When I was in junior high, I had a moment of identity crisis when Michael Jordan retired from basketball. My style, my swagger and of course how I tried to play basketball were derived from whatever bits of information I could find out about MJ in season highlight VHS tapes, Nike ads and Sports Illustrated for Kids features. I modeled my persona after what I imagined Michael Jordan was like. Then he retired, and I needed a new template. I needed someone to validate the NBA as worth all the years I had invested in it. I doubted the league could continue without Mike, but I still searched for my next personal basketball icon.
Enter Reggie Miller. Bombing threes, running his mouth and leading an untested Indiana Pacer team into the hostile Madison Square Garden. It was perfect. There was life and death sports drama. The good versus evil narrative of small town versus the world’s most famous city. As soon as that series started, I had adopted Reggie Miller as my own. We shared the same gangly physique and even the same surname. When I bought his Indiana road jersey, it was our shared name that was slung over the 31 on the back.
As Reggie Miller now officially stands among the greatest to ever play the game with his induction into the Hall of Fame, I’m reminded just how important a figure he was for the game of basketball. He combined the outward swagger of Jordan with the feathery and clutch touch of Larry Bird. There was a general awkwardness to his game, that made him flat out unpredictable. He would change speeds suddenly, flop more than a European football star and manage to run his mouth in circles around his opponents. Oh the ear fulls that John Starks must have endured. Spike Lee as well for that matter!
I used to love watching how Reggie would get open for the ball. He would run those crazy zig-zagging routes of the floor, coming of screens and double screens, working the clock down and finally getting just enough day light to hit a step back three over his man’s outstretched arms. And then there were the push offs, which we all saw, which the Knicks lamented, and which Reggie finally admitted to while standing behind the Hall of Fame podium itself.
I still think its a shame that a player like Reggie never got his own signature shoe. The shoes he chose to wear we’re iconic and impressive enough. He rocked all manners of Jordan’s, Air Huraches and Up Tempos. It was frankly hard to keep up with what was on Reggie’s feet from night to night. This was in the days before social media and Facebook would have made it possible to tag screen shots of his shoes every game.
Reggie never seemed crazy athletic. He seemed fit enough to run those circles around his frantic defenders, but he clearly wasn’t on any performance enhancers. It made him approachable. He seemed like the crazy kid from down the street of the NBA. Just crashing the party, showing up on the sidelines of the Garden and declaring ‘I got next.’
The NBA misses players like Reggie Miller. Crazy talented and passionate players who seem like they were born to play basketball AND who come with a flat out bizarre once in a lifetime personality that you can either love or hate. Maybe we’ve got a new stock of them in guys like Rondo and Russell Westbrook. But Reggie will forever be remembered as one of the crazy ones. Rumor has it that he talked trash to everyone in the league EXCEPT Michael Jordan. He admitted during his acceptance speech that the only reason he didn’t talk to MJ was because he feared the wrath of trash talk that MJ would send right back after him.
So here’s to Reggie Miller. Literally the greatest three-point shooter to ever play the game and arguably one of the most clutch players to ever play the game. We’re glad you’re still a part of the NBA family with your role at TNT, and we heartily hope that the next generation will be inspired by how you turned a simple game into the best drama on television. Your heroics and theatrics will be remembered forever. And on a personal note, thank you for being my personal escort into the murky hallways of the post-Jordan NBA. No one could have predicted how you flat out stole the game’s attention over night and cemented yourself as one of the legendary ones.
Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!Tweet