By Brian Taylor
This goes out to both Ryan and my man Rashad who must have ESP, because both requested this one.
Welcome back Hoops Addicts for another spine-tingling edition of “Hey! Whatever Happened To.” I’m your host B Teezy and this week we’ll be looking at a classic example of how NOT taking care of your body can “hold you back, like bad credit.” We’ve looked at the colossal Kevin Duckworth, and had the tragic tale of Vin “and Tonic” Baker last week. The guy we’re profiling this week was so sloppy the Globetrotters asked him to leave.
Raptors fans give it up, for Oliver Miller!
In the 1991-1992 NCAA basketball season, one of college’s hottest teams was the Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC. With guys like Todd Day and Lee Mayberry sniping from the outside, Oliver Miller held down the middle, and averaged around 15-16ppg. In the summer of 1992 (arguably one of the greatest drafts ever) Oliver put his name out there and got picked up by the Charles Barkley-edition Phoenix Suns.
As a rookie, Oliver was short, but took up space, clogging the lane on defense and being Chuck’s bodyguard on offense en route to the Finals. Barkley (a guy who conquered weight issues himself) took Miller under his wing, and the young rook finished his first season leading the Suns in blocks. Oliver was never a scoring option in the desert, but he hustled and got the job done, despite always hovering near the 300lb mark.
In 1994, he signed with the Grant Hill Pistons, playing a marginal role. It was in Motown that “O” started having his weight issues.
Doug Collins, who is an excellent cultivator of young talent (see: Brown, Kwame) was frustrated with Miller’s penchant for coming to training camp out of shape. After some listless play in Motown, Miller was left unprotected in the Canadian Expansion Draft of 95’.
If you ever wanted a who’s who of lousy NBA centers, all one had to do was look north of the border. Acie Earl and Oliver Miller looked like a Kid n’ Play movie gone bad in Toronto, and Vancouver had it bad too, with “Big Country” and Benoit Benjamin.
Teaming up with the 1996 Rookie of the Year, Damon Stoudamire, Miller started to lose weight and managed a respectable 12 points and 7 boards per game. It looked like things were turning around for “O”.
Until training camp.
Once again, Miller showed up for camp sweating Twinkies and was let go by Toronto. His next team, Dallas, was willing to take a shot on him. Miller signed in October of 1996, and was released promptly before Valentine’s Day of 1997. He went back to the Raps a week later, and had his contract renewed.
It was a stint with the Sacramento Kings that really told the sad tale of Miller’s career.
At a road game against the Suns, the Phoenix Gorilla mascot stuffed his costume with popcorn and pretended to be too fat to move… while wearing Miller’s old jersey. Oliver was in shock and threatened a lawsuit. The Suns apologized, but the humiliation made Oliver binge, thusly eating himself out of the NBA.
Before the Developmental league and ABA2000, there were the Harlem Globetrotters, who are still around today, but are more of a show than a real team. It was where “college-all-stars-go-to-quietly-fade-into-oblivion.” I can remember watching my school’s team (the American U Eagles) having their fall exhibitions against the likes of “Athletes in Action” and the “Nantucket Nectars.” One of these exhibitions came against the Harlem Globetrotters, who’s lineup resembled a “Hey, Whatever Happened To” of college ball. Exree Hipp (former Maryland standout) and Oliver Miller stood out for me in this game. You could see that he was in no way, shape or form ready to play a sport, that involved you know, running, up and down a court, for minutes at a time. After a few more games of Oliver chugging down the court, the Globetrotters released him, stating Miller had “no appreciation for what it takes mentally and physically to be a Harlem Globetrotter”.
In 2003, Oliver made a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was at 325lbs at this point, but a comeback is a comeback, as the Wolves were searching for a band-aid in the middle (this was back when Kandiman and Nesterovic were starters).
The guy was once an athlete though and for visual evidence here’s a link.
Note to all Raptor fans – am I the only one that remembers the Skydome floor having a never-before-seen zigzag pattern in the hardwood? That was hot!