His shoe fell off. Needing it tied, he picked up the black-and-white mid-cut and thought about trying to slip it on as his team frantically transitioned into its offense, only to decide a second later to toss it to the sideline and do something more important — get into position.
For his team. For the game. For a championship.
Because this was Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and the his team — the Miami Heat — were struggling to find space on the floor and needed Mike Miller now more than ever.
Miller found his spot — just behind the three point line over the right elbow — got the pass and, jumping off of one foot with a shoe, one with just a high-cut sock, nailed a three-pointer only the way Miller could.
It never seems like Miller has all his parts to play with.
Mostly the last two years, he’s been without his back. You could see his hand reach for his lower back seemingly every break he got.
That didn’t stop him from hitting seven three-pointers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals agains the Oklahoma City Thunder two seasons ago.
This time, in the same spotlight, he was without a shoe.
But that didn’t stop him from nailing a three in a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the wily San Antonio Spurs.
That brought the game to 73-77, the Heat still down with almost 10-and-a-half minutes left, but reenergized.
It was one of many three’s that would save the Heat from elimination.
Eventually, Ray Allen would hit one of the most memorable three-point shots in the history of this league and Miami would win the NBA Championship a game later.
It’s doubtful the Heat would have won Game 6 without Miller’s three-pointer.
Who knows what Game 5 would have been like in last year’s finals if Miller didn’t suck the life out of the Thunder with every gut-wrenching three he made?
But like all memories, it’s in the past. You wake up from your day dream and consider the tough realities that face you when you aren’t captivated and mesmerized by this incredible something that is sports.
And in this case, the tough reality is the new $17 million luxury-tax bill associated with Miller’s pay-check. That’s a lot for a guy who hasn’t aged well and hasn’t participated on a consistent basis since joining the team that same summer Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to start something special in South Florida.
Sure, he’s healthy now. But how long will that last? And can the aging energy guy continue to come up with historically-ridiculous moments in the Finals when you least expect him to? Maybe. But that’s not something many experts in Vegas would gamble almost $17 million dollars on.
Miller becomes the first real casualty in a tight Heat locker room. It had to happen sometime, but many thought it would be all together next summer, when seemingly the entire team is up for new contracts.
But the realities of the new collective bargaining agreement forced Miami’s hand the same way that forced the Thunder to trade James Harden a year before his contract expired. In this NBA, you have to pay to win championships.
It will be interesting to see how this team faces this kind of adversity. The Heat is a family-type organization. Many wouldn’t believe it. Not with Miami being, well, Miami.
But behind all the art deco, fake beaches and fake faces is a community that thrives on family and culture.
Maybe its a first-generation Cuban household, a black family that had called Miami home since the Miami Dolphins played in the Orange Bowl or a white family whose non-immediate relatives visit from New York every summer to talk about how great the weather here is.
What’s great about the Miami Heat, and so many of the best organizations in sports, is that it takes on the culture of its community. For the Heat, that includes family. The Heat is a family with Riley as the patriarch and Micky Arison as the god father.
And now the family faces its first loss. With all of the adversity the Heat have faced in three years, this is unique. LeBron, Dwyane and Chris have all sacrificed something to be here.
Does it become tougher for this family to preach sacrifice when it isn’t willing to keep Mike when money got in the way?
Often money can define a family. For some, it leads to a divorce. Some ignore it. Some thrive.
The time came when this family couldn’t ignore it anymore. But this team will thrive.
The Heat takes a risk waiving goodbye to Miller. It’s arguable whether or not the Heat would have won either championship without him, especially last season. But the Heat will have to find someone else to step up. Maybe its Battier doing more Battier things. Maybe Rashard Lewis or James Jones can have a resurrection of sorts.
But there is no doubt this was a tough decision of the front office.
“After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our Amnesty provision on Mike Miller,” said Heat President Pat Riley in an announcement. “Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat; helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back World Championships.”
After the one-shoe-three, the Spurs called a timeout to say “what the f***” and Miller headed to the sideline while giving LeBron a no-look knuckle bump that smoothly transitioned into a low-five with Bosh and then Juwan Howard, followed by everyone else on the now-standing Heat bench.
Miller always had a knack to get everyone in the arena standing — even when he couldn’t.