All December long the Back Home Again staff will be recounting the Top 25 Reggie Miller Moments of all-time as part of our “25 Days of Reggie.” The countdown will serve as a great way to get geared up for the start of the 2011 NBA season (and Christmas) as we remember and honor one of the NBA’s most clutch performers and the Indiana Pacers’ greatest player ever.
As we kick off our first blog series serving tribute to one of the greats to play in the NBA (and to also usher the beginning of the NBA season on the horizon) we start our 25 Days of Reggie Miller of course at (where else) number 25.
As the 1987 NBA Draft began to be hyped, the Indiana Pacers were struck with a decision with the 11th pick: take local Indiana Hoosier product Steve Alford (also from New Castle, Indiana) or go elsewhere. The Pacers fan base was on a bit of a high after making the playoffs in the 86-87 season after managing just 48 wins the previous two seasons combined.
Thanks to the fact that there were only 23 teams in the NBA at the time and the Pacers barely making it into the Playoffs in ’87, Indiana was selecting 11th behind the Chicago Bulls in the 1987 NBA Draft (by the way, the Bulls had 2 top 10 picks in this draft, taking Horace Grant and Olden Polynice before trading OP away for some Hall of Famer named Scottie Pippen).
The big name of the 1987 Draft was ‘The Admiral’, David Robinson. San Antonio took him first, and won a couple championships with big #50 patrolling the paint. Kevin Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Derrick McKey (eventual Pacer) were picked ahead of Indy at 11.
As the time came for Indiana to make the pick, Donnie Walsh was put in a tough situation: take the hometown superstar, or go west young man. Here’s how it went down on June 22, 1987 He did indeed go west, taking the 6’7 Miller ahead of Alford. A chorus of boos reigned down in Indianapolis and in New York where the Draft was taking place. Alford was eventually taken in the 2nd round at pick #26 with the Dallas Mavericks.
Conceivably, if Walsh wanted to, he could have gone back in the Draft, traded up, and gotten the National Champion Indiana Hoosier…he didn’t. Could have been one of the greatest decisions not just for Donnie Walsh, but for Indiana Pacers history.
Alford went onto play 4 years in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, before calling it quits in 1991. Here’s a fun little comparison of Alford’s career numbers to Reggie’s career numbers (the greater number is in BOLD. As if you really needed it to be in bold to compare the 2.)
Points Assists FT %
Alford 746 176 87.0%
Miller 25,279 4,141 88.8%
(I would have gotten more stats to compare, but those were the only 3 relevant statistics I could find on Alford, sorry)
The rest IS in fact history as most would say. Miller went on to back up John Long before ol’ #31 took his rightful place in the starting line-up. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Pacers finally made the Playoffs for the first time with Reggie playing in Indy, and you could even throw in a thank you note to the ‘Dunking Dutchman’ himself for being drafted in 1988.
To all those fans that booed the 11th selection in the 1987 NBA Draft because your prized local boy didn’t get drafted, you were served a humble dose of humiliation for 19 years. While I wasn’t alive to see Reggie be drafted in ’87, I would have cheered my socks off knowing that some short, white guy that played for Bobby Knight didn’t see the floor ever in an Indiana Pacers uniform.
Send us your favorite Miller Moments at bhamailbag.gmail.com.