By Reggie Miller,
NBA Hall of Fame, MTB Racer, CTS Contributing Editor
I get asked this question all the time on my rides or at my races, “Why do you push yourself on the bike, you could have easily just been a weekend warrior cyclist after your basketball career?” Perhaps they’re right. I played competitive basketball for over 25 years, 4 years at Riverside Poly High School, 4 years at UCLA and 18 years professionally for the Indiana Pacers. That’s a lot of suicides and fast break layup drills, plus the wear and tear of ankle sprains, thigh bruises, broken fingers etc., etc.
Just to put my 18 seasons with the Indiana Pacers in context, including regular season and playoff games, I played in 1,533 of a possible 1,593 games, that’s 96%!!! So, through all the bumps and bruises, I was always tying my shoes up to go perform. In those 1,533 games I logged 52,927 minutes. What are those minutes equivalent to? The average person runs a marathon in 4 to 4.5 hours, so that’s 196 marathons in 52,000 minutes. Tadej Pogačar’s winning time in the 2020 Tour de France was 87 hours 20 minutes, so that’s riding 10 Tours de France in 52,000 minutes. You get the picture, there’s a lot of tread on this body, which is WHY I get asked that question so often, “Why, Reggie, why?”
The simple answer is this: I love to compete and I love to push my body to its limits. Basketball came naturally to me. I could dictate what I wanted on the floor, I was always in control, I worked so hard to reach the pinnacle, and was fortunate to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. So, picking up a sport like cycling, where I knew very little, was a challenge. As basketball came easily to me, cycling did not. Let’s face it, not many 6’7” people ride bikes, so finding the right bike, equipment, clothing, helmets, you name it, was a challenge at first. In order for me to grow as a cyclist I had to do my homework. Just as in basketball, I studied film of players I wanted to emulate, how they got open for shots, their movement without the ball, and how they carried themselves.
Living in Malibu, California and being surrounded by both trails and open roads, I knew finding a riding discipline would be easy. I’ve never liked riding the roads because, frankly, I don’t trust the people driving cars. Tim Commerford, the bassist for the rock group Rage Against The Machine, introduced me to mountain biking my first week in Malibu. He loaned me one of his bikes, and on that ride was big wave surfer Laird Hamilton and Bally’s fitness pioneer Don Wildman, God rest his soul. Those guys rode circles around me, and I was still playing basketball at the time, so I was pretty fit. But being on that dirt and those trails, and smiling for hours, I was hooked on mountain biking. So, I started doing my homework, reading mountain bike magazines and watching whatever clips I could find.
I came across an article about Sonya Looney, in which she talked about her mental approach to mountain biking, being overly prepared, and the sweat that went into her training. Right then I knew that’s the kind of rider I wanted to become. I reached out to Sonya via Instagram, and asked her WAY too many silly questions. Her first response back to me was, “Is this really Reggie Miller?” I laughed and responded, “Yes, it’s really me.” She still didn’t believe it, so she showed her husband, Matt Ewonus, the text thread and he looked at her and said, “Honey, that’s absolutely Reggie Miller. You better answer him.” That’s where our friendship and my introduction to the ins and out of mountain biking began.
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Sonya helped me with training, bike setup, bike maintenance, bike brands, etc., etc. I stopped calling her Sonya, she was my unofficial COACH. She was still hardcore racing at the time, and yet she always found time to answer my very pedestrian questions. I felt so bad bugging her, but she was my cycling lifeline. There were times I was ready to fold the tent and call it quits, but Sonya kept me going. She also knew the more I raced the more I would need a hands-on Coach to oversee my development in person. Sonya Looney is my forever Life Coach; I wouldn’t be writing this article without her.
Which leads me to Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) and my evolution as a cyclist. I needed a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test and Holly Breck, a local pro from the bike shop I frequented, recommended I go to CTS. That test and visit changed EVERYTHING!! They asked my goals and vision going forward, and I told them, “I want payback on some of the riders who laughed at me at my beginning races.” Jason Siegle of CTS has taken over as my primary Coach and instructor. He sets the very regimented training schedule, and before COVID would pre-ride the upcoming race venues with me and set the race day game plan. All the mundane questions I had for Coach Sonya… well, Jason gets those text messages at very odd hours now (smile). I’m still learning and hopefully getting better and stronger. That’s the WHY I do this. I want people to know that challenging yourself, at any age, is a good thing. You won’t always win or be the fastest, but as long as you’re willing to put the time in and do your HOMEWORK, anything is possible.
I look forward to sharing my basketball/biking perspectives with you guys. It’s been a fun journey thus far, let’s keep riding this together.
About Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 after his 18-year pro basketball career with the Indiana Pacers. One of the best shooters in the game, Miller won a Gold Medal as member of Team USA at the 1996 Olympic Games and was a 5-time NBA All-Star. Following his retirement from professional basketball, Miller became a highly sought-after analyst with TNT and took up competitive mountain biking. In 2020 he was named to the USA Cycling Board of Directors. He currently works with CTS Coach Jason Siegle and rides his road, gravel, and mountain bikes for training.
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