Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"It's Miller Time."

"Get your iced cold beer here!" is one of the most familiar cries of a vendor at any sports event. Me personally, I've never been much of a beer drinker, even decided to quit in the summer of 1991 in preparation to enter the military service, looking forward to life with a much healthier mind and body that I'd had up to that point.

Cheryl Miller is no "light beer." Most likely one of the best female athletes most of us have ever seen, hailing from the Southern California (Los Angeles area) like myself, a member of a family with a name as common as their athletic genes.

Cheryl's younger brother Reggie is a former NBA basketball player. A good one all around who, unfortunately, was never able to obtain a championship ring during his playing career with the Indiana Pacers. Lesser known older brother Darrell, was a professional baseball player, a catcher, who spent a portion of his short career in the (then) California Angels organization.

As for Cheryl, I first learned of her during her high school basketball playing days at Riverside-Polytechnic girls varsity basketball team. I mean, hey, what other good reasons would there be to be published in newspapaers and magazines than scoring 105 points in one game?

I would continue to watch Cheryl guide her University of Southern California women's basketball team, along side the "Twin Towers (Pam and Paula) Mcghee" to consecutive NCAA titles. Cheryl's icing on her own cake would come with the gold medal winning U.S. Women's Basketball Team at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angelas.

Cheryl would soon achieve a personal goal as a TV sports commentator, covering basketball games, mainly on the sidelines, at many levels, most recently on the TNT network. She had Jim Hill, a TV news sports reporter in Los Angeles as an idol and mentor along the way. She'd even go back to USC to serve as the head coach for her old collegiate team to place another good note on the personal resume.

Then came the Women's National Professional Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1997 with Cheryl becoming the first head coach and general manager of the Phoenix Mercury. The Murcury and the WNBA have been a subject of my sports photography coverage for the third year in a row and I'm still amazed at the success the concept of a professional sport for women has achieved.

There are times that have me wondering what kind of professional level player Cheryl could have been if--let's say the WNBA had been founded ten years earlier. No telling, but it was great to have the chance to see and meet one of the female genders most prominent sports figures on July 15, 2011 at the game in which the Phoenix Mercury gave a much deserved honor to their first head coach and general manager.

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