Reggie Miller on making NBA 75th Anniversary Team: 'I'm a little shaken right now'
INDIANAPOLIS — Sitting courtside in San Francisco, preparing to commentate the game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, Reggie Miller was caught by surprise.
Called in under the guise of talking about Stephen Curry, another member of the 75th Anniversary Team, Miller was informed he had also made the team by TNT’s Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. Whether because of technical delay or pure shock, it took Miller a few seconds to respond.
“I wasn’t expecting to be on that list truthfully,” Miller said.
With the NBA celebrating its diamond anniversary, the league concluded its announcement of the 75th Anniversary Team Thursday. And just as it did 25 years ago, the Hoosier state has a very respectable amount of representation.
Selected by a panel of media members, current and former players, coaches, general managers and team executives, the group features all the players who made up the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1996, and 25 new additions. A tie in the voting meant 26 new members were added for a grand total of 76 names.
Three of these players were named to the 50th anniversary team, while two, including Miller, are making their first appearance.
Larry Bird - (1979-1982)
Born in West Baden Springs, Ind. and raised in nearby French Lick, Ind., Larry Bird’s legend is well documented and often told. A star at Springs Valley High School, he earned a scholarship to Indiana University but left after a year, eventually winding up at Indiana State.
In Terre Haute, Ind., he became a national phenomenon. In three years as a Sycamore, Bird helped take the team to its first ever NCAA Tournament, and carried them all the way to the 1979 Championship Game, though Indiana State lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson.
However, Indiana State was just the springboard for one of the greatest careers the NBA has ever seen.
Drafted No. 6 overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1978 NBA Draft — he deferred a year to play his final season in Terre Haute — Bird’s accolades go on forever: 12 All-Star appearances, nine All-NBA First Team honors, three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards and he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1998. He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists throughout his 11 year career.
Bird also won three NBA Championships in 1980-81, 1982-83 and 1985-86 with the Celtics, and was named Finals MVP in the latter two, one half of the legendary rivalry between Boston and Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers. Bird also starred internationally as a member of the 1992 USA Men’s Basketball Team, also dubbed the Dream Team, winning a gold medal for his efforts.
Upon his retirement from the league in 1992, Bird eventually returned to the Hoosier State, coaching the Indiana Pacers from 1997-2000 and serving two stints as the team’s president of basketball operations.
He was named NBA Coach of the Year during the 1997-98 season, and earned Executive of the Year honors for the 2011-12 season, the only man in NBA history to win the highest honors for work as a player, coach and front office member. He currently works with the Pacers in an advisory role.
Oscar Robertson - (1960-1974)
Originally from Charlotte, Tenn., Oscar Robertson moved to Indianapolis with his family when he was about 4. He attended Crispus Attucks High, then a segregated school for Black students, and starred in the high-paced offense of Ray Crowe.
Robertson and his team lost the 1954 state semifinals to Milan High, but Crispus Attucks won the tournament in 1955, the first school from Indianapolis to win the championship and the first all-Black school in the country to win an open state basketball title. A year later, they did it again while also becoming the first team in the history of the Indiana Boys Basketball tournament to complete a perfect season.
After starring in Indiana’s high school hoops scene, Robertson committed to the University of Cincinnati. In three years with the Bearcats, he set school and NCAA records, losing only nine games during his tenure though he never managed to win a championship. He also co-captained the 1960 USA Olympic team with Jerry West, winning a gold medal.
Robertson was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals. During his sophomore season, he became the first player to average a triple-double across an entire year — a feat which wasn’t repeated until Russell Westbrook did it in 2016-17.
With Cincinnati, Robertson continued to rack up individual awards. He was named NBA MVP in 1963-64, made 12 All-Star appearances, was named All-NBA First Team nine times and led the league in assists in six seasons.
Ahead of the 1970-71 season, Robertson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he finally won his elusive championship with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor. During his career, Robertson averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game.
However, Robertson’s impact was bigger than basketball. He was outspoken about prejudice he faced throughout his college and NBA career and the poverty he experienced as a child growing up in Indianapolis.
As president of the players’ association, he filed the landmark antitrust case against the NBA during his first year in Milwaukee, obtaining free agency for players, eventually leading to higher wages for players. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1980.
Isiah Thomas - (1981-1994)
Unlike the first two names on this list, Isiah Thomas wasn’t born or raised in Indiana. Instead, he spent his formative years in the West Side of Chicago. A basketball prodigy, he was recruited by legendary Indiana coach Bob Knight, arriving in Bloomington, Ind., as a freshman in 1979.
Thomas shined at IU, winning a Big Ten Championship with current Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson, though they lost to Purdue in the Sweet 16. A year later, as captain, Thomas guided Indiana to the NCAA Championship game, defeating North Carolina, to win the Hoosier’s fourth National title. Thomas was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and declared for the draft immediately after.
Despite standing at just 6-foot-1, Thomas was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Pistons, turning the previously hapless franchise into contenders almost immediately. However, playoff disappointment and the success of Bird’s Celtics prevented Thomas and the Pistons from reaching the finals until the 1987-88 season.
Facing longtime friend Johnson and the Lakers, Thomas played through an ankle injury to score 25 points in Game 6 of the finals, then an NBA record, but late free throws iced the game for Los Angeles, sending the series to Game 7, which Detroit lost. Thomas and the Pistons returned to the finals the next season, beating the Lakers to win their first of two consecutive NBA titles.
A 12-time All-Star with three All-NBA First Team selections and the 1990 NBA Finals MVP, Thomas averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists per game, but his late career was plagued by injury. An achilles tear in 1994 ended his career while his Pistons struggled to compete with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Thomas was also controversially left off the Dream Team in 1992.
Upon retirement, Thomas spent time as both a coach and an executive, and was Bird’s successor as head coach of the Pacers from 2000-03. He is currently a broadcaster for TNT, and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000.
Bob McAdoo - (1972-1986)
The first of the new additions to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, Bob McAdoo also came to Indiana to play college basketball. Originally from North Carolina, he didn’t qualify for Division I schools academically out of high school. McAdoo played his first two years of college hoops at Vincennes University, then a junior college, in Vincennes, Ind.
McAdoo and future 10-year NBA veteran Foots Walker helped the Trailblazers win the NJCAA Division I National Championship in 1970, as McAdoo’s 27 points in the championship game propelled them to the title. A year later, he was named a Junior College All-American before heading to North Carolina.
However, he spent only one season as a Tar Heel — albeit a productive one — and declared for the NBA draft a year early after receiving a hardship waiver. He was drafted No. 2 overall by the Buffalo Braves ahead of the 1972-73 campaign, and led the league in scoring three consecutive years starting his sophomore season. McAdoo was also named 1974-75 NBA MVP, as his combination of size and perimeter shooting made him almost unstoppable in his era.
McAdoo was traded to the New York Knicks in 1976, starting a journeyman period for him. The forward was moved to the Celtics in 1979, and then Bird arrived and McAdoo was sent to the Pistons. He spent a few years with them, and signed a free agent deal with the New Jersey Nets before he was eventually traded to the Lakers. Under Pat Riley, McAdoo moved to the bench extensively for the first time in his career, and it paid off as he won two NBA Championships with the team in 1981-82 and 1984-85.
During his 17-year career, McAdoo averaged 22.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, though during his MVP season, he was scoring almost 35 points per game. After leaving the NBA, he had a successful career in Europe, playing until 1992.
Upon retirement, McAdoo spent 25 seasons as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat, winning Championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013. He currently serves as a scout and community liaison for the team, and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000.
Reggie Miller - (1987-2005)
A star at UCLA and the younger brother of fellow Naismith Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller, Reggie Miller arrived in the Hoosier State as the Indiana Pacers’ first-round pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. A deadeye marksman from distance, Miller noted that when he first came into the league, NBA teams averaged just five attempts from three-point range per game.
Miller spent all 18 years of his career with the Pacers, who retired his number in 2006. One of only eight members of the 50-40-90 club, he also held the all-time record for three-pointers made, though it was later broken by Ray Allen.
He quickly established himself as the Pacers’s offensive focal point, pouring in 57 points against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 28, 1992 — Indiana’s single-game scoring record.
By the mid-90s, Miller and the Pacers were among the teams chasing Jordan and the Bulls, and upset Penny Hardaway and O’Neal’s Orlando Magic during the 1994 playoffs. However, Miller’s most memorable moments always seemed to come against the Knicks, including his famous eight points in nine seconds.
Jordan’s second retirement made the Pacers favorites in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2000 Finals, and even though they lost to O’Neal and the Lakers, it’s still the only finals appearance the Pacers franchise has seen.
Miller retired in 2005 and has since worked as a broadcaster for TNT. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2012.
“We all know this is very subjective,” he said. “I look at that list because you’re going to get into who didn’t make the list, and there’s great players on this list, and looking at the first 50, everyone absolutely deserves to be on that list. I wasn’t going to be upset if I wasn’t because I would put my resume against anyone, but I’m a little shaken right now.”