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February 9, 2011

Miller Time's up: Allen on fast track to Springfield

It was a legitimate debate.

As far as NBA bar room arguments go, it was up there with the best. Who's the better player: Reggie Miller or Ray Allen?

Aesthetics said to go with Allen. His silky smooth jump shot is the epitome of perfect form. The Bob Bigelow's of the world drool over this guy. At youth summer basketball camps across the region, you could sit down 12-year-olds Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, and make them watch an endless loop of Allen shooting J's and they would likely get more out of it than the 12 games of knockout and the dunk contests on 7-foot rims that typically transpire.

Miller's shot, meanwhile, is painful to look at. His hands cross on the release and he pushes the ball into the air like a seal playing with a beach ball.

Still, NBA TV and ESPN Classic say to go with Miller. And up until now, I've always been on the former Pacers guard's side of the argument. Outside of Michael Jordan, no marquee player in the league played in more big games in the 1990s. His feuds with Spike Lee, clutch shots against the Knicks and Bulls and general bravado on the court are the stuff of legend. In addition, Miller never had the kind of help that Ray Allen or even Jordan had to get his hands on the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Where was his Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Scottie Pippen?

Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Jermaine O'Neal, Chuck Person, a worn down Mark Jackson and a tired Chris Mullin were OK sidekicks for Miller. None were on the level of the three guys mentioned above when they played with Miller.

While Miller-led squads routinely wound up in the Eastern Conference Finals and would have likely won a title if not for the greatest guard of all-time (Jordan), at his peak, playing in the same conference at the same time, Allen-led Milwaukee and Seattle squads never did much of anything in the postseason. Allen's best shot at winning a title as the main man ended when Allen Iverson's 76ers beat Ray's Bucks in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. The 2001 Sixers (a weak NBA finalist by all accounts) would go on to get throttled by the Lakers in Finals.

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