Today's profile is a rare one on a former athlete, but when a former NBA All-Star wraps up an impressive career (considering its beginnings) he is worthy of his own profile. Brad Miller player his 868th and final NBA game last night. In his career he made a pair of All-Star teams, scored 9,724 points, pulled down 6,199 rebounds, added another 474 points and 309 rebounds in the playoffs, made himself a fair amount of money, and was generally well liked throughout the league.
Before all that, however, he was a Boilermaker.
On the heels of the Big Dog:
The 1994-95 basketball season in West Lafayette was a strange one. We had just lost the National player of the Year and no. 1 overall draft pick when Glenn Robinson went pro. We were coming off of our furthest advancement in the tournament in 14 years, and not a lot was expected, even though the immortal Matt ten Dam would begin playing that year. A tall, skinny freshman from Kendallville, Indiana was on the roster, however, and he would have an instant impact in helping Purdue to the second of three straight Big Ten championships.
Purdue started that season by winning the Big Island invitational in Hawaii over Niagara, New Orleans, and Iowa State, but then lost three straight to Missouri, James Madison, and Western Michigan before playing its first home game on December 9. Purdue went on to finish 25-7, 13-3 in the Big Ten, and won the title by winning 14 of its last 15 games, losing only at Indiana. Unfortunately, yet another season was squandered with a flameout in the NCAAs, as Purdue squeezed by 14 seed Green Bay by one before losing to Memphis by two.
Miller played extensively that year, averaging 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. The next year he would up his totals to 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds as Purdue won another Big Ten title. Purdue would go 26-6, 13-3 and "3-Pete", earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA for the second time in three years.
Unfortunately, another early exit was in the cards. Western Carolina scared the bejesus out of us in round one, losing 73-71 after missing a shot to win and a shot to tie in the final seconds. You'd think that would wake us up as UNC-Asheville did to Syracuse this year. Instead, we went out and crapped the bed in a 76-69 loss to Georgia in round two.
With Miller as a junior Purdue struggled. A senior core of Herb Dove, Roy Hairston, Justin Jennings, Porter Roberts, and Brandon Brantley all graduated, and Jaraan Cornell, Mike Robinson, and Chad Austin weren't quite ready. Purdue fell to 18-12 despite Miller averaging 14.3-8.3-2.9 (assists). Still, the Boilers earned an NCAA berth and beat Rhode Island before falling to Kansas.
Expectations were high in 1997-98 with Miller as a senior. Some guy named Brian Cardinal was starting to come along, and Cornell, Austin, and Robinson were coming along. An aggressive non-conference schedule saw Purdue fall to North Carolina by four in the Great Alaska Shootout final and Kentucky in the Great Eight. Purdue did beat Louisville at Louisville and No. 10 Xavier in Indianapolis. Our Boilers were in the top 10 most of the year and finished 28-8, 12-4 in the Big Ten. In the first ever Big Ten Tournament Purdue reached the final, but lost to
Michigan a team that most certainly did not play any college basketball that season according to the NCAA.
Purdue earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs and easily dispatched Delaware and Detroit before getting upset in St. Louis by Stanford and Mark Madsen. This is one reason a red mist of anger descends when I see Madsen's Laker celebration dance. You see, on the other half of the bracket was Rhode Island (who had upset No. 1 seed Kansas in round 2) and the Bryce Drew Valparaiso Crusaders. The path had been cleared to the Final Four, but we couldn't get past Stanford.
Miller averaged 17.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists that season, and he would finish his Purdue career with impressive totals of 1,530 points, 862 rebounds, and 255 assists. He was the first player in school history to notch 1,500 points, 800 rebounds, and 250 points, a feat matched by Robbie Hummel this past season (1,772-862-262). This gives me a ton of hope for Rob, because if Brad Miller can have a 14 year career, so can Rob.
Despite a stellar four year career and the fact that he was 7 feet tall and in the neighborhood of 250 pounds with a nice shot, no one wanted Brad in the NBA. He started his pro career in Italy playing for Bini viaggi Livorno for three months. He earned a 10-day contract late in the year with the Charlotte Hornets, but was able to stick around with a 25 point game on March 24, 1999 in which he was 9 for 9 from the field and 7 for 7 from the line.
Miller's career really took off in Chicago. After two years with the Hornets Miller joined the Jordan-less Bulls, where he started to show his niche in the NBA. In January 2002, as Shaquille O'Neal was at the height of his, "I am completely and utterly unstoppable" phase, Miller stood up to him in a game in Chicago. He and Charles Oakley gave him a hard foul, prompting Shaq to take a swing at Brad. The fight would begin an interesting few seasons in which Brad Miller was one of the few players that could actually guard Shaq straight up. No one else in the league really could.
A month after that, Miller was traded with Ron Mercer, Kevin Ollie, and Ron Artest to the Pacers. He would average 15.1-8.2 for the Pacers, and he would make the NBA All-Star team the next year. Along with Ben Wallace that season, he was the first undrafted All-Star in NBA history.
In an inexplicable move before the 2003-04 season the Pacers traded him to the Sacramento Kings in a sign-and-trade for Scott Pollard. I know it was a salary cap issue, but getting rid of an All-Star center and keeping ron Srtest would prove to be the first step towards the Pacers' downfall. Sacramento was battling the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy at the time, so they were more than happy to get Shaq's nemesis. In 2003-04 Brad would have his best NBA season, averaging 14-10 and earning another All-Star nod. He wanted to stay in Indy, but quoted his agent as saying he would never get the money he could get in Sacramento again. I still think if he had stayed in Indiana the Pacers would have won the 2004 title instead of losing to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Don't get me started on the 2005 season that Ron Artest ruined.
Brad played five and a half years in Sacramento, averaging a modest 13-8-4 for the Kings, but never getting to the NBA Finals on a Kings team that had a lot of promise.
In 2009-10 Brad returned to Chicago to help a very young team, and in one of the greatest first round NBA playoff series ever he helped Chicago push the Celtics by averaging 10.3-7.9-1.3. That was enough to earn a three-year, $15 million contract with Houston after the season, a huge improvement over his original 10-day contract. He had a decent year in Houston in 2010-11, averaging 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, but was traded to Minnesota during the Draft.
Unfortunately, age caught up with Brad this last offseason. He had to have microfracture surgery on his knee, and was unable to practice until January. He played his first game on January 29 this year, and soon announced that this would be his final season. Last night in Minneapolis Brad would play his final game, scoring four points (including a three-pointer) and grabbing four rebounds. The emotions finally came out with 5:06 left when he came out of his last game. With tears in his eyes on the bench, he got a standing ovation from a team that he only played 15 games with. His old coach in Sacramento, Rick Adelman, gave him his final season.
Twice Brad represented his country on Team USA in the FIBA World Basketball Championships. In 1998 he and Jimmy Oliver led a team of former college players to a surprise bronze medal. This was not a "Dream team" of NBA players, as the NBA lockout prevented the U.S. from sending the pros, but Brad still had a stellar tournament in earning the surprise medal. In 2006 he was a reserve that barely played on a team that underachieved with Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard. That team also earned a bronze, but it was expected to walk to gold. Clearly, they should have played Brad more since he knows a little something about gold.
I have no delusions about Brad being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He had a very modest career that came up just short of 10,000 points, but he was still an efficient scorer and deft-passing big man that was a major piece on several good, but not great teams throughout his career. He reached the playoffs once with Charlotte, twice each with Indiana and Chicago, and three times with Sacramento. He averaged a modest 9.5-6.2-2.1 in the playoffs for his career, but only made it out of the first round once.
Still, this was a guy that most people wrote off when he left Purdue. He wasn't even good enough to get a look by an NBA team at the start of the 1998-99 NBA season, but in true Boilermaker fashion he showed some grit, worked hard, and earned his way into the league. He had a better career than Michael Olowokandi, who was the No. 1 pick the year he was drafted and played the same position. Michigan nemesis Robert "Tractor" Traylor was also taken ahead of him, as well as notable names Mirsad Turkcan, Pat Garrity, Bruno Sundov, Casey Shaw, Jahidi White, and Andy Betts as players at his position. Yes, I did purposely look a list of "who?" guys that were drafted in 1998, especially Sundov, who continued the trend of the Pacers drafting European guys who would prove to be COMPLETELY WORTHLESS and barely play in the NBA, if ever (Erazem Lorbek and Primoz Brezec, I am looking at you).
For his lengthy NBA career that came from literally nothing, we salute you, Brad Miller. Now that you're done, it is time to come home and teach young A.J. Hammons, Sandi Marcius, Travis Carroll, and Jay Simpson your skills.