On Mike Miller's Pet Monkey, and His Jump Shot
I was chatting with Mike Miller in the lobby of Cox Pavilion the other day as he was swarmed by autograph seekers, and he was telling me how uninteresting he is.
"I'm a boring guy who hoops," he said. "All I do is hoop."
"I did have a pet monkey," he remembered, a couple minutes later.
That would be the Java Macaque Sonny, who has been written about at just about every step of Miller's career. (Read more here, and here.) Miller thought this ground was too well-traveled for yet another monkey story, but if he's a boring guy, I figured it was the best we could do. So, why a pet monkey?
"Because they're smarter than most people I hang around with," he joked.
And why a petite little Java Macaque?
"Well [I wanted] one that wasn't gonna be crazy and whoop my tail," he explained. "It had to be small."
The two were nearly inseparable, and another NBA veteran told me that Miller used to have that monkey everywhere he went, including to the mall, where Sonny would ride around on Miller's shoulder. Because I took a journalism class in college, I asked Miller whether people would stare.
"If you saw a guy walking around with a monkey on his shoulder, would you stare?" he asked.
Sonny had his own bedroom, but "I didn't have no kids, so he got to post up wherever he wanted," Miller said. He would get food from the fridge whenever he was hungry; grapes were a particular favorite. He loved playing billiards, though "he wouldn't use a pool stick, he'd just throw the balls," Miller said. "He had a nice jumper, too," he added, though he said he was joking about that. But at this point, I wasn't totally sure what was a joke or what wasn't. Like, the oft-told tale about when Miller got a phone call saying his monkey was on the loose?
"Oh yeah, that was a trip," Miller said. "You would always put him in his room, and then we'd lock the door, and then we'd put the dogs out, and then we'd lock the front door. Well, he found out how to unlock doors, unlocked his door, went downstairs, let the dogs in the house and opened the front door. About an hour later we got a call from our neighbors, saying, 'Your monkey is riding your dogs around the neighborhood.'...I said, 'C'mon y'all, y'all got to get in the house."
Because I took a journalism class in college, I asked how such a short monkey could unlock a door.
"Well, he jumped," Miller said. "That man got bunnies, he jumped like DeShawn Stevenson and them guys."
This was high-school-era DeShawn Stevenson, apparently.
(Speaking of which, Miller said won a slam dunk contest during his freshman year at Florida, claiming the title with a Rex Chapman-style maneuver where he threw the ball behind his back, caught it and did a reverse. I asked whether he can still throw down; "You know what, I can, I just choose not to," he said. "It takes too much energy.")
And I know you're wondering what Sonny's favorite television program was; I was thinking either Benny Hill or Baseball Tonight, but Miller said he had no favorites.
"I mean, he would do everything with us," he said. "He would just chill. I'm telling you, he was like a kid. That's why I like them, they're smart. He was probably smarter than me. That ain't saying much."
Anyhow, if you're wondering about potty training, Miller's wife would cut holes in the back of diapers intended for premature babies; because I took a journalism class in college, I asked why the monkey needed diapers.
"I didn't want him deucing in the house," Miller said, which was an acceptable answer. "I [changed the diaper] every once in a while, but my wife did it most of the time. I'm not very good at that. Listen, I'm not very good at that. That's one thing I'm not good at. I'm a great dad, but I'm not a very good diaper changer."
Which brings us to Miller's sons, Mason and Mavrick. Before Mason's birth, Miller decided that Sonny was too protective, so he was given away to a sanctuary, a process he described as "emotional" and "terrible." The current pets include three German Shepherds (one named "Pistol," after Pete) and a Bulldog, but no exotic wildlife. They've since seen pictures of Sonny, and still have photos of him in their house, but they don't hang out any more. Miller has since grown his hair, and doesn't think his monkey would even recognize him any more.
Why did he grow his hair? That's another story.
"T- Mac bet me I wouldn't put it in braids," said Miller, who responded by growing his hair for months. "I put it in braids, but let me tell you something, I couldn't sleep that night. It felt like my damn forehead was talking to me that night. See, I've got that soft hair, I had little flares everywhere. I said, 'Man, I'm gonna show up at shootaround, but I look like a clown.' I looked like a clown. I wore them that night, I took them out after shootaround, because I couldn't do it any more."
So he won the bet, and then just kept the long hair. It's been about four years now, and he's thinking of making a change. "We're gonna take a poll, I think," he said. We'll put a poll on some web site, see what happens. If everyone wants me to shave it, I'll shave it."
A few more things:
* I asked how many three-pointers he can make consecutively; "We go around the horn, I'll go 78, 80 threes in a row," he said. "You have to be shooting pretty well to do that. [Then] you walk away. You don't want to see the ball no more. Sometimes you've got that horseshoe in your pocket."
* I asked if he prefers starting or coming off the bench. (He's a former Sixth Man of the Year.)
"I don't mind, as long as I help us win," he said. "If coming off the bench makes us better, I have no problem. I tell them right now, I don't mind coming off the bench, at all. I don't mind, I really don't. I've come off the bench before. I just want to win. I'm sick of losing."
The past three years, his teams have finished with 24, 22 and 22 wins.
"That's a long time in basketball years," he said. "When I work out the way I work out, it's hard to justify it, winning 20-some games."
* His knowledge of D.C. is limited to "from the Ritz-Carlton to the arena," he said. "President Obama, the White House, that's about it. I'm just there to play."
* The trade from Minnesota to D.C.? "I was excited," he said. "I mean, everyone can see how much talent we have. Now it's about putting it together, so it should be fun. Listen, there's some situations that work, some that don't. That one didn't work, obviously, and hopefully this one will."
* When we were finishing our conversation, a female fan came up to Antawn Jamison, who was sitting nearby, and told he he has the most beautiful smile in the NBA.
"I appreciate it, thank you," Jamison said.
"Why thank you," Miller called after her as she walked away. "I just got my teeth last week."
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