Friday, May 20, 2005

The End of an Era

It was bound to happen eventually and last night was the night it did. Reggie Miller has played his last game as an NBA player and with his retirement goes a small part of me. Miller has always been my favorite NBA player and will always hold a place in my heart as the personification of what the NBA is--basketball with attitude.

The NBA is a lot different than college hoops. In college you have teams that have come together because of teamwork, good coaching, and tons of effort. The NBA is a playground for the immensely talented showboaters of the sport of basketball. For this reason a lot of people hate the NBA, but I've always enjoyed a little bit of the cockiness and attitude of the NBA and no one embodied that "I'm going to kick some ass and I know it" attitude than Reggie Miller.

I initially got to becoming a Miller fan when I was quite young and Miller was just finding himself in the NBA. My Grandpa Eddie was a huge sports fan and had decided to buy a satellite dish so that he could watch more sports than were available on the 3 stations he could get out in the country. He bought one of those gigantic satellites that looked like they belonged on a spacecraft of some kind and before I knew it, there was more sports available to watch than I could find time to watch with him.

Sports, especially basketball, was the strongest bond that I shared with my grandfather and to this day every NBA game I watch I think of him and remember sitting in the living room of his house, a mile down the road from where I live, cheering at the television. I'm not sure why it happened, but both my grandpa and I became big Indiana Pacers fans, which was kind of weird considering we lived in Minnesota. Whenever we had the chance we'd watch Indiana play and marvel at how a scrawny, 160 pound guard could do what he did against so many physically superior players and still remain confident.

There are so many "Reggie moments" that I remember. Giving Spike Lee the choking gesture when he was playing the Knicks. Hitting more buzzer-beating, game-winning three pointers than I can count. His rivalry with the Knicks and John Starks in particular. His trademark gaze into the crowd after making a huge shot. It'll be weird not having him in the league any more, and it's also a little sad that he had to hang it up in a year when the Pacers were marred by so much controversy and negative attention.

Even with his retirement, some things won't change. Whenever I play basketball, I'll still always imagine myself as him putting in the last second three pointer for the win. I'll always argue that Miller would be more dependable in the clutch than Jordan (much to Eaton's fury). I'll always remember him whenever I see Indiana play, and I'll always treasure all of the time that I spent with my grandpa watching Miller strut his stuff. I'll miss Reggie, but I hope that retirement treats him well. I don't know if I'll have nearly as much interest in the NBA now that he's not a part of it, but at least I'll always have the memories.

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