The Story Of An NBA Champion!!
For the past fourteen years, Mike Miller has given his all to the National Basketball Association. He can recall the majority of the games in his career, despite his wife jokingly insisting he has a bad memory of everything else.
Still, ever since he could actually remember, Miller began working on his notable 3-pointer in small town, South Dakota with his family. I was fortunate," said Miller. "My uncles, my dad and his brothers, they all played basketball. Then I had two older brothers who played. Being the youngest of three brothers, you tag along and do anything to spend more time with them, even though they don't want to spend time with you. For us, that was basketball. Our whole family, it was all basketball. I picked it up early."
In 1998, Miller committed to the University of Florida. He played two seasons at Florida, posting 13.3 PPG and an outstanding 34.5% 3FG% in 65 games. In 2000, Miller went on to lead the Gators to the 2000 NCAA Championship game, losing to Michigan State. Still, Miller hit perhaps the most dramatic shot of the tournament that year in the opening round against Butler. Trailing by one to the Bulldogs, Miller drove to the basket and laid in the game winner as time expired, which he noted was his favorite memory at Florida.
"The first round, my sophomore year, making the game-winner against Butler," Miller recalled. "Solely because we ended up going to the National Championship game that year.” It was such a fun ride in college, where you live with the guys, so to do that together with those guys was a great experience."
After his sophomore season at Florida, Miller declared for the NBA Draft. Fresh off of a worthy National Championship run, Miller called his mom and dad to inform them he was going to leave school early for the NBA.
"It was a tough decision to make, especially when your mom is a teacher and your dad is a principal," Miller said. "So, when you make that phone call to tell them that you’re thinking about leaving school early to go to the NBA, obviously education is first in my family, so their support was something I really needed and wanted. And they gave it to me, along with my brothers and my sister. They made the decision a lot easier for me."
The 2000 NBA Draft was held in Minneapolis that year, right next door to Miller's home state of South Dakota. His dream came true that night when the Orlando Magic called his name with the 5th overall pick. He was excited to join veterans Tracy McGrady and and Darrell Armstrong under coach Doc Rivers.
"It was special for me," said Miller. "It’s obviously special for everyone because you play your whole life to get to that point. Being from South Dakota that made it a lot of fun because there’s a whole crowd full of people who came down. My family and friends got to come down so it was an exciting time for me."
In his first year with the Magic, Miller appeared in all 82 games, the only first-year player to do so that year. That year, Miller was third on the team in scoring and led the Magic in three point shooting. s. He won Rookie of the Year honors, edging out Kenyon Martin and Jamal Crawford. Miller noted all of the valuable advice he received from veterans around the league in his first season.
"Looking back at it, I was fortunate to come onto a veteran team where I was the only rookie," said Miller. "You had guys like Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, guys you could really learn from. And then you had the head coach who was Doc Rivers. I learned so much about the NBA almost by pressing the fast forward button. Like how to prepare for games, how to take care of your game, and how to do the little things – not so much the game stuff – but how to do everything to make sure you play a long time in this career. I was fortunate enough to have those kind of guys with me. I learned to never get too high or get too low, because as a rookie when you score 20 points in a game you feel great. But there are 82 games and it’s a long season. There will be games where you score one point. It’s all about going out there and giving everything you’ve got and staying about your team."
After bouncing around for a decade with the Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Wizards, in 2011 Miller landed on the Miami Heat. In that off-season, the Heat also added LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the team led by Dwayne Wade. The Heat were favored to win the NBA Championship but were upset by the Dallas Mavericks in six games. In the following two years, the Heat would win back-to-back championships over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. Miller was a key contributor to both championship runs.
"It took me ten years to get to the NBA Finals, and it took me eleven years to win it," said Miller. "There are a lot of great people that you look at who have never won it. It’s a tough league and you have to be mentally strong, and you have to prepare every year like you’re going to win it, and sometimes that’s tough to do."
In addition to his passion for basketball, Miller also is heavily involved in the community. In 2008, he launched the Mike Miller Foundation, with a mission is to provide aid to disadvantaged or disabled children, and to encourage children to have a healthy lifestyle. The foundation has donated over 1.7 million in money and in kind donations to the Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Youth Athletic Foundation, St Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, TN and the Make-A-Wish Organizations, in both Tennessee and South Dakota.
"At the time I felt like I had a little bit of good fortune going on in my life and it was a chance to give back," Miller says. "Six years ago was a perfect time to start it. We run basketball camps, clinics, galas. We do really everything, but it never changes what it’s for. It’s always for children, whether it’s Make-A-Wish, Sanford Children’s Hospital, St. Jude, etc. Now we’re adding Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital into the mix. We’re really just getting started."
The foundation is proud to have helped Alonzo Mourning's efforts in Miami, the 5th and 6th grade girls basketball program from inner city Washington, Mitcher High school in South Dakota, and AAU programs in Memphis and South Dakota.
The cities that I’ve played in, we always attack a need in that city," says Miller. "It’s something that people like to get behind. But, it always reverts back to children. And of course where I am from. We try to hit every place that we can have an impact on. “
At age 34, Mike Miller still plans to be a valuable role player for a few more years. From playing against Michael Jordan to playing with LeBron, Miller has led an exciting career.
"When you played against Jordan, and he walked on the court, you knew something special was about to happen. Playing with LeBron for three years, that’s how you felt every night going into a game, “Man, what is he about to do tonight?” He never disappointed. Even when I played against Jordan in D.C. at 40 years old, he never disappointed. Those are just special guys that come along once in a lifetime."
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