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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Larry Miller: The ABA’s All-Time Single-Game Scoring Leader and an ACC Legend

In an article that originally appeared in the July 29, 2005 issue of Sports Collectors Digest, I told the story of Larry Miller, a two-time ACC Player of the Year at North Carolina who set the all-time ABA single-game scoring record; the picture to the right shows Carolina Cougars President Carl Scheer presenting the game ball to Miller after Miller's 67 point outburst. Here is the complete text of the SCD article, including quotes about Miller from Larry Brown, Woody Paige and Joe Caldwell (it should be noted that the online auction mentioned in the article is over and that Kobe Bryant now holds the record for most points scored by a pro guard in a single game, 81):

Revisiting Larry Miller's Permanent Record: Most Records are Made to be Broken, but This One Will Last for an Eternity

Ask this question of your favorite know-it-all hoops fan: who holds the ABA regular season single-game scoring record? When he is stumped after listing Hall of Famers like Rick Barry, Julius Erving and George Gervin, you can tell him that the answer is Larry Miller, a 6’4” Carolina Cougars guard who scored 67 points versus the Memphis Pros on March 18, 1972. The 67 points were not only an ABA record, but also the most points that a pro basketball guard had ever scored, a mark later broken by Pete Maravich, who totaled 68 points against Walt Frazier’s New York Knicks on February 25, 1977. David Thompson (73) and Michael Jordan (69) are the only other pro guards to score more in a single game than Miller did.

Woody Paige, who appears on ESPN’s Around the Horn and Cold Pizza, covered Larry Miller’s 67 point game as a young beat writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal: “Johnny Neumann was guarding Miller for a lot of the game and he came by press row. I said something to him—I don’t remember what—and he said, ‘The guy is really hot.’ That’s what I always remember and I quoted him saying that in my article. Of course, Neumann was about the worst defensive player in basketball.”

Miller’s teammate Joe Caldwell had seven assists in the contest: “That was a fun game for me because (on 2/5/71 against Kentucky) I had scored 56. So when Larry Miller got hot I made sure that the ball stayed in his hands. I was so happy that he set a new ABA record. It was one of the most exciting moments for me to be involved in a game when a guy gets hot like that. Somebody has to keep the ball in his hands.”

Paige recalls, “He did a lot of one-two pump fakes. He was a guy who would go up and go up again and eventually put a guy in the air.” Miller adds, “I was always a great driver to the basket. So if I took off like I was going to drive and then stopped I could easily get a jump shot.” Miller shot 25 of 39 from the field, missing his lone three point attempt, and used his pump fakes to draw a lot of fouls, connecting on 17 of 23 free throw attempts. He also had eight rebounds and four assists while playing 46 of a possible 48 minutes. Miller’s point totals by quarter were 21, 17, 20 and nine. Miller concludes, “It’s kind of nice to have a record that will never be broken (since the ABA no longer exists).”

The aftermath of the 67 point game is at least as dramatic as the game itself. Miller recalls, “I lived in a house by a lake (near Greensboro) at that time. The night I broke the record was a Saturday night. Two days later my house burned down. The night before that Wendell (Ladner) was at my house for dinner. It was just an amazing series of events. (At first) We thought that (the fire had been caused) because his wife was smoking. We had a sand ashtray that everyone put their cigarettes in.” The blaze was actually started by a lightning strike. “It started where the TV was plugged in and it burned out from there. It was about four o’clock in the morning. I had to run across the lake in my underwear to my nearest neighbor. I had a big gash in my left hand, my shooting hand. I lost two dogs under the bed and all the belongings in the house. I didn’t even have a uniform. We had a game in New York that night against the Nets in Long Island. We were in the running for the playoffs. The insurance man got a uniform and got it cleaned. I went to the hospital. They sewed up my left hand with 11 stitches. We found me some clothes. The team went up to New York. I caught a later plane in the afternoon and took a limo to the arena. I played that night with 11 stitches in my shooting hand…and we won the game.”

Miller adds, “I still have scars from it. It goes from about that first line on the ring finger to the tip. It was a strange story. If that had happened today it would be all over the news.”

Despite his record setting game—and a solid season in which he averaged a career high 18.4 ppg—the Cougars did not keep Miller: “I was traded from the Carolina Cougars after I was (team) MVP that season. I wasn’t under contract and they let me go because I wouldn’t agree to play for the same contract that I had the previous season. I was threatened that they would let me go if I wouldn’t sign a contract for $45,000 and I wanted $60,000, which I did (eventually) get. I mean, could you imagine that happening today? After that happened, 250 people canceled their season tickets. Even at that point if they (season tickets) were only $100, they lost $25,000.”

Miller averaged 13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 2.4 apg in 486 games over seven ABA seasons. He averaged 7.7 rpg as a rookie, a remarkable accomplishment for a 6’4” guard. He averaged more rebounds per minute in his career than All-Star guards Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Steve Francis. Despite his solid numbers, Miller played for five teams and nine head coaches during his ABA career. Miller feels that he never had the opportunity to stay in one system long enough to show what he was really capable of doing: “It was proven at levels before that—and even at that level—that I could score and I could play defense--and I could pass and I could dribble. I wasn’t the fastest guy in the world, but I wasn’t a guy who was going to get beat on defense and nobody was going to steal the ball from me.”

ACC Memories

Detroit Pistons Coach Larry Brown remembers the impact that Miller had at the University of North Carolina: “I was a coach when he was a freshman at Carolina. I coached him one year. Coach Smith, when he signed Bobby Lewis and then Larry Miller back to back, that changed our program and got us back to where we had been. He had as much to do with the success at Carolina as anybody. He was a phenomenal college player. I thought he was a great pro. He just got banged up a little bit. I just thought that he was a great competitor and a great player. I loved the guy. He was fun to be around. He had great strength and quickness and he could handle the ball. He was a great all-around player.”

Miller fondly remembers his Tar Heel days: “The biggest deal in that part of the country was winning the ACC Tournament, because (otherwise) you didn’t get in the NCAAs. That was even bigger than the Final Four. Those ACC Tournaments were probably my greatest college moments, because we won both of them. I had really good tournaments in both of them and I was the MVP of both of them.”

Miller led UNC to the NCAA Final Four in 1967 and 1968, earning First Team All-American honors and the ACC Player of the Year Award after both seasons. In the 1967 ACC Tournament Finals he made 13 of 14 field goals, scoring 32 points in an 82-73 win over Duke. He is one of only two players to win two ACC Player of the Year Awards and two ACC Tournament MVPs. Miller made the 1968 All-Final Four Team and averaged 21.8 ppg and 9.2 rpg in his Tar Heel career.

Memories and Memorabilia

Miller is selling over 1000 pieces of memorabilia from his high school, college and ABA career, with a portion of the proceeds going to his hometown Catasauqua (Pennsylvania) Public Library. Listed items include jerseys, basketballs, various ACC trophies and awards, recruiting letters (including one from South Carolina’s Frank McGuire), and photographs documenting highlights of Miller’s career, including the 67 point game. Miller explains why he is selling these items now: “All that stuff was in my family home in Pennsylvania. My father passed away a little over ten years ago and my mother just passed away a year ago. All that stuff was there in the house in a trophy case and being stored away. It wasn’t doing any good. A lot of the stuff is letters and so forth. Some of the coaches have passed away now. People collect that stuff. It doesn’t do any good being in boxes.”

Miller looked into various options before deciding to auction the memorabilia on Ebay. Before the items go up for bidding they can be viewed at Omillaja.com. Miller says, “Using a website to promote the Ebay sale is what I’m trying to do. If it works out OK then I may do some other things along those lines. I’m basically just working on the format.” Miller does not go to sports collector shows or do appearances to sign autographs: “No, I haven’t done any of that. Matter of fact, I’m even out of the reunion business—going back to the reunions and stuff like that. I’m just kind of relaxing.” The last time he set foot on a basketball court was several years ago: “I went out to L.A. for a UNC versus UCLA alumni game. That was the last time I had a uniform on. That was in the early ‘90s. One time I played in a reunion at North Carolina about six years after I played (retired from pro ball). I didn’t think I was going to play at all. I hadn’t picked up a basketball in those years and then I played the most of anybody on the team. I was so sore I couldn’t even climb the stairs.”

Woody Paige will never sell his only collectible from his days covering the ABA because it has special meaning for him: “Charlie Finley owned the Memphis team toward the end and my Dad was very ill. He had his leg amputated and Charlie Finley was very nice to him. For my Dad’s birthday the Memphis team signed a ball to him, personalized it. I kept that. I can’t think of anything else that I have. I had press guides from the very beginning, which would probably be worth something. I had all the media guides from the beginning to the end…because I was going to write the definitive history of the league. Well, I ended up giving them away to two brothers who collect ABA memorabilia.”

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:49 AM



At Thursday, April 11, 2013 2:28:00 AM, Blogger RiderHoops said...

Larry Miller should be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Woody Paige will you get behind the cause?

At Saturday, May 04, 2013 10:31:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I agree Larry should be in The Hall Of Fame.

At Sunday, June 07, 2015 9:28:00 AM, Anonymous Coach said...

There is no doubt that Larry Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame. He is the only player in UNC history to be the two time MVP of the league and the two time MVP of the ACC tournament which in those days was the ONLY route to the NCAA tourney. He was the Athlete of the Year in the ACC. He averaged an incredible 21.9 ppg and 9.2 rpg for his career and was a first team All American, and outstanding player in the ABA and the single game scoring record holder. As a seniot in high school he was the number one player in the country. Enough said.

At Monday, September 10, 2018 11:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 2 tickets from the record breaking game. Email me if interested. twood14@triad.rr.com

At Monday, September 10, 2018 11:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not interested at this time but I have posted your comment in case someone else might be interested. Thank you!

At Thursday, December 24, 2020 7:51:00 AM, Blogger Gerry said...

Very interested in the tickets.


At Thursday, December 24, 2020 10:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The comment about the tickets was posted over two years ago, and I am not sure if that person is checking back in this comment thread, so your best bet is probably to email that person directly using the email address that he provided. Good luck!


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