As a rookie sports journalist, getting an opportunity to interact with a sports personality one-on-one is a highlight. In a land where cricketers are worshiped, meeting an NBA star may not add up to much but my rendezvous with one such star did not disappoint.
Andre Llyod Miller.
Ever heard of the guy?
People who follow basketball surely would have. For the rest, he is regarded as one of NBA’s top basketball player. In a career that spanned 17 years, the giant American has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs.
Phew! That’s a lot of teams!
The 6ft 3inches (I am 5'11 by the way) tall Miller has since moved on from just playing on the court to traveling the world promoting the sport. Currently, in India, the player who is ranked 9th in the all-time NBA career assists, will spend a few days in the capital visiting the NBA Basketball Academy in Nodia.
Now that all the information on his visit is out, here's an account of my fanboy moments. As I walked in, I spotted a huge guy with curly hair, glitter in his eyes and a smile on his face. To an ordinary person who might come across him in the streets, he would never imagine in a lifetime that the man could be one of NBA’s all-time great. In an age when sports is riddled with injuries, Miller has missed out on only three games in his 17-year long career. Only 3 games I repeat.
The conversation had just started and I could not help but ask him the one question almost everyone would ask. Why did you choose basketball? The answer was simple. “I started the game when I was 4-5 years old. People like toys, cartoons etc. at that age. For me it was basketball. By the time I was in high school, I and everyone around me realized that I was good. Better than the 50 people around me. And that’s how it all started,” he said.If you have ever followed basketball like cricket, you will know that a player of his status must have played under a dozen of coaches. Surprisingly, it was never any coach from his professional career who inspired him or made him to what he is today. “It was my college coach Rick Majerus,” he said. “You might be a genius in the game but after a point of time, you need that one person who would shape you. Tell you which way to go. And he did it for me and I will always be grateful."
Players respect players. Get motivated by each -other. Every professional will have his or her idol. Eager to know, I had asked him the same. And the reply couldn’t have been better. “Michal Jordan”, he said, without blinking an eye. “I once even got an opportunity to play with that legend and trust me that was the only game in my life I did not pay attention. I was just mesmerized by his presence.”
Speaking of his mission in India, Miller said he sees a lot of promise in the sport and is eager to visit the NBA academy in Noida. Outside of his NBA itinerary, Miller is keen to do some touristy things and what better way to do it than visit the Taj Mahal. “I am definitely doing to visit the Taj Mahal. I am so doing it for sure”, he said excitedly.
Well, Miller is a big sporting name in America and given how deep politics has managed to creep into the court, I couldn't help but ask him about the ongoing protests by sports stars against their President Donald Trump and their refusal to sing the national anthem. Miller's voice dropped as he responds, “I am just sad. He is a horrible President. There’s only hate for him. America is supposed to be the land of the free and he is taking it away. Of course, I support the movement. I feel if we don’t take a stand and do this, it will be too late. Too late for anyone who is not a white American."
I was ready to wrap up our conversation when Miller interrupted to mention that India has a lot of potential in basketball and should not miss out on getting its share of media attention.As I made my way out of the room, he went back to sipping the all-Indian Starbucks.