In this year’s edition of the NBA Finals, two former Gators have the chance to win their second championship ring while Miami’s Udonis Haslem is looking for his third. Here’s a breakdown of two UF shooting greats in Matt Bonner of San Antonio and Mike Miller of the Heat and the different paths they took to get to this point in their illustrious careers.
Bonner started his career in Toronto (the purgatory of basketball ever since Vince Carter left), but was the team’s top sharp shooter for his two seasons there, shooting 42.4% and 42% from beyond the arc, respectively. He appeared in all 82 games in his rookie year, but was traded to the Spurs in the summer of 2006, which turned out well for him as he went on to win a championship ring with San Antonio that season. The Red Mamba is more known for his instructional videos than what does on the court. However, he was the league leader in 3-point shooting percentage in 2011 with an impressive 45.7%. He has become one of the top floor stretchers for the Spurs and will certainly help Tony Parker when he penetrates, waiting for open threes to knock down- he is shooting 50% from beyond the arc in the 2013 playoffs.
Mike Miller was highly touted coming out of Florida in 2000 after helping the Gators to a runner-up finish in the NCAA championship game. He was drafted 5th overall by the Orlando Magic and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2001. He was the only rookie to play in all 82 games and he shot 43.6% from downtown. However, after two-and-a-half seasons in Orlando, he was traded to Memphis, where he played until 2008. Miller even scored 45 points in a game for the Grizzlies, a franchise record for most points scored in a single game. In the summer of 2008, he was sent to the Timberwolves in a deal with Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and Kevin Love. Miller only played in Minnesota for a year before he was sent to the lowly Wizards, where he also spent just a year. He then signed with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 and went on to win a championship ring with them. Miller even set a Finals record for most 3’s (seven) in a game by a bench player.
Both guys have a ring, both have made their marks as sharp shooters and both are gunning for their second championship.
Miller hasn’t quite been the same since his thumb injury in 2010, but has found ways to be productive and contribute as the team’s second deadliest shooter from beyond the arc, behind Ray Allen.
Bonner, on the other hand, is most likely hoping that a strong performance will propel him into the spotlight with New Balance (his favorite shoe) or at the very least warrant a look from them.
Of the two former Florida stars, look for the The Red Mamba to have more impact on the series. Miller is constantly battling back injuries, while Bonner has still been producing consistently for the Spurs.