Reggie Miller will officially become an NBA Hall Of Famer later this week, so this should be a week of celebration. But former teammate and current Golden State head coach Mark Jackson, who was simply trying to laud his HOF-bound teammate, stirred up a bit of controversy by elevating Miller’s place in history to the third greatest of all time. Here’s what he said to the Indianapolis Star:
“Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who spent six seasons as Miller’s teammate with the Pacers, puts No. 31 near the top of the list once you remove a couple of guys named Jordan and Kobe.
‘When you take Michael Jordan and you take Kobe Bryant out of the discussion, he’s as good as any two-guard that has ever played the game,’ Jackson said.
That’s a pretty bold statement coming from Jackson when you think about the competition to be behind Jordan and Kobe.
Jerry West. Dwyane Wade. George Gervin. Clyde Drexler. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.”
Absurdity of the statement aside, Jackson’s innocent pondering touches upon the hypocritical nature of ranking players in the first place. We ask former teammates to praise and support those they went to war with, but simultaneously place a strict ceiling on such exaltation. Jackson crossed that line by disregarding the normal order of things. There’s no doubt Reggie Miller was great, but most wouldn’t consider him the third greatest shooting guard ever.
And it’s worse because we adhere to some older era-biased cross generational norm. Basketball players get better with time, if only because the majority of those judging never actually watched these guys play. I could espouse Oscar Robertson‘s virtues all I like, but the simple truth is that I never saw him play. I merely trust the word of those who did, but they, like everyone else, can’t escape contemporary bias.
The simple act of cross generational comparison in itself is ludicrous on a number of fronts, but most obviously because the game has changed and redirected and revered different styles of play over the years. Jerry West will never play against Reggie Miller, nor will the rules of the game to which each player is accustomed be the same. The only rudimentary analysis then falls to concurrent generations, and that’s probably where Jackson’s comment doesn’t hold water. Most would put Drexler, Dumars and MJ ahead of him, but even that’s just opinion. All we know is that Mark Jackson is being widely berated and Reggie Miller’s place in history seemingly downgraded for one man’s attempt at being nice.
Where does Reggie Miller fall on the list of the greatest shooting guards ever?
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