The Sixth Man: It's Miller time in Springfield

11:34 AM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Mark Jackson embellished a bit when he called his friend, former Indiana Pacers superstar Reggie Miller, one of the three greatest shooting guards in NBA history.

Heck, Miller probably isn't even the best basketball player in his own family -- an honor which belongs to his sister Cheryl, who was one of the greatest women to ever play the game and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame back in 1995.

What Reggie Miller is, however, is a Hall of Famer himself, and he will take his place next to Cheryl in Springfield on Friday as the only siblings in the Hall as players when he headlines a 2012 class which includes the all-time winningest coach in NBA history Don Nelson and fellow Pacers great Mel Daniels.

Miller, of course, never captured an NBA title during his 18-year stay in Indianapolis, a fact which likely kept his out of the Hall in 2011, his first year of eligibility.

Much is made of championships in every sport but even more so in basketball, where failing to reach the pinnacle generally disqualifies you from being considered in any tap room conservation or sports talk radio debate as one of the best ever.

And to be honest, a faultier measuring stick has never been devised.

Although few will admit it, the Hall of Fame is the ultimate accomplishment for an individual in any team sport. Express that opinion, however, and you're likely to labeled as selfish for telling the truth.

It's a truth that understands even the greatest usually fail more often than not. In baseball, the cliche is a Hall of Famer fails seven times out of 10 in reference to a career .300 hitter.

Over in basketball, Michael Jordan won six NBA titles but played in parts of 15 different NBA seasons. The greatest "winner" of them all, Bill Russell, did conquer the 50 percent barrier but played with a gaggle of fellow Hall of Famers to do it.

Robert Horry was a part of seven different NBA championship teams, but does anyone really want to argue that "Big Shot Bob" was a better basketball player than players who never cashed in like Miller, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Elgin Baylor?

Basketball teams are like families and as most of you know all too well -- you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family.

A great player can only put his team in the championship mix and a title is generally decided by the other links in the chain.

When most think of Miller, they are instantly transported to Madison Square Garden, where the game's slickest shooter stunned the Knicks and Spike Lee by pouring in eight points in 8.9 seconds to steal a playoff game in 1995.

That came just one season after his brilliant 25-point fourth quarter in a stunning comeback victory at New York in the 1994 playoffs.

"When I watch some of those games against the Knicks and Spike Lee, I'll be, 'Oh my God, did I really do all that?'" Miller said. "When you are in the moment, things happen."

Excelling on the biggest stage in the most famous arena in the world may have put Miller on the map and given a generation of basketball fans some indelible moments, but that's not where his greatness was defined.

Nor was it defined in the numbers. Not the 25,279 points (14th all-time) or the 2,560 3-pointers, second-best in history.

Miller's legacy was stamped in the 2004-05 season, the last of his spectacular career. The then-39-year-old had lost a lot of tread off the tires by that point and was relegated to being a role player. But, when the Pacers were hit with a slew of injuries, Miller stepped up one last time late in the campaign, scoring more than 20 points on 11 different occasions from mid-February on and leading the team to a first-round upset of the Boston Celtics.

To the very end, Miller did everything he could on the basketball court to help his team win.

On Friday, that will be recognized.

"I didn't play the game to make the Hall of Fame," Miller said. "I never allowed myself to say, 'I need to be in there with Magic (Johnson), Charles and Michael (Jordan).' That's not my personality.

"That's for others to judge and say, 'He belongs with them.' I never put myself in that category. Now, I'm happy, ecstatic and on cloud nine that people view me that way."

The Sports Network

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