Lauren Holiday / NBAE/Getty Images
Pacers Have Learned From Older Sisters
Title IX made it inevitable, and the Pacers franchise has benefited significantly.
The 1972 law providing equal opportunity for women in sports, co-authored by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, enabled girls to move up from a cloistered existence in intramural athletics to a no-limits world of interscholastic competition. College scholarships eventually became available, and the opportunity for professional careers followed.
Given that, it's no wonder some of the better female players would influence younger brothers. Some of those brothers have gone on to play in the NBA, and at least four of them have worn Pacers uniforms. Reggie Miller famously learned from the challenge of playing against Cheryl, who became a Hall of Fame player before him, and Travis Best, Paul George, and Aaron Holiday also took lumps from an accomplished sister while growing up.
And were/are the better for it.
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Probably no NBA player has owed more to an older sister than Miller, who is one year younger than Cheryl. She ranks as one of the all-time greats of the women's game, a four-time All-American in both high school and college as well as a 1984 Olympian. With her talent, confidence, and competitive spirit, she helped keep Reggie both humbled and inspired.
Because of their age proximity and her unique athleticism, Reggie competed against her far more often than his two older brothers. They did match up in two-on-two games, though, with Reggie teaming with Saul Jr. and Cheryl with Darrell. Cheryl showed her younger brother no mercy.
"Cheryl would knock me down or block my shot. Saul would get all mad at me and say, 'You're such a girl!'" Reggie recalled in his 1995 book, "I Love Being the Enemy."
Cheryl's shot-blocking prowess influenced — forced, really — Reggie into becoming a long-distance marksman. With his driving layups so consistently and rudely swatted away, he had to back up, and back up, until he reached the rose bushes behind the concrete slab that had been poured in the backyard of their Riverside home to get off a shot. The same was true in their one-on-one games, which Cheryl won until Reggie reached high school and finally grew taller and stronger than her.
Along the way, she drove him to get better.
"That became my goal in life: beat Cheryl," he said in the book. "I wasn't jealous of her success; I just wanted to win. That's how it was at our house."
Cheryl's stardom hovered over Reggie as he was growing up, clouding his achievements but pushing him to do more. He has often told the story of the night he scored 39 points in a high school game. His swollen pride was punctured when he learned she had scored 105 the same evening.
Eventually, he caught up. He recalled the last time they played one-on-one he pinned her shot against the backboard. She retired from their games after that.
Cheryl and Reggie Miller are the only brother and sister to both be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Cheryl was inducted in 1995, while Reggie was enshrined in 2012. (Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images)
Pacers rookie Aaron Holiday can relate to Reggie Miller's two-on-two experiences. He, older brothers Jrue and Justin — both now in the NBA — and older sister Lauren squared off in games on the adjustable goal in the driveway of their house in Chatsworth, Calif. As the two youngest, they always wound up guarding one another because Justin and Jrue had to play on separate teams to make the games competitive.
Lauren says they didn't usually play to a specified score. They rarely even kept score. They just played. And Lauren, being three years older than Aaron, had no problem holding up her end of the matchup until Aaron, like Reggie, was old enough to dominate physically.
"Sometimes (the games) got way too serious," Lauren says. "We're a very competitive family. It would be fine at first, but if one our teams started losing we'd get so mad. If I was showing Aaron up one of my brothers would taunt him, and if he was showing me up they would taunt me."
A 5-8 guard, Lauren led her high school team to the state 4A championship in California and was the division's Player of the Year as a senior. She also played volleyball and softball, and ran sprints and threw the shot put in track and field.
She started three games as a freshman at UCLA before a concussion ended that season. She came back to start five as a sophomore before head injuries ended her career. He final game was against USC on Dec. 30, 2013. The university announced her forced retirement from the game the following July.
She's now the head coach of elementary and middle school teams and an assistant at Campbell Hall High School outside of Los Angeles. But although her three brothers are playing in the NBA, her lofty reputation within the family remains intact. Aaron's twitter handle, @The_4th_Holiday, acknowledges her status. It just as easily could have been @The_3rd_Holiday, referencing the three brothers playing in the NBA.
"She was really tough," Aaron says. "We always say she was the best in the family. She just is. She worked hard at her game. She played hard. She was the all-around best player in the family."
Lauren's toughness rubbed off on Aaron. Their father, Shawn, credits her, more than Jrue or Justin, for lighting the fire that helped clear his path to the NBA.
"She was the one who made him tough," Shawn said in June, after Holiday was drafted. "The boys were a little older, but she was one who would give it to him in the front yard."
Lauren can recall the moment it might have all begun. It seems Aaron had a fascination with dunking as a kid, something the kids could do when the goal was lowered. But the problem with dunking in a one-on-one or two-on-two game is that someone is getting dunked on.
"I remember one time...I dunked on him and his pride was hurt because he's super-competitive," she said. "He went to check the ball and threw it at me.
"After that day it got harder and harder to beat him. Something kicked in after that."
Paul George's older sister, Teiosha, played collegiately at Pepperdine and professionally in Germany. (Photo Credit: Teiosha George / NBAE/Getty Images)
While Reggie was just one year younger than Cheryl and Aaron was three years younger than Lauren, Paul George had to go up against a sister five years older while growing up in Palmdale, Calif. He also was able to compete with her by the time he became a senior in high school, but took plenty of one-on-one beatdowns in their games on the portable goal they dragged out to the street in front of their house because of the age gap.
Teiosha George, a 6-foot-4 center, was a three-time all-conference player in high school who averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists as a senior. She took a scholarship to Pepperdine, where she averaged 8.7 points over four seasons, and then played one professional season in Herne, Germany.
Although a standout athlete, she also was feminine, as indicated by her career choice today: fashion designer. That only made it worse for George. Unlike Miller and Holiday, he wasn't subjected to trash talk after taking those L's. You can respond to trash talk.
"She'd beat me and go back to playing with her dolls," George recalled during one of his seasons with the Pacers. "It killed me."
George not only received elbows-on motivation to improve as Miller and Holiday had, he also gained access to an outlet to work on his game via his sister. He accompanied her to practice during her high school career and shot at a side goal during her team's workouts. By watching her progress, he learned that if you have talent and a work ethic you can earn a college scholarship. Perhaps even a professional contract.
Wide as it was, the age gap between Paul and Teiosha George paled in comparison to that between Travis Best and his sister, Darlene. She is eight years older than the former Pacers point guard, so the time span in which they could compete against one another, or together, was limited.
Former Pacers guard Travis Best says his older sister Darlene was a tenacious defender. (Photo Credit: Travis Best / NBAE/Getty Images)
She is still remembered in their hometown of Springfield, Mass. for her piercing screams of support at his high school games. She must have really made a scene the night he scored 81 points for Central High.
Darlene was a standout high school player who at one time had a goal of attending USC and playing with Cheryl Miller, but wound up joining Travis at Georgia Tech as a delayed enrollee after he took the school's scholarship offer. She received a degree in Economics with a minor in Finance and now runs the financial department for a documentary film company in New York City.
Back in the day, she taught Travis a thing or two about defense.
"She would get out there and show me what she had," he remembers. "She had a lot of pride. She had a nice jump shot and she was a good defender. She reminded me defensively of a (former Pacer) Haywood Workman. She got after it. She played hard and got into your ----. She had great hands and could tip the ball away. She was a tomboy, so she didn't play around."
Travis got more enjoyment out of playing with his sister. When he was six or seven years old he would accompany Darlene and his older brother by 13 years, Leo, to play pickup games at what was then called Western New England College. Leo would approach a few college students and challenge them to a three-on-three game. Those students often laughed at the idea of playing against a junior high school girl and a little boy, but paid for it later.
"We would always take them out," Best says. "I don't believe we ever lost a three-on-three with that combination. They took us for granted a little bit."
Today most people know better than to take girls who play basketball for granted. But some of the Pacers realized the foolishness of that long ago - learned it the hard way, too.
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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