heinnews’s David Hein talked to FIBA Hall of Fame inductee Cheryl Miller about the meaning of being named to the FIBA Hall of Fame; the evolution of women’s basketball; how Baylor star Brittney Griner will change the women’s game; how much women’s basketball is played; and the 2010-11 NBA season.
heinnews: You have been inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. What does that mean to you?
Miller: It’s nice to know that how many moons ago when I finished my career internationally that I still have a very big impact on the game of women’s basketball. Again, I can’t stress enough with Vlade (Divac) and (Arvydas) Sabonis and all these guys I covered as a reporter to be up with those guys is very touching.
heinnews: Talk a little about the evolution of the women’s game.
Miller: I love the game of basketball. And what David Stern did to women’s basketball basically made it worldwide. He gave a lot of women the opportunity to play basketball professionally in their own backyard. Plus internationally women are able to come over and play as well. I really don’t think that Commissioner Stern gets enough credit but he’s definitely done a lot for women’s basketball.
heinnews: How much do you have your brother – Reggie Miller – to thank for this honor?
Miller: Reggieee! I obviously wouldn’t have been here and had so much success if it hadn’t been for my brother Reggie. My biggest fan, my biggest nemesis, my biggest pain-in-the-butt. But I love him to death.
heinnews: What do you see as the next development in the women’s game coming?
Miller: Wow, there’s a young lady. I believe she plays for Baylor. Brittney Griner. I’m telling you guys right now, she’s going to turn women’s basketball upside down. To be able to dunk the ball, she’s mobile, has good hands, good head on her shoulders, very humble. She’s definitely going to be the future of women’s basketball.
heinnews: When you say turn the game upside down, what exactly do you mean? What kinds of things do you see changing? More women and the game going above the rim?
Miller: That’s been around a while, not consistently. We don’t have the LeBron James. But if I had to say one thing about her, if there’s a women’s player that could possibly make that leap to the men’s game, it would definitely be Brittney.
heinnews: What do you think about the fact that there are two women’s season – the WNBA and European leagues – and the financial disparity between them?
Miller: It is what it is. At least they have a place where they can play. And it’s a year-round sport. Would I like to see the women make a somewhere closer gap to the men, yes I would. But right now that’s not a reality. I think that the NBA is going to find out and NBA players are going to find out very soon that our economy is not going to be able to support 20-25 million dollar players any more. But I think the women are very happy with the fact that the WNBA is there and they can still go overseas and still make more money. That’s the lifestyle.
heinnews: But that is a lot of basketball.
Miller: It’s a load. I’m surprised that more players aren’t burnt out. I know that Lauren Jackson spoke that since she’s been playing year round for like two or three years and it does take its toll. But that’s the cards that they’re dealt with. And that’s the opportunities that are there and they’re going to try to make the most of it.
heinnews: What do you think about the moves in the NBA off-season?
Miller: All I gotta say, and LeBron is not going to like this, but they better win it. The pressure is on Miami to win it all. I think a lot of teams made some great moves. Orlando is going to be a giant. I love what Chicago’s doing. You gotta give the heads-up to the Lakers. They’re the reigning champs. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
heinnews: Who do you see as the top team to challenge Miami?
Miller: You mean challenge the Lakers because they’re the reigning champs. You have to give them that. Miami, Lakers. You know who else if they’re able to stay healthy is Oklahoma City. They have that one year of playoffs under their belts. They know what to expect now. I wouldn’t go to sleep – knock on wood – on Portland. If they can ever stay healthy. And Chicago. I think Chicago can be interesting.
heinnews: What do you think about Durant and his games here at the 2010 Worlds?
Miller: He’s a freak. He’s an absolute freak. 6-11 and his wingspan. There was a couple times… it’s one thing to watch him offensively. But defensively, when they were switching and he was guarding a 6-4 guard and the guy couldn’t get around him. And his love and his humbleness. He’s a student of the game. He’s a great leader. He’ll listen. He’s a gym rat. I’m just very, very impressed with how has been playing. And to watch him develop from his rookie season to now is phenomenal.
heinnews: How scary is it that he’s only 22?
Miller: Oh my god! Oh my god. I just … I don’t see him not winning a championship. I just really don’t see that happening. I would bet Reggie’s money on it.