by Conrad Brunner
December 21, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS, December 21, 2001 - Moving into the top 20 was momentous. But moving into 19th was even more special for Reggie Miller because the man he passed was Larry Bird.
Miller entered Friday night's game against New Jersey seven points behind Bird (21,791) on the NBA all-time scoring list, and scored the decisive bucket on a layup with 1:59 left in the second quarter. An announcement was made and the home crowd of 16,219 in Conseco Fieldhouse gave Miller, who was fouled by Todd MacCulloch, an ovation that he acknowledged with a quick wave.
"Awesome," said coach Isiah Thomas of Miller's achievement. "When that announcement was made, I hope everybody in the league heard it. He's a guy who doesn't get enough respect. They give a lot of people respect in this league; they give a lot of people calls in this league. He just passed Larry Bird. I mean, what more can you say about Reggie Miller? But yet he doesn't get the respect, I don't think, that he deserves during the course of the game.
"We all know that certain players in this league get calls. That's how it goes. That's how it's been forever. He should be included in that group. He should get the benefit of the doubt all the time, particularly at his age now. It's not like he's 36 and a bum; he's 36 and he's still doing it, he's still packing the house. People come to see Reggie. He's still filling the building at 36 and he's still giving a show. There are a lot of kids in this league walking around in this league getting the calls and they ain't giving a show and they ain't filling the building. What more do you want from him?"
Miller spoke only briefly after the game in acknowledging the moment.
"It's very nice," he said. "I'm very honored and I'm blessed to still be playing the game. To move past a guy I played against, sometimes played with, respected and played for as a coach, it's a great thrill. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be in the position I'm in now."
Miller finished with 16 points on five of 10 shooting. Only three players in the league - Vince Carter, Karl Malone and Gary Payton - have more games of at least 15 points this season than Miller, who has 24 in the Pacers' 28 games. Thomas took the occasion to praise his consistency and efficiency, while continuing to campaign for more respect from the officials.
"He's not a high-volume guy," Thomas said. "He's a guy who's found a way to score in this league without taking 30 shots a night. That's even more remarkable in itself. Most of these high scorers, most of the people that are on the list, I would guarantee you they've taken more shots than he's taken - by a large amount. His efficiency is remarkable because he's not slam-dunking, not jumping and doing 360s. He's playing the game the right way, the way they taught it. He hasn't been rewarded for it which is kind of disheartening.
"I don't think Reggie in his career has ever shot the ball 30 times in a game. You look up now and guys are routinely jacking up 30, 35 shots and they're getting 30 points on 30 shots. If Reggie took 30 shots, I guarantee you he'd have 55 or 60, if not more. And when you ask him to take more shots, you know what he says? 'I'll take the shots that come to me coach, and I'm going to play the right way.' That's what we should be talking about."
In fact, the night Miller reached his career high with 29 field goal attempts, he scored 57 points against Charlotte in 1992.
Next up for Miller, who now has 21,801 career points is Clyde Drexler (22,195). At his current pace, Miller will need 23 games to pass Drexler.