In Part I of The Shadow League interview with basketball legend and broadcasting vet Cheryl Miller, we picked her brain about myriad topics including her new gig as head coach of Langston University's women's basketball team.
In Part II we continue our one-on-one with a woman who is a giant in the world of pro sports and a torch bearer for women's rights in this country. We also asked Cheryl about her lil' bro (former NBA star) Reggie, Tim Dunan vs. Kobe and the fate of Knicks free agent forward Carmelo Anthony.
J.R. Gamble: Is your legacy as a supreme basketball player – the best in your family some say – properly understood by today’s young ballers?
Cheryl Miller: “Well If I’m not the best basketball player, I’m certainly the most underpaid (laughter). I really don’t know. I’m probably the wrong person to ask that question. I let everyone else dictate that end. I never get into who’s the greatest and everything else. I think that’s meaningless and that’s not who I am. I’ve certainly been blessed and I certainly feel a responsibility for young women coming up as future basketball players, whether it’s WNBA or playing overseas or a broadcaster. I get more questions from young people majoring in communications about how they can get their foot in the broadcasting door, then someone asking, ‘Cheryl, who has the best crossover?’ and that sort of thing. I’m always shocked when people tell me that I look like I just finished playing 5 to 10 years ago. I’m like, ‘Thank You!’ I think whether pursuing basketball or broadcasting or just your life goals and career, the common question is, ‘Cheryl, what does it take?
Gamble: So what's your prevailing philosophy?
C. Miller: “Don’t take things personal. You can be driven. But be driven in a way that you can enjoy the journey. Understand that there are going to be obstacles and pitfalls and mountains that seem insurmountable and valleys that seem too low or too deep and sometimes you will feel like you’re in the promise land. But through it all always maintain who you are. Maintain and understand that with your success there’s an obligation you have to further yourself, your community and your sport, but you always have to think about giving back and preparing the way for someone else.”
Gamble: You became the first female analyst to announce a nationally televised NBA game in 1996.
C. Miller: “Yes I believe it was with the Clippers. With the Clippers.”
Gamble: What was that like?
C. Miller: “Exhilarating and frightening at the same time. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and knew I could do. The fact that it was in my own backyard…you try to fool yourself and pretend it’s just your mom and dad watching. Well it’s your mom and dad and the entire church and the pastor and the deacon and the congregation and everybody else. And the cousins and the aunties and everybody’s watching. You know what; it’s the same thing as when I was a basketball player. If I hit my first jumper or got a key steal or a big rebound. I was good for the rest of the game. My thing with broadcast was if I could just nail my opening, the rest would be fine. I did that and the rest was easy for me.”
Gamble: The rest was history.
C. Miller: “Yep. That was it…that was it.”
Gamble: Do you have any regrets that you didn’t get to play in the WNBA?
C. Miller: “Not at all. I’ve been asked that so much and not at all. I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching about that and the answer is no. Not at all. I only tell a few people this, but I think the best thing that ever happened to me was in 1986 it was the fourth-quarter of a pickup game against some of the USC men’s football team and I jumped over one of the players, headed down the court and heard a pop. It was my ACL. And that was all she wrote, so that in essence ended my career in '86. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I then knew I had to fall back on my education which was communications. I had to grow up and be a big girl now. What was next? That was utilizing my education and I know that’s the reason why I was with ABC early on and then did some work for ESPN and then 17 years with TNT I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Gamble: So everything happens for a reason.
C. Miller: “Yes it does. Yes it does.”
Gamble: Despite his dominance as a shooter and his ability to shoot rainbow jumpers over a defending skycraper, do you think that your brother Reggie with his wiry frame, lack of speed and serviceable but not dynamic ball handling ability, would still be a Top 10 player in today's game?
C. Miller: “Without question! Without question! You’ve got to understand something. Even if you used that equation. OK? You look at when Reggie played and that was in essence, kind of before the Jordan rules when you could just lay wood on the wings and beat the hell out of them. Yeah (laughter). If you put Reggie in today’s game where you can barely breath on a player without there being a foul called and the way that he could move without the ball...C’mon on. Reggie wasn’t the fastest and he wasn’t the quickest, but he had the best footwork and quickest release. He knew his opponent and knew how to work the system. Absolutely. If Reggie was playing today whatever record that Ray Allen has, Reggie would have set that and then set it higher. No question.”
“There’s absolutely no comparison. You can talk about the athleticism and the ball handling skills which are needed at times. But you can’t find anybody that shot the ball as well as my brother. We’re not talking about setting nine or ten screens for him and all that kind of stuff. He can take somebody off the dribble with one dribble and with average foot speed; he could use that one step and release and still be an assassin. There’s no question in my mind about Reggie.”
Gamble: Who’s had the better career Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan? That question’s been hot in the social media mill lately.
C. Miller: “I’m going to go with Tim Duncan. I just take the entire package of his whole career. I’m looking at titles. I’m looking at longevity and I’m looking at sacrifice. People who aren’t privy to what goes on behind the doors of San Antonio’s operation have no idea to what degree Tim Duncan has sacrificed. Taking a back door and letting Tony Parker and (Manu) Ginobili come first and allowing them to grow into who they became and who they really are. That takes a special, special player to cultivate that process. It really, really does.”
Gamble: And Kobe wouldn’t make sacrifices like that.
C. Miller : “You can be the man, but then it comes down to at what expense and at whose expense. You never had to have that conversation about Tim Duncan in that regard. He’s just a selfless, humble human being on and off the court. What you see is definitely what you get and you talk about rooting for someone; I love LeBron and when you talk about class you have to mention Dwayne Wade, but I was so happy to see that and I just knew that once San Antonio got back to the Finals and had a chance to face Miami again, there was no way they were losing.”
Gamble: What’s Cheryl Miller’s legendary opinion on “The Carmelo Anthony Decision?”
C. Miller: “Uhh…I love Melo and I know how much he wants things to work in NY and I love the Knicks. I love Derek Fisher as coach and Phil Jackson, but Melo and his timeline and window of opportunity is shrinking. I think it’s time for him to pack his bags and if all the pieces come together I’d like to see him in Chicago with D Rose and Noah and Thibodeau. Add some pieces around that and they could be scary.”