally came clean, bared his soul and offered up a startling true confession.
"To go on the record, I think Reggie is one of the very few guys that I've shot against that really, at the end of the day, was better," said Person. "Consistently, shooting from day-to-day, if he had to make eight out of nine shots to beat me on a given day, he would make those – and probably 10 out of 10 most days.
"So yes, I'm having to swallow my pride here and say Reggie is and probably always will be a better shooter."
Legendarily confident as a player, Person was the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year when the Pacers drafted Miller out of UCLA in 1987. Now, Person, is the Pacers' Special Assistant to the Basketball Division and Miller is officially in the final season of his career.
"I think he was one of the greatest rookies that I ever hazed," Person said. "He took his lickings like a man. He never complained about us kicking the balls up into the stands. He had to go get them and put them on the rack, and then we'd kick them up there again. He did everything we asked him to do as a rookie and he never complained, so that's why he is who he is."
Well, that and the 2,506 shots he has made beyond the 3-point line, more than any player in NBA history, during his 18 seasons. They haven't all been last-second game-winners but enough have been, particularly in the playoffs – often against the New York Knicks – that Miller is assured a place in the Hall of Fame one day in the near future.
"He's the kind of guy, when you play against him, you want to smack him," said Patrick Ewing, who as the Knicks' center was in the middle of many playoff battles with Miller and the Pacers. "But when you play with him, you have his back. You have the utmost respect for him. He came out, he played hard and he did what he needed to do to help his team win."
Person ranks third on the Pacers' career list of 3-pointers made with 466 from 1986-92. After also playing for Minnesota, San Antonio, Charlotte and Seattle before retiring in 2000, he finished his career with 1,220 3-pointers to rank 17th on the NBA's all-time list.
"He came in with a lot less fanfare than a lot of guys that have gone on to the Hall of Fame," Person said. "He was one of those John Stockton types that came in without much expectation of being a great player but through hard work he made himself into just that.
"To see him grow from coming off the bench behind John Long to becoming one of the greatest players ever to play that position – and overall, period – it's great to see a player of such integrity and character go through 18 years with the same organization without a blemish on his record."
Miller made most of the big postseason shots in the Pacers' playoff history but one memorable moment – the jumper as time expired that gave the Pacers a victory in the "Memorial Day Miracle" game against Orlando in Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals – belonged to center Rik Smits.
"Like everybody else, the end-of-game situations were the most memorable for me," Smits said. "There was never any doubt who was going to get the ball. He was a phenomenal clutch player. He was good when I played with him, but watching him in the years afterward, he just kept getting smarter and better."
The first game after word of Miller's retirement announcement was made official on TNT Thursday night by his sister Cheryl was played Friday night against Houston in Conseco Fieldhouse. The Rockets' coach is none other than Jeff Van Gundy, formerly of the Knicks. One of his assistants is Ewing.
"He's had a lot of great moments – some great, some not-so-great against us," said Van Gundy, "but what I always liked about him is he never shied away from taking shots and living with being a goat or a hero."