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.
February 10, 2011: With Reggie sitting court side doing commentary for TNT, Ray Allen broke Miller’s NBA record for most made 3-pointers. Reggie was very gracious in defeat. He congratulated Allen with an embrace during the first dead ball whistle after the record breaking three. After the game Reggie was asked if he was bummed about his record being broken. He replied, “All records are meant to be broken.” Well said.
Now Ray Allen has statistical superiority over Miller, but is he actually a better player than Reggie?
Obviously we’re a bit biased here at Back Home Again, but I think we can objectively prove that Reggie Miller was in fact a better basketball player than Ray Allen. Since Allen broke Reggie’s record for three balls, much has been said and written regarding this great debate: Reggie Miller vs. Ray Allen. Probably most notably, Bill Simmons, author of The Book of Basketball (and huge Boston sports homer), ranks Ray Allen (a player who helped Bill’s beloved Celtics win their first title since the Bird era) higher than Reggie in said book. Look, we love Mr. Simmons here at Back Home Again (and it’s really hard to love someone who worships Tom Brady and rips Reggie). His Grantland site was one of the main inspirations for this blog, but he’s wrong on this one. (It should be noted that much of his argument revolves around Ray’s portrayal of Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie He Got Game – I love Denzel as much as the next guy, but C’mon Man!) Simmons argues that Reggie became overrated based on the fact that he had a better supporting cast than Ray did during their primes. He also claims that Reggie’s playoff heroics have been overblown and that Ray Allen was a better defender.
I will grant that Allen was a better defender than Miller, and yes Reggie has never had a major role in a motion picture. I’d like to refute nearly everything else.
Reggie and Ray are remarkably similar in many ways. They’re both originally from California and both from military families. They’re both tall, slender shooting guards. They both have shiny, beautiful bald heads. They have eerily similar playing styles: excellent long range shooters, automatic free throw shooters, average defenders, average rebounders. They both were the go-to-guy on small market teams surrounded by average supporting casts during their respective primes. Now the question is who’s supporting casts were better? Simmons will say that Reggie’s were, and he’s right – but the difference is pretty small in my book. Let’s take a look. The best players Reggie played with during his prime were Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, and Jalen Rose (yeah he played with Jermaine O’Neal but that was during the twilight of his career). Ray played with Big Dog Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, and Rashard Lewis (you could throw Vin Baker* in there too, but that was only during Allen’s early years). Is Reggie’s supporting cast better by a landslide? I’d say it’s almost a toss up. Reggie wins out because Ray never played with a good big man like Rik Smits, but it’s not like the Dunkin Dutchman was Hakeem Olajuwon or anything. Was Reggie’s supporting casts so much greater that they account for Miller reaching the conference finals 5 more times than Allen did (not to mention a trip to the NBA Finals that Ray never made during his prime). I think not.
Reggie carried average supporting casts to the Eastern Conference Finals six times. Six! Reggie never had the luxury of playing with other stars. In 2000 he did basically the same thing LeBron James did this past season, but he did it without Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in the lineup. He was one fourth quarter collapse away from beating Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the conference finals. He took an incredibly loaded Lakers team (Shaq and Kobe at their peak) to Game 6 of the 2000 NBA Finals. Can you picture Ray Allen and the Milwaukee Bucks going toe to toe with Jordan. Can you see Ray Allen causing MJ to completely lose his mind (more to come on this soon). I just can’t see it. So, what was Ray actually up to during his prime? He
went to the conference finals once in 2001 and lost to Allen Iverson and the 76ers. Look, AI was great – but he was no Jordan. The one time Reggie and Ray met in a playoff series was 1999 (both players were in their prime). Guess who won? Yep, Reginald. Other than that Ray was mostly busy being traded…. twice. One of the aforementioned Bill Simmons’ Cardinal NBA Rules is “you never trade superstars if you don’t have to.” Ray Allen was a superstar, right? Then why was he traded not once, but twice during his prime (1999-2007)? Twice! Can you imagine the Pacers ever trading Reggie Miller? Better yet, can you imagine the Pacers trading Reggie Miller for a washed up Gary Payton and Desmond Mason? Just sayin.
Yes, Ray Ray’s been to two NBA Finals and won one with the Boston Celtics. But it should be noted that he was the third best player on these teams. Like I wrote a few days ago, Reggie never wanted to jump on someone else’s bandwagon to chase a ring towards the end of his career. To each man his own I suppose.
Now for the claim that Reggie’s playoff heroics have been overblown. It hurts to say it, but this is probably true to some extent. Reggie had some of the most memorable playoff performances of all-time, but he also laid a few eggs along the way. Simmons cites Reggie no shows in Game 7 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals and Game 6 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals. On the other hand, Ray Allen hasn’t been Mr. Perfect in the playoffs either. During the 2010 NBA Finals Allen missed 24 of 28 threes in the final five Finals games including an 0-for-13 Game 4 and a 3-for-14 Game 7. What a legendary shooter.
At the end of the day, there’s really not much separating these two. Allen lucked into the perfect situation in Boston where he’s since won an NBA title and surpassed Reggie’s 3-pointer record, so many people will now forever rank Allen higher than Miller. Personally, I just think Reggie did A LOT more with comparable supporting casts. He was the marquee player for a good franchise for 18 years, and he made everyone around him better due to his off the ball movement. And there really is something to be said for someone who was never traded. In conclusion, if I needed one guy to hit one shot in the closing seconds of any game. I’m going with Reggie every time. Sorry Ray Ray.
*One more reason Reggie is better than Ray. For our NBA Hangtime fans out there: can you imagine ever not starting Reggie in a 2-on-2 Hangtime game? I guess you could make an argument for starting Rose and Smits, but there’s no chance Ray Allen’s a guaranteed starter for the Bucks. You’re going to start Allen over the devastating combo of Robinson and Baker? Big Dog and Vin is about as tough as they come (sans San Antonio and Houston of course). The guy playing you would laugh his ass off. There’s just no way. There’s something to be said for your NBA Hangtime relevance. There really is.