In middle school, I had Champion fleece crewneck. Dark navy with “Indiana Pacers” emblazoned across the torso. And Reggie Miller’s the reason why I bought it.
It’s not like Pacers gear was in demand outside of Indiana so I’m pretty sure I picked the thing up on sale somewhere. Still, that sweatshirt carried a deeper meaning for me. Right around time Cube dropped his debut, Charles Barkley and Miller were vying for the basketball equivalent of “The Nigga Ya Love To Hate.” In my young mind, Miller was known for a couple of things: cappin’ and yappin’. The big shot? He wanted that. Pointing fingers, popping trash and yelling at his foes? Cheryl’s little bro was about that life. How could this little mouse-like character be the loudest of all ten players on the court?
Reggie and the Pacers were the underdogs. During the first half of Miller’s 18 years there, Indiana ran behind the Bulls and sometimes the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. Still, that never stopped Reggie, the light-skinned brother with the funny-colored eyes, from always giving 100% on the court and trying to will his squad to the win.
You had to give it up to this seemingly frail dude with the gigantic chip on his shoulder for never backing down to Mike, New York or any other team the league, media and oddsmakers favored to win. He wanted those challenges and stepped up to plate countless times.
“You have to take the basic equation – it’s 50/50,” he said. “Either you’re going to make it or miss it. Now comes into effect, you’re work ethic. I put so much time getting to the gym, staying late, working on my game, and working on those shots. So now that 50/50 maybe goes to 60-65 percent in your favor because I put in the time and the hours, I’ve gone through this scenario in my head countless times and now I’m prepared for that moment. Now I believe the odds are more so in my favor that I’m going to be there hero as opposed to the goat.”
“I’ve probably missed more shots than I’ve made, they just show the shots that I’ve made. You have to have a short memory and that’s the key. You can’t worry about the shots you missed.” [DIME]
Sometimes, he and the team won. On other, not so lucky nights, they fell short. But young Reggie the noble one never backed down.
He may have never won a ring, but he definitely shot his way into the basketball’s Hall Of Fame and into the hearts of hoops enthusiasts.