Long article, but really worth reading.
Making a Lean Break
Career overachiever Reggie Miller is calling his shot on retirement. Barring a change of heart, call him slim and done after this season.
By Mark Heisler, Times Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Is it really almost 22 years since Reggie Miller, 6 feet 6 and 170 pounds, most of it bravado, was a UCLA freshman, launching shots from what now is the 818 area code, before horrified Bruin fans and John Wooden himself?
People wondered why Coach Larry Farmer didn't tell Miller to move in a yard or two. Who knew Reggie was the exception to every rule in the book?
Who would have believed this stick figure would be the greatest Bruin after Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton, the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers and, at Miller's current pace, the No. 13 all-time scorer, right up there with Jerry West at No. 12?
Not even Miller, whose audacity rivaled his shooting range, bargained on this.
Tonight, barring miracles, the Indiana Pacer guard will make his last appearance in Los Angeles in the game against the Lakers. He announced his retirement three weeks ago. In the nicest compliment a 39-year-old player can get, the question everyone asks is: Why?
"I don't know," Pacer President Donnie Walsh said. "It's Reggie. I mean, he's got it in his head he wants to do that.
"The day after he told everybody he was retiring, he got 36 points. So, I mean, how many guys are going to come in this league the next five years, can score 36 points?"
Reggie being Reggie, the question won't be answered for the moment, or ever.
He's walking away from a $6-million contract and a last shot at a title when Ron Artest returns next season. The team hopes he changes his mind. Given his dedication and rare shooting ability, he probably could play until he was 50 if he wanted to.
"I could but I'm not going to," he says. "It's time to go."
"Time to move on. I think this team is in a good place. This organization is in a good place. Time to move on."
The interview lasts two minutes before Miller clasps the writer, who covered him at UCLA, on the shoulder affectionately and, sure enough, moves on.
No, he isn't like anyone else, either as showman or basketball player.
"The only thing big on him is his ears," teammate Sam Perkins once said. "Other than that, the man just comes with a big attitude and a big heart. He's very different from everybody else in the league."
Miller ran on attitude, driven by the disrespect he perceived and courted. In Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Lakers, he made one of 16 shots and attributed it to insufficient hatred of his opponent.
"I don't have any bad feelings about L.A.," he said. "… I'm more upset with myself now. Now I got to contend with myself, which is kind of scary, if you can believe that."
He averaged 28 points the rest of the way.
He was the game's premier shooter and its premier hotdog, giving Spike Lee the choke sign, bowing in all four directions after making a game-winning shot on the road.
Off the floor, however, the attitude vanished. He was low-key, down-to-earth and popular with coaches, players and staffers. He was known within the organization for the charity work he took on, on the condition there would be absolutely no publicity. Team officials often learned he had done something when someone called to thank them.
The bigger Miller got, the more he fenced with reporters, who once would just ask about some controversy, when they noticed him at all. Now it was worse; they treated him like a star.
He was Kris Kristofferson's "walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction." The fictional character called out giants and slew them; the real one was embarrassed when anyone noticed.
During a playoff series against the Chicago Bulls in 1998, Miller acknowledged that he had mellowed, after fighting so long for "credibility and respect."
When he was asked about it at that day's interview session, he answered, "Where's this talk from?"
His quote in that morning's paper, someone said.
"Changed in what way?" Miller asked. "I don't know what way."
"I've always been a mellow guy," Miller said. "I'm just more competitive when I'm on the floor."
Did he do fewer of his old tricks?
"Such as?" Miller asked.
"The things we enjoy so much," someone said.
"Oh, really?" he said. "You guys enjoy that, huh? Well, I'm not going to write your papers for you. No, no, no. I'm out here to win ballgames. If that's a part of it, so be it.
"Thanks, guys. Go get Mark."
That was teammate Mark Jackson. Miller picked up his stuff and strolled off.
The Millers of Riverside
I still remember the night I came home from a high school game. I had scored 39 points. Man, I was feeling good about myself. Then Cheryl came home.
"Cheryl, I got 39."
"Reggie, that's great."
"Yeah, so how'd you do?"
"Uh, I got 105."
— Reggie Miller,
"I Love Being the Enemy"
Cheryl was a prodigy. Older brother Darrell would play five seasons with the Angels. Reggie was the one born with pronated hips, who slept with braces on his legs until he was 4 and was always trying to catch up.
He got the UCLA offer at the end of Farmer's tenure, only after Reggie Williams, Antoine Joubert and Tom Sheehy, the three national recruits they were saving it for, turned it down.
Pac-10 crowds chanted "Cher-yl" at Reggie but it went back further than that.
"I think that's when it all started, you know, always being compared," Reggie once said. "And there's nothing wrong with having, in my mind, the greatest woman basketball player of all time as your sis.
"Every opposing arena we went to, that's where it always started in high school and it's been like that ever since."
Reggie became a star too, if a notorious one. As a sophomore, he spat at a Brigham Young player. As a senior in a loss at Arizona, he rubbed his fingers together at referee Booker Turner, suggesting he had been paid off.
Walsh interviewed Miller, discovered he didn't have fangs, and drafted him at No. 11 in 1987. With Indiana University's Steve Alford available, coming off an NCAA championship, the pick produced a furor — "Everybody from Red Auerbach, who said it publicly on television, to people in the street," Walsh says.
Instead of the local icon, Pacer fans got a brat from California, which, the way they reckoned, was somewhere between Sodom and Gomorrah.
What were the odds that 18 years later, Alford would be coaching an IU rival, Iowa, and Miller would be an icon in Indiana?
If the truth were known, Miller was probably as happy to come to Indiana as Indiana was to have him.
"You know, it was different, obviously, coming from L.A.," he says. "But I think anything would be different, coming from L.A., or coming from New York. But I wanted to make the best of it, which I have. I'm happy with that."
He even moved there year-round and didn't come back to California for the summer, although a few years ago, he did buy a place in Malibu. He's not entirely Hoosier, but close.
Prince of the City
Everyone needs a foil. For Miller, it was New York, itself, where they'll never forget him.
He took it to a new level in the '90s "Hicks-Knicks" battles when Pat Riley's team was in his "Game of Force" heyday and his players did everything but put a price on Reggie's head.
"A lot of guys told me, 'This guy won't last; look at his legs, look at his body.' " Walsh says. "And I used to laugh at that. Then when we started playing against the Knicks, I started to worry about it.
"This was back when they were really good and they were after Reggie. They hit him after every single play, hard. They would knock him down and he would get up, hit the three and say, 'Take that, you….'
"One game, Reggie went to break to the ball, they overplayed him and he cut backdoor. And [Charles] Oakley was coming to help and when he saw Reggie go backdoor, he knocked him so hard, I didn't think the kid was going to get up. Reggie never saw him. They didn't even call a foul.
"But that's the way he was treated back in those days. Yet, he just picked himself up, shot the ball."
In Miller's 1994 breakout in Madison Square Garden, he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, making five three-pointers, and gave Lee, who had been taunting him, the choke sign.
In the 1995 playoffs in the Garden, Miller scored eight points in the last 8.9 seconds, bringing his team back from a 105-99 deficit to win, 107-105.
Only the greatest players did things like that. In those moments, Miller was as great as anyone who ever played the game.
When the games ended, the tempest ebbed. Miller may have been a Knick nightmare, but he was a coach's dream.
After the Pacers lost in the 2000 NBA Finals to the Lakers, they broke up their nucleus, sending away Miller's best friend on the team, Jackson. Nevertheless, Reggie willingly took a step back to let the young players develop.
He would emerge from the weeds in the spring. In 2002, when he was 36 and his average was down to 16.5 points, he bumped it back up to 23.5 in the playoffs.
In a dramatic elimination game in New Jersey, he tied the score with a 40-foot three-pointer at the end of regulation. Then he tied it again with a driving dunk at the end of the first overtime before the Pacers fell in the second overtime.
Every season, it became more Jermaine O'Neal's and Artest's show, but Miller never uttered a peep.
"He's been here 18 years," Walsh says. "I have never seen him talk back to a coach. Ever.
"Larry Brown would get on him so bad, he'd be crying. But never talked back to him. And he always did what the coach asked him to do."
In Brown's last season in Indiana, when he was finding fault with something new every day, he remarked that his top players lacked leadership qualities.
"If Larry says we lack it," Miller said, "we lack it."
Forget a farewell tour. Miller didn't even want any recognition that this was his last time around the circuit, turning down request after request from the media.
Nevertheless, it's on. Thursday in Denver, Nugget General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe presented Miller with a check for his foundation.
Tonight he comes home. On April 5, the Pacers' last trip to New York, Knick fans will want to thank him for the memories, or for finally going away.
It won't be as much fun as giving Spike the choke sign. He won't even be able to hate them. What a predicament.
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Going the distance
Indiana's Reggie Miller is the all-time leader in three-point attempts and three-pointers made (through Thursday's games; * — active):
Career 3-point attempts leaders:
Rk. Player 3-pt. Att. Seasons
1. Reggie Miller* 6,359 18
2. Tim Hardaway 4,345 13
3. Dale Ellis 4,269 17
4. Nick Van Exel* 4,123 12
5. Vernon Maxwell 3,931 13
6. Glen Rice 3,896 15
7. Mookie Blaylock 3,816 13
8. Dan Majerle 3,798 14
9. John Starks 3,590 13
10. Ray Allen* 3,557 9