During my childhood, Reggie Miller was my favorite NBA player, and still is my favorite NBA player of all time.
My favorite quality in Miller was his loyalty.
He played all 18 years of his NBA career (1987-2005) with the small market Indiana Pacers.
Reggie could teach Lebron James way more than a thing or two about loyalty.
While James was a star before he even entered the league, Miller was relatively unknown at first. If anything, he was in the shadow of his older sister, Cheryl, who many people thought was a better player.
He was a star player, but few outside the state of Indiana noticed this small market star.
After Michael Jordan retired for the first time, the Bulls tried to sign him to replace Jordan as their shooting guard.
Despite the three largest markets in America wanting him at some point in the early 1990s, he declined all three offers and decided to stay in Indiana.
The 1997 season was the final season on Miller’s contract with the Pacers, and he wanted to stay there. But he was having a contract dispute, and the Pacers were struggling that season.
Fans were angry with the Pacers for having a losing record and they were angry with Miller for being in a contract dispute.
Adding to Miller's troubles, an arsonist burned down Miller’s new house.
Typically, when a player’s contract expires in the midst of a contract dispute, and someone burns down his house, it’s a given that the player will get out of town as quickly as possible.
Not when you’re Reggie Miller though.
He wanted to retire from basketball for good instead of joining another team. But when Larry Bird became the Pacers new coach, he was able to convince Miller to continue playing, and he re-signed with the Pacers for 3 years.
In 1998, the first year of his new contract, the Pacers pushed Jordan’s Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF), the only seven game series the Bulls faced during their second three-peat.
The next year, the Knicks upset the Pacers in the ECF.
During the final year of that contract in 2000, the Pacers beat the Knicks in the ECF, and the Pacers made it to the NBA Finals for the first (and only, to date) Finals appearance in franchise history, before losing to the Lakers.
After 3 successful years, Miller signed another three year deal.
Over those next three years, the Pacers were rebuilding from the veteran team they had when they made it to the finals, and they lost in the first round all three years.
After this contract expired, the next move Reggie made is something Lebron can especially learn from.
Miller’s contract expired in 2003.
During the 2003 offseason, the Lakers were one year removed from winning three straight titles until the Spurs beat them in the 2003 playoffs.
They signed Gary Payton and Karl Malone, who were both past their primes and had never won a championship, to play with Shaq and Kobe.
One thing I want to make clear is that there was nothing wrong with Malone and Payton making this decision. Since John Stockton had just retired, the Jazz organization knew it was time to move on from the Stockton-Malone era, while Payton was with the Bucks for only half a season.
And unlike Lebron, they were both past their prime and during their prime; they battled Jordan for championships, rather than teaming up with him.
Not many people know that the Lakers also wanted to sign Miller that offseason.
They probably would’ve moved Kobe to small forward to make room for him in the starting lineup.
Miller joining the Lakers was even more tempting than James joining the Heat.
James is 25, in his prime, and the two-time reigning MVP. Miller was 38 and past his prime when the Lakers tried signing him in 2003.
Playing with Shaq and Kobe as well as a post prime Payton is way more tempting than playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
And most of all, James left his hometown when he went to Miami, while Miller would be going back to his hometown playing for the team he grew up rooting for had he chose to sign with the Lakers.
Not even playing in a starting lineup with four fellow hall of famers in his hometown for the team he grew up rooting for could make Miller leave the Pacers.
He claimed that he wouldn’t jump on a team’s bandwagon and take the easy path, even one as appealing as this.
Miller played two more seasons with the Pacers before retiring in 2005.
The last thing to mention is that despite the fact that James is a more talented athlete than Miller, Miller still made the most of what he had.
Since Miller was a shooter, his style of play wasn’t one that would fit well being the first scoring option on a team, while James is definitely a focal point of a team.
Despite that, Miller played and worked hard, and eventually grew into his role as the first scoring option. Mentally he could take on the role of being the Pacers go-to-guy.
Despite having all the talent to be the first scoring option, and doing as well as anyone in that role in his seven years in Cleveland, James is taking a backseat to Wade in Miami.
In the end, every pro sports team deserves to have an athlete with the loyalty of Reggie Miller.
Not even having his house burned down and his hometown team pursue him could make him leave the Indiana Pacers.
Lebron James pulling this disloyal, classless, and most of all, cowardly move sure reminds me why Reggie Miller is, still to this day, my favorite NBA player of all time.
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