You don’t see much of him, and I often wonder if it’s because he feels like he was a failure because he didn’t make it in the league when everybody thought he was going to be a star. I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the ‘Baby Jordan’ tag. — George Raveling, Harold Miner’s head coach at USC
There are some things that are not up for debate. You could argue who the greatest player in USC Trojans basketball history is; you could throw out names like Paul Westphal, Demar DeRozan, Nick Young, Gus Williams and Bill Sharman in the mix and make worthy cases for all five. However, arguing who the greatest mythical USC Trojans basketball player is, there’s only two names worth mentioning.
Quincy McCall and Harold Miner.
While one of those players only exists in a movie, the other one only seems like a myth because of the allure that surrounded the peaks-and-valleys legacy of the man dubbed “Baby Jordan”. According to bet365, the Trojans are on the bubble to participate in the NCAA Tournament for March Madness, but that wouldn’t be an issue if USC had someone as great as Miner was in college. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, wearing #23 on his jersey with a recognizable shaved head and leaping ability that would one day win not one but two NBA Slam Dunk Contests, it’s easy to understand how he could be labeled the next MJ.
However, due to a real West Coast Bias and the long-standing ineptitude of a college basketball program that’s only been to the tournament 17 times, we simply weren’t paying attention to what was happening in USC in 1992. Therefore, only SportsCenter highlights and occasional references in national publications were the main means of exposure to Miner and the Trojans. But those highlights were so spectacular that the Baby Jordan nickname seemed fitting. Moreover, Sports Illustrated named Miner its college basketball player of the year over guys like Christian Laettner, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. The NBA, with Jordan leading the way, was growing at an absurd rate. Miner’s game and style seemed tailor-made for this new era of professional basketball.
Of course, we know how this basketball story ends.
Four seasons after being selected 12th in the first round by the Miami Heat in the 1992 NBA Draft, Miner retired from the NBA after being an average-at-best player who was ravaged by injuries. No, he didn’t leave the league to play overseas or to try and begin a coaching career. He stopped playing basketball altogether, stating later on that his decision was prompted by the many knee injuries he suffered during his career.
Miner, who signed a $7.3-million contract with the Heat and a $14 million endorsement deal with Nike, has never worked a job again after short stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. Miner credits having a strong financial team around him and a shift in priorities allowing him to now prosper in his next phase in life in Las Vegas. “I guess to a lot of people I disappeared,” said Miner in 2011 to the LA Times. “I’ve just kind of retreated to family life. I raise my kids. I have a wife. There’s really nothing more to the story.”
In a time where “Ball Is LIfe” is a current mantra of all hoopers and those who love basketball, it’s hard to appreciate those who brought us happiness in times past, and yet many of our peers can only find words like “bust” and “failure” to describe one’s exploits.
In reality, Miner’s legacy is a simple one. He was one of the best guards in college basketball in the early 90’s, he will forever be one of the greatest dunkers in Slam Dunk Contest history, and when he was physically fit, he was capable of putting on an absolute show.
All hail Harold David Miner, who 25 years ago was the biggest phenomenon in college basketball. Find the best horse racing boomakers here.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”