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Posted on Mon. Aug. 18, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Retired series: Former NBA star goes BIG for charity work

Miller has raised more than $1 million for Big Brothers/Big Sisters

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Eighth and final in series

Few professional athletes get the choice when to retire, and every other one is usually angry about it. Injuries happen, age limits their physical abilities or employers decide they no longer are necessary or don't want to pay the current rate.

Even fewer leave their professions healthy, partly because they retire one year too late versus one year too early.

But what happens to someone who has had to retire and lost their dream before reaching middle age? What's next after the only thing you ever wanted to do is no longer possible? How do you plan the next 30 years of your working life or replace that competitive appetite which has driven you for so long?

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Besides readjusting to traveling considerably less, experiencing regular family life and learning what a full-time marriage takes, most retired professional athletes also have to learn how to deal with even more requests on their free time.

Playing professional sports means your entire life is structured around maintaining a routine. They try to get exactly the right amount of sleep, eat specific meals at specific times and practice to peak at the right moments. Everything is scheduled.

Then in retirement everyone seems to think they have plenty of free time and can do whatever they want whenever they want. Actually, they might have less because they want to spend to much more time with their families doing the things they have previously missed.

When Kendallville's Brad Miller retired at the end of the 2011-12 season to end a 14-year National Basketball Association career, he couldn't wait to experience "normal" life with his wife Abby and daughter Anniston.

"Your honey-do list grows 10-fold," the former NBA star Brad Miller from Kendallville said with a laugh. "It’s a total change. If you have done a job for 15-to-18 years, no matter what it is and you completely stop that, it completely changes our whole daily routine and how everything goes. I've been retired going on three years now and I'm still adjusting. It's an adjustment your whole family has to make when you stop playing."

It doesn't help that the Millers moved to Indianapolis and then back to Sacramento during the last year. Last week, they were still trying to get organized in a new house while getting Anniston, 7, ready for a new school as a second grader.

Miller. 38, also co-hosts of "Country Boys Outdoors," a show on the Sportsman Channel with his friend Jon Brunson. Whenever he gets some spare time, Miller also works on his golf outing and gala to help sponsor Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. This year's event starts Saturday at Memorial Coliseum and continues Monday at Noble Hawk Golf Links.

Almost every former pro athlete is approached weekly to get involved in charitable organizations, but Miller has always been involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and his golf event has raised more than $1 million in 10 years.

Miller feels so strongly about the organization because he was Little Brother. When he was 10, he met Dewey Forbes, and their bond is as strong as ever today, and that's why Miller comes back every year for the golf outing. When Miller talks about the organization, he's not just a spokesperson.

"It's fun to see all my friends and their enthusiasm for this," he said. "What makes it fun is the awareness these people have," he said. "Everyone understands it is a big deal and the awareness that we are raising. There are so many little kids out there who could go either way.

"A lot of those who have been involved in the event have actually volunteered to be a Big after coming to the golf outing or the gala. A lot of people have stepped up over the years, and that part makes it really cool. It's turned out to be more than I ever thought it could be."

Miller said he can tell the difference with athletes who become involved with charities but may not have a personal connection. They are not as involved or as dedicated. It's obvious he's not reading from a script but relating from his own life when he talks about BBBS.

"I’m not really good at reading a script anyway so it works out better that way," he said with a chuckle.

So far, the script for his retirement has been a pretty good one, Miller said. His body doesn't hurt as badly every morning when he wakes up.

"I can do a squat without it hurting me," he said. "My back and knees don’t hurt, and I don’t have to use my ice machine as much."

That's probably best because he doesn't have the time. Abby and Anniston always have something for him to do next. Building a new life is a challenge.

"It’s not as easy as some people who have done it their whole life," Miller said. "You have to have a strong wife to understand that. There's a high divorce rate in pro sports because when you retire your life is completely different. It’s tough. As long as you have a strong wife who is going to stay with you as you try and adjust, you just stick with it and keep going forward."

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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