Saturday September 8, 2012

SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- Reggie Miller wasn’t always the biggest name in his own family. On Friday night, he was the top star in the biggest basketball Hall of Fame class in half a century.

The former UCLA and Indiana Pacers star was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining sister Cheryl as the first brother-sister pair in the Springfield shrine. Cheryl Miller, a two-time NCAA tournament MVP at Southern California and 1995 Hall inductee, was on stage to welcome him.

"I just so happened to live across the hall from absolutely, positively the greatest women’s basketball player ever," Miller said as his sister stood by with tears in her eyes. "I’m proud to say I am not on this stage if it wasn’t for you, Cheryl Deann. We rode your shoulders all the way here. So thank you for your help."

It was a big night for UCLA, which also had Don Barksdale and Jamaal Wilkes in the 12-person class of 2012, and for the Indiana Pacers. Two-time ABA Most Valuable Player Mel Daniels also was inductedl, though illness presented him from attending the ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall.

As the biggest name, Miller was the last to the stage -- fitting for a man considered one of the most clutch players in NBA history. He said that it was fitting that he was honored after Daniels, allowing the ABA’s career rebounding leader to become the Pacers’ first player in the Hall.

"They set the standard for what all great Pacers team have achieved," said Miller, who spent his entire 18-year career with Indiana.

Miller, who was introduced for induction by his sister along with Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley, retired as the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, making 2,560 in his career for a record that stood until Ray Allen surpassed it in 2011.

That’s not counting the playoffs, when he built his reputation for performing under pressure.

His signature moment was perhaps the 1995 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he scored eight points in 8.9 seconds. On the Hall stage, Miller finally admitted that he shoved Greg Anthony and held him on the ground before the steal that set up the second of his back-to-back 3-pointers.

"Like Magic said, ‘By any means necessary,"’ Miller said, offering a similar admission to pushing Michael Jordan in the 1998 playoffs. "Yeah, Michael, I did shove you, too. But I’ve seen you do it so many times to so many players, so I figured it was OK."

Also honored on Friday night were Don Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history; three-time NCAA player of the year Ralph Sampson; Nike co-founder Phil Knight; the All-American Redheads, known as the female Harlem Globetrotters; seven-time NBA All-Star Chet Walker; two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain; former Soviet women’s coach Lidia Alexeeva; and longtime NCAA referee Hank Nichols.

Knight ran through some of the company’s biggest advertising campaigns: George Gervin sitting on a throne of ice; Spike Lee’s "It’s got to be the shoes" commercials with Jordan; Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood; Li’l Penny Hardaway and Barkley’s "I am not a role model."

"I’m just glad he made me a part of the whole process," Jordan said in an introductory video. "Ask any of those guys, not just me, and the impact that he’s had on their career has been huge."

LeBron James and Ken Griffey Jr. were in the audience at Springfield Symphony Hall to support him. Jordan and former Georgetown coach John Thompson were Knight’s presenters.

Knight, a gym rat who didn’t realize there was a contributors’ category until he became a member of it, acknowledged the role the players had in his success.

Especially Jordan.

"His magic made him a brand," Knight said, adding that Jordan’s division at Nike sells more now than when he was a player. "He is to the sporting goods industry what Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung were to world politics."

Nelson also gave James a shoutout in his speech, congratulating him for leading the Miami Heat to the NBA championship. "I know the feeling when I won the first one," Nelson said.

Nelson won five NBA titles as a Boston Celtics player and then spent 31 years as a coach, winning an all-time best 1,335 games on the bench in Milwaukee, Golden State, New York and Dallas. He has since retired and moved to Hawaii, where he runs a coffee shop and shaved ice stand.

"Hopefully, this will be the last tuxedo I’ll be wearing," he said. "There is life after basketball. Come out and have a cup of coffee with me in Maui."