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“I’d look at Cheryl, she’d look at me, we’d wink” — Reggie Miller and his sister Cheryl ran a hustle scam in California

This is how true ballers make money for a Happy Meal.
USC center Cheryl Miller and Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller

Cheryl Miller and Reggie Miller

Before becoming one of the renowned basketball commentators today, Reggie Miller was known as one of the most lethal 3-point shooters ever to step foot on the hard court. But way before that, Miller and his sister Cheryl ran a basketball "hustle scam" in their hometown in Riverside, California.

The best hustle scam

Back when they were in the fifth and sixth grades, Reggie and his sister Cheryl would go to the John Adams Elementary or Hunt Park basketball courts to challenge people to some two-on-two action. People were unaware that Cheryl did not just play ball, she was one of the best at it. And so the siblings integrated this little-known fact and turned it into an elaborate deception. As Miller related in his book “I Love Being the Enemy:”

I’d tell Cheryl to hide in the bushes, and then I’d go up to a couple of older kids and arrange a game. ‘You guys want to play?’ I’d said. ‘I’m by myself … unless you count my sister.’”

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Miller would whistle and Cheryl would show up acting like she's never seen a basketball in her life. Every single time, the opposition would think they had an easy win coming their way.

We’d play for ten dollars; the first team to 10 by ones would win the money. Then we’d get down, 5-0, double the bet, and then take care of business. I’d look at Cheryl, she’d look at me, we’d wink, and then … 10-5 us, and on our way to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal,” Miller wrote.

Barbarism Begins at Home

It’s a peek into the minds of two of the world’s greatest competitors. At first glance, Reggie’s lanky body did not put fear into the hearts of men. But once you see him knock down 3-pointer after 3-pointer, you’d discover he should be respected. And when you hear Reggie talk trash, that’s when you know you are messing with the wrong guy.

Like Reggie, Cheryl also made her mark on the hard court. Injuries curtailed her career, but in her prime, she dominated the college basketball scene, as she won Naismith Player of the Year award three times. She’s also a two-time NCAA Champion and an Olympic gold medalist.

There’s a lot of truth in the adage coined by The Smiths: “Barbarism Begins at Home.” But suppose we are to strip off Morrissey’s predilection for macabre households and apply it to the Millers. In that case, the adage could be revised to the less-poetic but equally veracious: “Being Sneaky Begins at Home.”

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