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At times, the show can be moving. A 16-year-old girl once told how she had slugged down five beers at lunch and then crashed her car into a sedan with a family of four, killing the mother. The image of her crying as she told her story stayed with Miller for weeks. "If that helped one person in the audience or at home, then that's one less person I have to worry about—because I worry about them," he says. "The show is for them; it's not for me. The kids come to learn the topic. And to see all of them out there looking up at the stage and paying attention and raising their hands, asking questions, I like that."
Miller grew up the fourth of five children. His oldest brother, Saul Jr., is an Air Force master sergeant and a saxophonist with the Airmen of Note, an elite Air Force band; his other brother, Darrell, caught for the California Angels and now directs community relations for the club; and his younger sister, Tammy, played volleyball at Cal State-Fullerton. "In our family, we all have to support each other," his father, Saul Sr., says. "Help everyone improve." A retired computer systems analyst for a hospital, Saul Sr. taught Reggie his shooting form on the family's backyard hoop, though the kid's range was the ruination of the flower bed tended by his mother, Carrie. Last summer, Saul worked Reggie out, stopwatch, clipboard and whistle in hand. "I'm not a coach, but I do teach fundamentals," he says, "That means teaching when to do, what to do, how to do." Which for Reggie meant getting up at 7 a.m., then running sprints and doing shooting and dribbling drills for two hours.
Reggie still puts so much stock in Saul's opinion that he tapes two quarters under the sweatband on his left wrist before every game to remind him of the time after a high school game when his dad told him he hadn't played worth 50 cents.
Reggie can also thank three of the brightest stars of the past decade for his basketball education. The first of these was Cheryl, a three-time college Player of the Year at USC, and the most exciting distaff performer ever. She cast a long shadow over Reggie; the day he went for 39 in high school, she went for 105. To this day, fans still warble her name derisively when Miller steps onto the court, a ploy Saul Sr. calls "giving him the Cheryl."
It's almost odd that none of this has strained their relationship. "What people don't understand is that every point I scored was because of him," says Cheryl, now a sports reporter for ABC-TV. "I had no work ethic. Reggie taught me the value of practice. He was always out there shooting." Says Reggie, "I'll always be her little brother, because no guy is ever going to match what Cheryl did. But she gave me something to reach for. When people yell her name, that's an orchestra to me, because it makes me concentrate. They're trying to get in my mind and mess with me, and I think that's why I'm strong-willed."
The two talk several times a week; Reggie also has a bedroom set aside just for her in Indianapolis. "Not only is she my older sister, she's my best friend, she's my confidante," he says. "Players from other teams always want to talk to me to see who she's going out with now, so they can try to see her. But ain't none of you all basketball players getting any closer to my sister. It's going to be some doctor, some lawyer, some highly qualified person." Cheryl, likewise, looks out for her baby brother; the thought of him speeding along in the NBA's fast lane gives her pause. "I keep thinking about a 5'5" kid with a potbelly getting screamed at to get out of Mom's garden," she says.
The second guiding light for Miller after Cheryl is the Lakers' Magic Johnson, who had admired the way Reggie played his slight rear end off in pickup games at UCLA. "Magic and [ex-Laker] Michael Cooper took me under their wings," Miller recalls. "They just told me to watch, listen and learn." The talks have lately centered on how Miller can help the Pacers rise to the next level. Through Magic, Miller met his girlfriend of a year, Marita Stavrou. But despite Johnson's influence, Miller spurned Magic's suggestion that he play out his option and join the Lakers next season. Instead, Reggie signed a six-year, $17 million deal with the Pacers and bought his house northeast of the city. "I want to do what guys like Magic and Larry have done," he says. "I want everybody to know who the Pacers are."
Cheryl and Magic helped prepare Miller for the ultimate postgrad instructor, Chicago's Michael Jordan. "I love challenges," Reggie says. "And playing against Michael is the biggest chess match in the world." An early lesson came in Miller's second year during an exhibition game against the Bulls, in which he played Jordan close to even for the first three quarters. At Person's goading, Miller got into Jordan's ear, whereupon Jordan lit him up for 20 points in the fourth quarter. Check and mate. "We were walking off the court, and Michael looked at me and said, 'Don't you ever talk mess with me again,' and walked away," Miller recalls. "I was like, You are absolutely right, Mister Jordan."
But Miller has neither stopped barking nor biting. He says he gets completely "geeked" to face Jordan four or five times a season: Two of Miller's three 40-plus games have come against the Bulls. Two years ago, Miller told SI that the battle of the '90s would be "Hollywood versus Air." When someone reminded Jordan of Miller's remark while the two were playing cards last summer in L.A., Jordan acknowledged that things seemed to be shaping up that way. "This was coming from the guy who talks to God," Miller says. "I mean, he's got the phone number—the direct line. So that felt pretty good."
If Miller develops as much as Hill is hoping he will, there could be friction with Person. It was Person who stepped forward last season in the playoffs, assaulting Boston with his jumpers and his jabbering. But both players believe theirs to be a good working relationship, and Hill's gentlemen-start-your-engines offense should provide enough shots to keep everyone happy.