Reggie Humbled By His Moment
By Chris Speckman
Thursday night was Reggie Miller's jersey retirement ceremony. But it felt more like a family reunion.
As Miller's brothers and sisters helped the Indiana icon raise number 31 to the rafters during a ceremony at halftime of Indiana's 114-104 loss to Phoenix in Conseco Fieldhouse, his Pacers extended family, from former teammates to fans in the sellout crowd, voiced its appreciation for Miller's achievements.
Amid constant chants of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" from the sellout crowd, Miller deflected compliments to his kin.
"It will say Miller up on the jersey," he said, "but it really will be the Miller family going up."
Miller's family on hand included sisters Cheryl and Tammy and brothers Darrell and Saul Jr. Or, as Miller called them, "his real starting five."
They may have been the five most important people on the court to Miller. But the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse was crowded with people who cared.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels spoke first. He noted that although Hoosiers love their hoops, character means just as much.
"We revere you for the way you played the game and the way you lived your life," he said.
Mayor Bart Peterson, who appeared via video to the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd, seconded the governor's motion and had a representative of his office present a key to the city.
"You embodied what it means to be a professional athlete," said Peterson. "You gave up your time, your money and your spirit to help those in need. And you did it not for the publicity. You did it because it was the right thing to do."
CEO and President of Pacers Sports & Entertainment Donnie Walsh followed the mayor and may have said it best of all.
"No. 31 deserves to go up with the best of the best," said Walsh.
Walsh put stock in Miller when he selected the slender guard with the 11th pick of the 1987 NBA Draft. For 18 seasons, the investment produced many happy returns.
"Reggie, I was honored to be here when on draft day," Walsh said. "I'm even more honored to be here as a part of this ceremony."
When Miller first came out of UCLA, not many people believed his career would be so prolific, himself included.
"I never imagined that I would earn my way into anyone's rafters," Miller said.
Miller became the Pacers' first NBA player to be so honored, joining four legends of the Pacers' ABA days, George McGinnis, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and coach Bobby "Slick" Leonard.
Despite his accomplishments, Miller wasn't sure if he belonged in the group.
"I don't know if you can put me in the same category with the other three guys just for the simple fact that they won championships in the ABA," Miller said. "Those guys are pillars here in the community. Everyone knows their names. To be up there with those guys, quite frankly, I'm very honored."
He may not be in their group, but only because Miller is in a class of his own.
"I don't think you'll ever see from here on out 18 years with one franchise," said sister Cheryl Miller. "We've seen a lot of players jump ship to get the one thing their legacy is built on and it's a ring. I think what's more special than a ring is loyalty. Indiana and Reggie were a match made in heaven."
That's how just how families are. Loyal to a fault.
"Indiana's been so great to Reggie and there's no question about it. I think no other city would have gotten the best out of Reginald. Thanks for being wonderful and kind and opening up your doors. You were our surrogate family."