- Siwale Chabala
Where in the World Is Harold Miner?
*Photo via CBS
When I was a young dude, there was this popular educational computer game called Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego? It was about this thief named, you guessed it Carmen SanDiego. And your job was to try and locate her whereabouts across the world. You had to answer geographical trivial questions. It spawned a cartoon and TV series. I must have been on the computer for hours playing that game. I also watched the shows on television. Anyway, I wanted to drop some knowledge on how I got my title for this article about Harold Miner. Who? Harold Miner aka Baby Jordan. He was the one of the first, (along with Kendall Gill) to have that Michael Jordan look/style. Let me break it down on what the Jordan look/style is. It means to try and imitate the man, the myth, the legend by playing like him, talking like him, chewing gum like him; tongue wagging, all the MJ Mannerisms (shout out to Kobe Bryant who perfected this). It’s basically like the commercial, “BE LIKE MIKE, I WANT TO BE LIKE MIKE.” Even though Miner was left-handed, that didn't stop people from nicknaming him Baby Jordan in high school and while at the University of Southern California.
Harold Miner had the athleticism, dunks, sick lay ups/finishing moves and scoring ability that got the Michael Jordan comparison. He also had the Harlem Globetrotter types of low handles to go with his game. Oh yeah, he also wore jersey #23 at USC. He is still the all time leading scorer at USC and in his junior and final year, he was voted Sports Illustrated's player of the year over legendary names like Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner. Miner was drafted by the Miami Heat at 12th in the 1992-1993 NBA draft. He wore number 32; 23 backwards. The Heat at the time were supposed to be the future, with young players like Glen Rice, Steve Smith and Ron Seikaly. Harold was going to fill in that two guard spot that the Miami Heat needed. As I recall, during the first half of his rookie year Miner didn't get that much run on the court. His big break came at the NBA All Star Weekend in 1993 where he dazzled the fans and players with his incredible dunks and MJ type of swag (I hate that word). I will use style. The great Isiah Thomas called him " A bad boy". That Slam Dunk Contest performance propelled him to getting his own Nike commercial and prompted coach Kevin Loughery (remember that name) to play Miner more and he produced. You could see the potential coming to fruition.
Come his second season, everybody thought Miner would get more minutes but he was mostly on the bench, AGAIN. Players like Bimbo Coles were getting more court time than he was. No disrespect to Bimbo Coles, but Harold Miner was a better talent and scorer coming off the bench and the fans wanted to see Harold on the court with the talented starting line up of the Miami Heat. Coach Kevin Loughery felt Miner wasn't a great defender and his jumper was inconsistent. The Miami Heat were more of a defensive team and were allergic to scoring. Miner would have been the perfect player coming off the bench to put up points on the scoreboard. Loughery wasn't too open minded when it came to using Harold Miner's talents. This is the same man that coached Michael Jordan his rookie year. You would think he knew about talent and saw some similarities. It just seemed from the outside looking in as if he held some sort of grudge against "Baby Jordan". Harold Miner couldn't even compete in the 1994 Slam Dunk Contest because of his knee injury (Isaiah Rider ended up winning it with his east bay funk dunk). The next time we would see Miner would be sparsely in the first round playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. I remember he had a good game three and helped the Heat to a 2-1 series lead. Miami eventually lost the series in five games.
Harold Miner's third year started off with no playing time and more knee injuries. By now, everybody forgot about "Baby Jordan" and he was being labeled a bust. Come the 1995 All Star Weekend, Miner was one of the contestants of the Slam Dunk Contest and with a different jersey number: 4. Isaiah Rider was the new flavor because of his between the legs dunk. He was the heavy favorite to repeat and win it all. While Rider was missing his, Miner made his spectacular dunks and ended up pulling the big upset, winning his second Slam Dunk Contest. This time, he never benefited from the contest win and disappeared from the court and only seen at the end of the bench. He got traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995 but coach Mike Fratello had a defensive system with the Cavs, so there was no way Miner would break that rotation and get a chance to show his skills. Miner had another knee surgery after the season. The Toronto Raptors gave him a chance the following year but he slipped on a wet spot and sprained his knee in training camp, reinjuring his knee. He said he knew that was the writing on the wall. Harold Miner retired at 25 years old and only played four NBA seasons.
*Photo via CBS
The big fascination remains with his fans on why he retired at such a young age and in his prime and then just vanished off the face of the earth. After his retirement, he stayed away from basketball for over a decade. He stopped making public appearances, declined interviews and just moved on from his NBA career. He fell out of love with the game and the frustrations of not being able to play longer in the league got to him. When Miner finally came out of seclusion (living in Las Vegas), he said he had two knee surgeries and had a degenerative joint in one of his knees, the same injury the talented Brandon Roy had and was forced to retire at an early age. Hall of fame coach, George Raveling, Miner’s former coach at USC, said the worst thing to ever happen to Harold was the "Baby Jordan" nickname. When I was coming up in the game, it was called the "Jordan Curse". Any player that was labeled " The Next Jordan" i.e. Kendall Gill, Harold Miner, Isaiah Rider, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, etc was doomed to fail. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James broke the streak. The good news for fans is that Harold Miner is back in the public eye, getting his jersey retired in 2012 at the University of Southern California. Still some of us wonder, what would have been if "Baby Jordan" had stayed healthy and had been given a chance to play? Like his Nike commercial suggested, we would probably have seen the first Harold Miner.