SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Reggie Miller looked for his picture while he waited. The press conference introductions for the other 11 new members of the Basketball Hall of Fame took a while Thursday afternoon, so until his name was called his eyes strayed toward the top of the three-story atrium. That was where the famous faces were, the Honor Ring of Inductees, 313 back-lit pictures of the patron saints of slam dunks and rebounds, picks-and-rolls, three-point jumpers, crossover dribbles and stops and pops.
Was he already there?
No and no and no and no and no. He went up and down the rows. No and no and no and no. He saw pictures of Dr. J and William Felton Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan and Larry Bird and a bunch of guys he didn’t know, executives from behind assorted scenes, set shooters from long ago, no and no and no. He never did find his own picture, even though it already had been added.
He did find the picture of his sister.
There she was. Cheryl.
“I’d already seen a life-sized cutout of her somewhere in the building,” Reggie Miller, who never had been to the Hall before, said later. “Then I saw her picture. I don’t know. I still haven’t seen the whole building. Maybe she has her own wing.”
There she was. Same as always.
* * *
The boy was small. That was his story. He was the fourth of five kids in the family of Saul and Carrie Miller of Riverside, Calif., a medium-sized city located 60 miles east of Los Angeles in the middle of citrus country. Saul was career army, a chief master sergeant, and Carrie was a nurse and the boy was a worry.
His legs were a mess when he was born, his hips deformed, his ankles pointed inward. The prescription was braces. The doctors said there always would be problems, that sports were not in his future, but maybe the braces would help him walk better when he grew older. There was no real choice in the matter. The boy was a chubby kid with big ears and a military buzzcut and now the braces. He wore them for the first four years of his life.
“I remember watching games in our driveway out the window,” Reggie Miller said. “There was a hoop. My brothers and sister would be running around, playing. I was so anxious to get those braces off. I wanted to go out and run, too.”
His mother always said he would. Doctors didn’t know everything.
* * *
The girl was big. That was her story. She shot up the way girls often do in grammar school and those first couple years of middle school, bigger than the boys in the class, making for those awkward class pictures and first boy-girl dance lessons that make parents smile.
She was 17 months older than her brother. The older boys were a pair, Saul Jr. and Darrell, six and seven years older, so she was a pair with her little brother. The fifth child, Terry, a girl, was five years younger. Age and circumstance were everything.
She could have been nicer to her little brother when he finally came onto the court, 5 years old, ready at last for action. But she had learned competitive etiquette from her older brothers: Never give anyone a break. Never.
When she would try to play against them -- the times they would allow a girl to play -- they swiped away her attempts at layups, laughed at her, talked big trash all the time. She had to figure out ways to get past them, shots that would work against taller people. She had to earn her points.
So when her brother came along, straight from those braces, she handed him the same treatment. Nice to have you around, glad to see the doctors were wrong and our mother was right, but never bring that weak stuff to the basket. Understand? She knocked him into their mother’s rose bushes when he tried to drive and then knocked him into the rose bushes again when he tried to drive again.
Pretty soon he figured that maybe he should be taking his shot from the rose bushes instead of getting knocked into them. Pretty soon his father removed the rose bushes, just to make the court wide enough to hold all the action.
“That’s where my shot came from,” Reggie Miller said. “That’s why it’s unorthodox. It had to be to get it over her.”
* * *
The girl became very, very good. She went to Riverside Polytechnic High School and was a Parade magazine All-America for four straight years. She was a ferocious rebounder, a prolific scorer. Riverside Poly went 132-4 during her four years. She wasn’t the best women’s basketball player in Riverside; she was the best basketball player in Riverside.
She and the boy sometimes would go to strange playgrounds and work a scam. If they saw two macho guys playing at another basket, the girl would purposely play badly at the other basket, play the way the macho guys would think a girl would play. After a stretch of botched shots, lost dribbles, general discombobulation by his sister, the boy would approach the macho guys and ask if perhaps they wanted to play a game. Oh, yes, and maybe they would want to play for the price of lunch?
The girl would turn into a basketball Wonder Woman. The macho guys would wind up in the nearest rose bushes. The Big Mac and a large drink was a popular lunchtime choice.
“Those guys would be bamboozled!” Reggie Miller said. “Hoodwinked!”
* * *
The girl’s standards were tough to match. Impossible. The boy would say in a memoir, “I Love Being The Enemy,” that he took 500, 600, 700 shots a day, jumpers, trying to keep pace. He was still small, 5-foot-9, maybe 140 pounds, when he entered high school. Even when he became a starter on the Riverside Poly varsity team, midway through his sophomore year, even when those 500, 600, 700 shots a day started paying off with substantial totals in the box score, he always knew who was the basketball player in the family.
“I scored 39 points …” he reported once when he returned to the family home. This was the start to an oft-told family story.
“That’s very good,” his sister said. “Congratulations.”
“Tell him …” someone else said.
Tell him what?
The boy remembered. His sister also had played a game that night.
“How many points did you score?” he asked. “Forty? Fifty? More? (He gave up.) How many?”
The total was 105 points. She had scored them against Norte Vista High School. The boy never had HEARD of anyone scoring over 100 points in a game.
* * *
It wasn’t until his sister was a freshman the University of Southern California that he caught up with her physically. When she came home for Christmas vacation she noticed that he had grown much taller. A growth spurt had pushed him past her 6-foot-2, heading toward an eventual height of 6-foot-7.
He suggested they play one-on-one on the old rosebush court. She agreed. First time she drove to the basket, he blocked her shot. Second time, same result. Third time? There was no third time.
“From now on,” Cheryl Miller said. “We just play H-O-R-S-E.”
The one-on-ones were finished.
* * *
So the girl went to USC and was the college player of the year three times and won two national titles and went from there to be part of the women’s team that won the first Olympic gold medal for the United States in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. She arguably was the best player in the history of women’s basketball. She certainly was at the time she graduated in 1986. Knee injuries kept her from a professional career, but she coached at USC and coached in the WNBA and, in 1995, was chosen for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“When I got the call, at first I wanted to make sure it wasn’t Reggie playing a joke on me,” Cheryl said. “He has a warped sense of humor.”
So the boy went to UCLA and had a terrific career, averaged more than 20 points per game his last two seasons, solid, but was never a college player of the year and never was part of a national champion. He never was his sister.
Drafted with the 11th pick of the first round, though, by the Indiana Pacers in 1987, a controversial choice, he blossomed in the NBA. He played 18 seasons, was an All-Star five times, challenged Spike Lee, taunted and talked, became the master of the clutch shot, master of the three-point shot, made more than $100 million from playing basketball, was the second-leading scorer for the USA Dream Team that captured the 1996 gold medal in Atlanta.
So now, with the induction ceremony on Friday night, the boy and the girl become the only brother-sister combination in any major athletic hall of fame in the country, maybe the world. So now they’re both in that Honor Ring of Inductees. This is pretty good for two kids knocking each other into the same rose bush.
“Who was the first person you called after you found out?” Reggie Miller was asked.
“Oh, Cheryl,” he said. “She just started screaming. She was as excited as I was.”
* * *
Maybe they’re even now.