Reggie Miller Memories

by Jeff Tzucker


The Pacers had the 11th pick in the NBA draft, and the 5,000 fans who attended the draft day party at Market Square Arena wanted the franchise to select a sharpshooting guard. They got their wish, sort of. But instead of choosing local hero Steve Alford, who months earlier guided Indiana University to the national title, the Pacers settled on a 6-7 swingman from UCLA. Eighteen years, 24,000-plus points and 2,500-plus 3-pointers later, they made the right call. (And Alford? In four NBA seasons, he had 744 points and 35 3-pointers.)


• Nov. 6: The Pacers opened their season with a dismal performance at Philadelphia, but there was one glimmer of hope. The rookie with the sweet shot hit 4-of-6 from the field in his pro debut, including the first 3-pointer of his record-setting career.


• April 23: Miller closes out his first season, in which he set an NBA record for 3-pointers by a rookie (61), with an 88-86 loss to the New York Knicks. As Miller fans know, this was only the beginning of one man's mission to torment the Big Apple.


• Miller moves into the starting lineup and becomes the team's second offensive option, averaging 16.0 points for a team that finishes 28-54. He cracks the league's top 10 in 3-point shooting for the first time, hitting 98-of-244 attempts (.402), and finishes fourth in the 3-point contest during the All-Star Weekend. Miller would start every game in which he appeared for the rest of his career.


• Now the top option on offense, Miller responds with a career-best 24.6 points per game and guides the Pacers to the playoffs for the second time since 1981. The first Pacer to make the All-Star game since 1977 also begins to lay his foundation as Mr. Clutch, scoring a team-high 20.7 points per game in the series against Detroit. Miller would lead the Pacers to the playoffs 13 times in the next 14 seasons.


• One of the NBA's most accurate free throw shooters, Miller reels off 55 consecutive. He tops the 90 percent mark for the first of seven seasons. Pacers win their first playoff game in the Miller era but fall to Boston in the first round.


• April: For the first time, Miller, who scored 20.7 points per game during the regular season, averages more points during the playoffs. He accounts for 27 a game against Boston. It's part of a trend. Miller's career playoff average (21.2) is almost three points higher than his regular-season average.

• Nov. 28: The Pacers had dropped two straight to fall below .500 when the players staged a two-hour meeting before playing the Charlotte Hornets. The gist? Miller needed to shoot more. "I wasn't being Reggie," Miller said, "and enough was enough. I'm ready to reclaim my title as the second-best shooting guard in the East (behind Michael Jordan)." Miller hit 16-of-29 shots en route to a career-high 57 points.


• June 1: Jordan was off playing baseball, leaving the playoff stage all to Miller. He responded with his greatest postseason game, in the most recognizable basketball facility in the country. Miller scored 25 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers beat the Knicks 93-86 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.


• May 7: Shellshocked. That's how the Knicks, and their fans, felt after watching the Pacers rally from six down to win in the final 18.7 seconds. Miller hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the final 8.9 seconds of the 107-105 playoff win. Miller capped the performance by calling the Knicks "choke artists" and screaming at film director and Knicks fan Spike Lee. "We recover from the deaths of our loved ones," Knicks guard Greg Anthony said, "so we should be able to recover from this." They didn't. The Pacers won the series in seven games and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.


• Selected to play for Dream Team III, Miller scored 20 points to help the United States beat Yugoslavia 95-69 in the gold medal game at the Atlanta Olympics.


• The Pacers miss the playoffs for the first time since Miller's second season, but who could blame him? He led the league in 3-pointers for the second consecutive season and averaged 21.6 points per game, his highest output in six seasons.


• May: Miller's status as Mr. Clutch is on display throughout the Pacers' run to the Eastern Conference finals. He hit a 3-pointer to force overtime in a playoff game against the Knicks, and then beat the Bulls with a 3-pointer over Michael Jordan with 0.7 seconds left to win Game 4 and even the Eastern Conference finals.


• A lockout shortened the season but it couldn't stop Miller from extending his NBA record of 10 consecutive seasons with 100 or more 3-pointers. (Miller needs 59 more 3-pointers this season to stretch the streak to 16.)


• June 2: Miller has 34 points (and a block) as the Pacers eliminate the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and advance to his and their only NBA Finals. "Look at ya'll," Pacers forward Sam Perkins, who had appeared in two Finals, teased his teammates. "You don't even know how to celebrate. You're pitiful." Six games later, the Lakers close out the Pacers.


• In response to the 9/11 attacks, Miller donates $1,000 for every 3-pointer he hits to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. The final tally: $206,000.


• May 2: Miller forces overtime with a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer and sends the game into a second overtime with a dunk against the Nets in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series. The Pacers lose 120-109 in two OTs.


• April 18: Miller receives the NBA's Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, in recognition for his exemplary community service.

• Oct. 4: Miller plants the seed that his 18th season will be his last. "If I was a Pacer fan here in Indiana, I would definitely tell them every home game in town to come on down," Miller said. "If I was a Pacer fan in another city, I would tell them to check the schedule and see when Indiana comes to town."


• Feb. 10: Miller, the Pacers' all-time leading scorer and face of the franchise, makes it official. He tells coach Rick Carlisle he will retire at the end of this season. "It's hard to imagine us without him," forward Austin Croshere said.

• Feb. 11: Carlisle informs the team at a morning shootaround. "I sense our guys understand this is a landmark day," Carlisle said. "This is a decision that puts us 30-some games until (the end) of one of the great careers that we've ever seen in this league."