Reggie Miller Will Drop You

The NBA great is as competitive on the trail as he was on the court

Reggie Miller Will Drop You

"I don't go downhill that fast, because my face is my moneymaker," Miller says.    Photo: Spencer Lowell

If you mountain-bike in the hills of Malibu, California, you may occasionally glimpse a six-foot-seven man whipping past you. That’s Reggie Miller. The former Indiana Pacers star and NBA Hall of Famer now works as a game analyst for TNT, which begins airing the NBA Playoffs in April. When he’s not courtside, he’s often on a custom Moots bike that can accommodate both his long frame and a Bluetooth speaker to blast Jay-Z and Ice Cube as he climbs up fire roads and sails down singletrack. “He beats the tar out of that bike,” says Scott Johnson, owner of Miller’s local shop, Serious Cycling in Agoura Hills. “We recently changed the parts kit because he blew through the old ones. We call him the Diesel. He just loves to plug away.” We sent Charles Bethea to chase him through the hills and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, where he learned firsthand that the same drive that made Miller one of the best shooters in the game has turned him into one heckuva grinder.

FIRST DESCENTS: “There are certain things black people just don’t do, OK? Skiing is one of them. Tiger made it OK for us to play golf. With mountain biking, I guess I’m one of the first. LeBron pedaled a bike from his house all the way to the arena once, with security. But on trails, I’m one of the only brothers out there biking.”

MOTLEY CREW: “I moved to Malibu in 2000. I was eating at a restaurant, and Tim Commerford, bassist for Rage Against the Machine and a huge workout fanatic, came up to me. He said, ‘Hey, you should come out riding with us.’ ‘Us’ ended up being Tim, Laird Hamilton, and this guy we call Wild Man, who used to own a chain of fitness gyms. He’s over 80 years old.”

INITIATION: “Tim gave me my first bike. I wasn’t clipping in—he just wanted me to get used to it on the trails behind my house. It was heavy. I was like, ‘Dude, how are you guys doing this?’ ”

TRAINING WHEELS: “The first bike I bought was a Giant with 26-inch tires. I’m six-foot-seven, and I bought it off the rack. I outgrew that in two years. Scott at Serious Cycling said that I needed a custom bike with 29-inch wheels and a bigger frame. I told him I didn’t want to get lapped anymore.”

ALL PAIN, ALL VERTICAL GAIN: “To me it’s all about going uphill. It’s fun going down, but accidents happen. I like the grind. It’s easier than running.”

GROWING UP OUTDOORS: “Growing up in Riverside, we went out our front door, made a left turn, and in 20 steps we were in a canyon. I had four siblings. We were hiking all the time. But camping? No. I don’t like the idea of the creatures at night.”

THE LONG ROAD: “My hard ride starts right in back of my house on Puerco Canyon Road. It links up all the canyons in Malibu, which eventually connect in Agoura Hills. It takes four hours, canyon after canyon after canyon, from fire roads to singletrack.”

TRAIL MIX: “I’m not just a biker. I trail run. I have no problem with heights. I’m a thrill seeker.”

CLOSE ENCOUNTER: “You hear things in canyons. One time I was coming up on a ridge and heard something in the brush. I thought maybe it was a coyote or a fox or a deer making the bushes move. Then I saw a mountain lion poke its head out, and I’m like, “Oh shit!” I’m looking at it, and it’s looking at me. They say to act big, so I got off my bike, started jumping up and down. It took off.”

NEVER ALONE: “I always said to myself, ‘Ray Allen and Larry Bird are up as early as I am working out.’ Now, when I’m riding my bike at age 50, I’m saying, ‘Someone somewhere is cranking just as hard, wanting to stay in shape. Are you gonna do more than what they’re doing?’ That motivates me.”

BRANCHING OUT: “Everyone talks about Utah riding, slickrock and all that. I go through the mountain-bike magazines at the shop and I think, That’d be awesome. And the fat-bike trend: I want to do that on snow and ice. The only thing is, I don’t know if I can just walk into most shops and get a bike. I’m so used to my big custom bike. I guess I’ll need to start shipping it.”

ACHILLES' HEEL: “I don’t know how to fix a flat. If I get one, I’m walking home. When I’m on a long ride, I just pray that I don’t get a flat in the middle of a canyon.”

AESTHETIC CONSIDERATIONS: “I don’t go downhill that fast, because my face is my moneymaker. I had a really bad fall last summer, two days before my 50th birthday. We were getting ready to leave for Barbados. I thought I’d get a nice little 15-mile ride in. So I’m coming home, and I’m literally a mile away. It’s all downhill. And I came around a corner, hit a boulder, and went over my handlebars. I had a black eye on my birthday. I told everybody I got in a fight with Shaq.”

NO FRIENDS ON A TRAIL DAY: “Unless there’s food for them to eat, Shaq and Charles Barkley are not coming out here to go mountain biking with me.”

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