Franchise Celebrates Reggie’s Career
By Conrad Brunner
Prior to the 1987 NBA Draft, Donnie Walsh traveled to New York for a private workout with Mark Jackson, a promising point guard from St. John's. After being suitably dazzled by Jackson's skills, Walsh assured him that, if he was available with the No. 11 pick, he'd be drafted by the Pacers.
When Walsh chose Reggie Miller instead, Jackson said both he and his father were angry with the Pacers for years.
"But after that night he scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in Madison Square Garden," Jackson said, "my dad told me, 'That Donnie Walsh is one heck of a general manager.'"
Jackson was one of several luminaries to pay tribute after the Pacers concluded the final regular season of Miller's career with an 85-83 victory over Chicago Wednesday night in Conseco Fieldhouse. Video testimonials from former President Bill Clinton, past and present rivals Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, as well as celebrities David Caruso, Dennis Miller, Dan Patrick and Ahmad Rashad were played throughout the game.
O'Neal interjected humor into the evening by beginning his tribute, "Reggie F. Miller – the F. stands for flop."
But the highlight of the night was a postgame ceremony featuring co-owners Herb and Mel Simon, CEO Donnie Walsh, President Larry Bird, Director of Player Personnel Mel Daniels, Miller's sister Cheryl and Jackson, his best friend and former teammate.
Herb Simon suggested Miller change his mind about retiring.
"You belong to Indiana and Indianapolis," he said, "so don't go. Stay right here."
That prompted a chant of "one more year" from the capacity crowd.
Walsh thanked Miller for his role in leading the team through an era of success unprecedented in the franchise's NBA history.
"When we drafted you," Walsh said, "there were curtains on the upper deck at Market Square Arena. Today, there are 20,000 people here. You took us from being a losing team into one of the elite teams in the NBA. And for all we've been through this year, you've done it again."
Bird offered the perspective of someone who both played against and coached Miller.
"It was an honor to coach you," Bird said, "and thank you for making me look good."
After Jackson and Cheryl Miller paid their tributes, the microphone was turned over to the guest of honor. After thanking each of the speakers individually, he called Dale Davis and Antonio Davis to center court.
"These two guys were my original bodyguards," he said. "For all the time I was sticking out my chest and getting into opponents' faces, I knew nothing was going to happen to me because these guys were behind me."
Miller then turned his attention to the fans.
"The first time I ran out of the tunnel in Market Square Arena, I knew I was home," he said. "We have laughed, we have cried and we have celebrated together. I just want to thank you guys for opening your hearts to me each and every night we played."
Eventually, he could hold back his emotions no more. With his arm wrapped around his sister, Miller choked up as he looked into the stands and said, "As much as you think I've given to you guys for 18 years, I've truly been blessed to be a Pacer and a Hoosier."
Herb Simon then closed the event by presenting Miller with a surprise gift: a $250,000 limited edition Bentley.