Miller should soon open Hall of Fame door for Pacers

Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series examining the Hall of Fame prospects of former Pacers including Reggie Miller, Bobby Leonard, Mel Daniels and Roger Brown.

Indianapolis (Aug. 17, 2011) -- With Chris Mullin's induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this past weekend, the list of players once affiliated with the Pacers so honored has grown to four.

The sore point locally, however, is that while Mullin, Gus Johnson, Adrian Dantley and Alex English certainly were deserving of the honor, none are identified primarily with the Pacers.

This could've been -- should've been -- the year that all changed.

In his first year of eligibility, Reggie Miller was considered one of the leading candidates for the Hall of Fame class of 2011. With the combination of celebrity, personality, prolific career statistics and memorable playoff achievements, Miller appeared to be a slam-dunk.

But his candidacy was denied. Miller didn't even make the list of 12 finalists listed on the ballot.

This doesn't mean Miller won't eventually be inducted. There were, after all, no first-time-eligible players on the ballot this year. Mullin was in his fifth year of eligibility; had he failed to garner enough votes this year, his candidacy would've been shelved five years before he could again be considered.

"Reggie's going to get in, sooner or later," said Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, one of the nation's most experienced and respected basketball writers. "I can't really explain, but he will get in. I wouldn't worry about that too much.

"He'll get to make that speech sooner rather than later."

The record speaks loudly in Miller's favor. He was the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point field goals made with 2,560 until Boston's Ray Allen passed him on Feb. 10, 2011. He remains a strong second, 765 ahead of No. 3 Jason Kidd.

With 25,279 points, he ranks 14th in NBA history and 17th in pro basketball history. He was a five-time All-Star, three-All-NBA third team selection and a two-time gold medalist (1994 World Championship, 1996 Olympics).

Beyond the numbers, he was the unquestioned leader and face of the Pacers' decade among the NBA elite. From 1993-94 through 2003-04, the Pacers reached the Eastern Conference Finals six times, the NBA Finals once and captured four Central Division titles.

"He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," said team President Larry Bird. "Reggie was a great player, he held the 3-point record for a long time, he had great success, was on some good teams. There's no question Reggie will be in the Hall of Fame."

The man who drafted Miller No. 11 overall out of UCLA in 1987 instead of favorite son Steve Alford was mystified at his exclusion from the Hall this year.

"I don't know why Reggie didn't make it," said former Pacers president Donnie Walsh. "I understand kind of how the Hall of Fame works and I don't think it's an indictment of anything in his career, it was just a matter of timing and that kind of thing.

"I expect without doubt Reggie will be in the Hall of Fame."

Mullin is among the more than 50 players behind Miller on the career scoring list to have been inducted. When Mullin played for the Warriors, Miller was an opponent he was "not too fond of, actually," but his mind changed when he became his teammate for three seasons from 1997-2000.

"He was probably one of my favorite teammates of all-time, probably the hardest working guy I was around," Mullin said. "And he was humble and selfless, the total opposite of what my impression of him was. …

"I don't think there's really a question he'll be in the Hall of Fame. That's not a question at all. I'm not really up-to-date on how the process works, to tell you the truth, but he's a Hall of Fame player, there's no question about it. It's as automatic as anything -- as automatic as his jump shot."

Clearly, however, Miller's candidacy is not universally approved or he would've at least been on this year's ballot. Critics look past his career totals and point out his averages (18.2 points) as good but not great. They suggest five All-Star appearances in 18 seasons do not reflect a dominant career.

"Sometimes, you wait your time," Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said when questioned about Miller's exclusion from the ballot in February. "You need to get traction. When you discuss any individual, you'll talk about accomplishments. … Sometimes, an individual is looked at more as a specialist than maybe an all-around player and maybe it's just not his time.

"That speaks nothing about the future. Next year could be a whole different story for Reggie Miller. He's certainly a candidate going forward for the Hall of Fame."

Those that doubt Miller's record discount his remarkable durability that led to career longevity. They also look past an impeccable playoff record. His career postseason average was 20.6, more than 11 percent higher than his regular-season average, a reflection of his ability to play his best in the biggest moments.

Though he ranks 35th in NBA history in playoff games (144), he is first in 3-pointers made (320) and 20th in points (2,972).

On both the regular-season and playoff career scoring lists, every eligible player ahead of Miller already has been inducted.

Miller's greatest disadvantage was the era in which he played. No matter what he accomplished, the balance of his career was played in the shadow of the greatest player ever at his position, Michael Jordan.

When viewed objectively and comprehensively, there is little doubt Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame and ultimately will become the first player identified with the Pacers so honored.

It'll just take a little longer than most of us expected.

Next up: Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and George McGinnis were the stars who carried the Pacers to three championships as a dominant franchise in the old American Basketball Association, yet none are in the Hall of Fame. Could recent changes to the process bring about much-deserved opportunity for some or all of these Indiana legends?

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