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The Shape Of Things To Come
Hank Hersch
November 11, 1991
REGGIE MILLER OF THE INDIANA PACERS IS ABOUT TO BECOME A FULL-BLOWN STAR
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November 11, 1991

The Shape Of Things To Come

REGGIE MILLER OF THE INDIANA PACERS IS ABOUT TO BECOME A FULL-BLOWN STAR

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The children's museum of Indianapolis is usually closed on Mondays, unless you happen to be the Indiana Pacers' 26-year-old shooting star, who also happens to host a local cable-TV talk show for teenagers, which happens to be taped at the museum. The sight of Reggie Miller in the flesh—what little there is in 183 pounds spread tightly over 6'7" of legs, arms, ears and jawline—arriving in his BMW has a security guard squawking for clearance, and soon Miller is inside and pointing out his favorite attractions: the train sets, the dinosaurs, the carousel, the intricate dollhouses preserved in glass cases. "This place is a great getaway for me," he says. "You're never too old to be too young."

Reaching the top floor of this kids' paradise, Miller passes by a funhouse mirror. The mirror's distortion stretches Miller's legs to his neck. He smiles as he sizes himself up: "Manute Bol." Then he hops to another mirror that collapses his chest to his waist: "Muggsy Bogues." And finally he stands before a third that makes him appear normally proportioned but larger than life. He pauses: "Reggie Miller."

Who can fault Reggie Miller for feeling 10 feet tall? He will make $3 million this season, his fifth as a shooting guard for the Pacers—the now up-tempo, upscale Pacers, who bearded the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last spring before bowing three games to two. Over the past two seasons, Miller has averaged more than 23 points per game, shot better than 51% from the field and sunk more three-point shots than anyone but Michael Adams of the Washington Bullets.

As a marksman, Miller is without peer or fear, but he doesn't just fire and fall back. His all-around game has continued to grow—and that growth isn't the result of the distortion in a funhouse mirror. He has a quick first step and a driving, floating one-hander, and in 1990-91, his accuracy from the free throw line was a league-leading 91.8%. Miller plays like, well, an inquisitive kid in an empty museum, eager to discover things about his game and enjoying every minute of the process. Says Indiana coach Bob Hill, "In the NBA, you have to take fun seriously, and Reggie does that. He loves the game so much, he loves shooting drills. He loves to scrimmage. He loves to play."

Hill expects Miller to expand his game even more this season, by defending more aggressively and attacking end-to-end. If Miller can lead the fast break, he will force opposing teams to spread their defenses, which in turn will create more opportunities for forward Chuck Person and the rest of the sharp-shooting Pacers. "I think Reggie's ready to make the next step, to become the type of player who makes plays for other players," says Pacer president Donnie Walsh. Hill has already been impressed by the strides Miller made in the off-season. "Reggie got a lot stronger," he says.

Miller's game has reached such a level that he is on the short list for the remaining NBA roster spot—or for a replacement slot if one should be needed—on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team. If he's named, Barcelona's most charming story might be the Millers' tale: Reggie's 27-year-old sister, Cheryl, an '84 gold medalist who hasn't suited up since suffering a knee injury four years ago, might attempt a comeback for the Games. As much as the prospect of both brother and sister being in Barcelona excites Reggie, so also does the thought of the international three-point arc. "What is it, like 21 feet? 21½?" he asks. (It's 20'7", nearly a yard less than the NBA distance.) "Oh, man, I could underhand it in from there."

While Miller may call himself Hollywood—he's from Riverside, Calif., by way of UCLA—he has become as much a fixture in Indianapolis as A.J. Foyt. There is no small irony in this, since the local populace booed long and loud when Walsh used the 11th pick in the '87 draft for someone who wasn't Steve Al-ford, a Hoosier purebred. Back then Miller didn't possess the most savory of reputations, having been assailed for mess-talking, ref-baiting and hotdogging while in college. Most of it was overblown, some of it wasn't.

But Miller has cleaned up his act considerably, and he has a likable, down-to-earth quality. At his semifurnished lakeside home, where the TV sets (seven) outnumber the bedrooms (five), juice is served in plastic giveaway glasses from White Castle. When Miller finds the wallpaper hanger working on the master bathroom, he is sure to flick on the guy's favorite radio station to make him feel at home. Last spring, when a Pacer ball boy celebrated prom night, Miller handed him the keys to his BMW.

Miller's newfound popularity in Indianapolis comes, in part, from a weekly bit on WFBQ-95 FM during morning drive time that is one of the highest-rated radio shows in the country in its time slot and for its market size. And there also is the Reggie Miller Show, which is entering its third season and possibly moving soon from cable TV to the Fox network. About once a week after the NBA season starts, Miller will skitter down a wrought-iron spiral staircase, greet 200 woofing teenagers and tip off a half-hour program that deals with everything from sex to drugs to pick-and-rolls. Celebrity guests have ranged from Larry Bird to the New Kids on the Block, but the show also examines tough issues, with Miller asking questions and working his knee-high audience with the authority of an Oprah or a Phil.

"Kids could tell if he wasn't into it, but Reggie loves doing the show," says Billy Knight, an Indiana assistant coach and formerly the team's community relations director. "He's honest, and he speaks from the heart."

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