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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reggie Miller Decides to Not Call it a Comeback

Reggie Miller has ended his brief dalliance with the idea of becoming the oldest shooting guard in NBA history, according to an article in The Indianapolis Star. Miller explained, "That's it. Physically, I know I could have done it. But mentally, when you do something like this, you've either got to be all in or all out. And I've decided I'm all out."

Of course, if Miller's heart was not in it then his body would not be able to go very far, either. I have no doubt that Miller is in good enough condition to suit up and play passably well in an NBA game. The real issue would have been whether or not he was prepared to survive the grueling grind of an 82 game NBA season. That takes mental and physical endurance. It is one thing to get into shape, it is another thing to get into NBA shape in terms of having the ability to simply compete--and then it is another thing altogether to condition one's mind and body to deal with the pounding, the nagging aches and pains and the travel schedule for months at a time. The interesting thing about older athletes--say, 35 and up--is that the dedicated ones are able to at least look the part but that does not always mean that they can play the part. Toward the end of their careers, Jerry Rice and Hakeem Olajuwon still had lean, well defined physiques, but their aging joints were no longer capable of performing the explosive movements that made them special during their primes. They were in great shape but they were no longer elite level athletes.

Miller insisted to the Star's Bob Kravitz that he will never again entertain the idea of returning to the NBA: "Please write, I will never, ever, ever try something like this again. Any of the 30 teams in the NBA, if you're interested, please don't call."

posted by David Friedman @ 1:06 AM



At Saturday, August 25, 2007 3:56:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I'm not too disappointed to hear this. In fact, the "ring-chasing" trend has annoyed me a bit lately.

I think that Miller's comments support the arguement I made in our previous discussion of Michael Jordan's retirements. In particular, an athlete's mental state can greatly affect his ability to perform at a high level (or to perform at all), and the long NBA season takes a significant toll, mentally.

At Saturday, August 25, 2007 8:54:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

As I indicated in my original post about Miller's proposed comeback, I expected that he would be a marginal player if he returned, considering his age and the minutes that Boston planned for him to play.

Perhaps his comments support your position in our previous discussion but I don't think that the comparison between Miller now and Jordan then is precise. If Miller came back he would have been the oldest shooting guard in NBA history, which would have been a more daunting task than MJ simply continuing to play during the prime of his career (I'm referring of course to his first retirement in 1993, not his subsequent retirement in 1998). I do agree that "an athlete's mental state can greatly affect his ability to perform at a high level (or to perform at all), and the long NBA season takes a significant toll, mentally" but I still am not as certain as you seem to be that the Bulls would not have continued to win titles if MJ had not retired or, more specifically, that a decline in MJ's performance due to said mental fatigue would be the reason that they would not continue to win (as opposed to injuries or some other unforeseen obstacle cropping up).

At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 6:34:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

You are right that Miller now is at a completely different place than Jordan was in 1993, and the comparison is not very precise. I guess it's just some support to my assertion that mental fatigue is a big deal in sports, and you seem to agree with that.

I guess the reason I seem more certain that the Bulls would have gone through some relative "down time" is that Jordan WAS mentally fatigued in 1993. So much so, in fact, that he decided he didn't want to play basketball anymore. (I can't bring myself to dismiss it as a casual decision. If you love something as much as Michael Jordan loves basketball, it has to take something very mentally or physically significant to push you away from it.) If the mental fatigue Jordan was suffering from was significant enough to cause him to retire, I just can't see him playing with his typical intensity and focus if he were somehow forced to play under the same mindstate.

Anyway, sorry to keep beating a dead horse. I just think that too many NBA observers (not you) assume without giving it much thought that the Bulls definitely would have won 8 straight titles if Jordan had just felt like it. It's certainly a possibility, but taking it as a given ignores the considerable burn-out that MJ must have been suffering from in 1993. I put the emotional issues which prevented Jordan from suiting up in 1993 and capturing another title in the same category as injuries, slumps, complacency, feuds, and whatever else has prevented great athletes from winning championships during any given year. It doesn't seem right to me to give credit (or almost give credit) to one athlete for something that could have taken place if not for a certain factor when the same courtesy is not extended to others. (I know that we were mostly discussing other, hypothetical situations. This is what got me thinking about Jordan's retirement and all if its consequences in the first place though.)

At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 7:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

One thing to consider in thinking about these various hypothetical situations is that MJ was already mentally fatigued during the 1993 playoffs and yet he and the Bulls still performed at a very high level. He did not suddenly become mentally fatigued that summer, although the murder of his father obviously was a tremendous burden added to whatever else MJ was going through.

I think that if MJ had decided to play then he would have played at a high level. I suppose the real question, then, is whether or not MJ was in a state of mind where he could have decided to play or if he was so mentally fatigued that this was not a realistic option.

These are all interesting questions but of course there is no way to really go about answering them. My position is that if MJ had continued to play I'm not sure that they would have kept winning nor am I sure that they would not have kept winning. If I were forced to choose, I'd lean toward the Bulls continuing to win, though whether that would mean four straight, five straight or something else is a whole other can of worms, because the second three-peat teams completely differed from the first ones other than MJ, Pip and Jackson. The 1994 Bulls had a good playoff run even without MJ and would likely have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals if not for a horrible call by Hue Hollins. Put MJ in that mix and I like the Bulls' chances of "four-peating." After that, predicting or projecting things gets hazy--would Grant have gone to Orlando if MJ had not retired?


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