Parting shots / Reggie Miller

One of the best clutch shooters of all time couldn’t even walk correctly as a child because of pronated hips, so he wore braces on his legs for five years.

He spent much of his career being called the second-best player in his family — behind his sister, Cheryl.

He was booed when he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers because the hometown fans wanted homegrown star Steve Alford.

But Reggie Miller kept coming for 18 seasons, kept picking up his scrawny 6-foot-7, 190-pound frame up off the floor, kept running off screen and screen to hit more 3-pointers than anyone in NBA history and clutch shot after clutch shot.

Indeed, the Miller highlight reel is a long one.

In Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, taunting Spike Lee after every shot during a 93-86 win over the New York Knicks.

The following season, in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, Miller scored eight consecutive points — two 3-pointers and two free throws — in 8.9 seconds for a 107-105 win over the Knicks.

Later that year, Miller released his autobiography: I Love Being the Enemy.

In 1998, he finally met Michael Jordan — that other clutch player — in the playoffs. In Game 4 of the conference finals, Miller hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left, but Jordan’s Bulls won the series in seven games.

In 2000, Miller averaged 31 points in the clinching games of each Eastern Conference playoff series to lead the Pacers to their first NBA Finals, where he averaged 29.5 points in the last four games as the Pacers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Miller never did win a championship. He never left for a bigger market either, remaining loyal to old-fashioned Indianapolis — even after his $2 million home was burned to the ground in 1997.

The blessing has been Indiana’s. Miller has come to define the basketball-obsessed state as much as Bob Knight or Larry Bird.

This is Miller’s last season, and he planned to spend it like he has the last few, tutoring future stars Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest.

But O’Neal is injured and Artest is suspended for the season, so the 39-year-old Miller is back, averaging 14.6 points, leading the league in free throw shooting and playing his position as no one his age has.

There he is, running off screen after screen, hitting 3-pointers and clutch shots. Here’s hoping there’s something left in the highlight reel.
— Kevin Brewer

This article originally appeared in The Washington Times on April 12, 2005.

Kobe Bryant sexual assault chronology

Timeline of the civil case against Lakers guard Kobe Bryant:

June 30, 2003 | Bryant arrives at Lodge & Spa at Cordillera near Edwards, Colo., a day before knee surgery in Vail.

July 1 | A 19-year-old employee tells sheriff’s deputies Bryant sexually assaulted her.

July 18 | District Attorney Mark Hurlbert files single count of felony sexual assault. Bryant says he committed adultery but is innocent of assault.

Aug. 10, 2004 | Accuser files civil lawsuit against Bryant in federal court, seeking unspecified damages for pain, suffering, “public scorn, hatred and ridicule.”

Sept. 1 | Judge dismisses criminal case after prosecution says the alleged victim does not want to participate in the trial.

Sept. 1 | Kobe Bryant issues the following statement:

First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.

I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.

I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado.

Oct. 6 | Judge rejects woman’s request to remain anonymous.

Nov. 10 | Bryant’s attorneys argue media organizations, individuals and the Colorado court system share responsibility for causing the woman emotional distress.

Nov. 17 | Attorneys meet with judge in first hearing in federal court. In a court filing, attorneys indicate they have discussed settlement possibilities.

Dec. 1 | Accuser’s attorneys dispute defense argument that media, others share responsibility for woman's distress, saying the defense just wanted to shift responsibility.

Dec. 6 | Bryant’s attorneys ask judge to prohibit accuser's attorneys from asking him questions about his sex life, ask to delay deposition.

Jan. 9, 2005 | Accuser’s attorney L. Lin Wood says woman decided against filing parallel lawsuit in California.

Jan. 12 | Bryant’s attorneys argue against allowing questioning about his sex life to protect privacy of past sexual partners.

Feb. 2 | Judge Richard Matsch throws out Bryant's attempt to share blame with media, others; orders both sides to stop including “scandalous” information in public filings; says he hopes for summer trial.

March 2 | Settlement announced; no terms disclosed.

Mr. Consistency / Karl Malone

When Karl Malone was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1985, he wore a mismatched blue blazer with white pants. He was 21 years old, from Summerfield, La., country as a chicken coup. He couldn’t shoot, and he couldn’t pass.

He belonged in the NBA like Jed Clampett belonged in Beverly Hills.

Then he outworked everybody in the league.

Malone announced his retirement Sunday, and this is his body of work—all 6-feet-9, 256 pounds of it, chiseled to perfection: 36,928 points (second all time), 14,968 (sixth all time), two MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, 11 All-NBA first-team selections.

A couple superlatives will follow Malone into retirement: Best power forward of all time. Best player to never win a championship.

Add one more to the list: Most relentless.

Malone, known as the Mailman for his dependable finishes at the rim, delivered for 19 seasons.

He didn’t have the same natural talent or feel for the game as his transcendent contemporaries: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas.

Malone was the unnatural. He had to work at it, and he refused to be outworked.

He teamed with point guard John Stockton, and theirs was a perfect fit. They ran the pick-and-roll over and over until it came to symbolize basketball at its most efficient.

At 32, Malone already was a Hall of Famer after averaging at least 25 points and 10 rebounds for nine consecutive seasons. He could pass. He could shoot.

But he had not won a championship, that most ridiculous albatross endured by the modern athlete. In fact, Malone had just blown a chance to reach his first NBA Finals, missing two late free throws in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference finals.

His window of opportunity was closing, the cliché went. It made some sense. NBA players don’t do much after the age of 32.

Malone did. He won two MVP awards, the second at age 36, becoming the oldest player to be so honored.

He led the Jazz to two NBA Finals, losing both times to Michael Jordan’s Bulls. The second, in 1998, was especially cruel, as Jordan stole the ball from Malone in the closing seconds of Game 6.

He made a third Finals appearance last season as the glue holding together the fractured Los Angeles Lakers. But as Malone’s body broke down, so did the Lakers.

Malone announced his retirement in a cowboy hat and tight-fitting T-shirt that showed off his muscles. He looked like someone who belonged.
— Kevin Brewer

This article originally appeared in The Washington Times on February 15, 2005.