All December long the Back Home Again staff will be recounting the Top 25 Reggie Miller Moments of all-time as part of our “25 Days of Reggie.” The countdown will serve as a great way to get geared up for the start of the 2011 NBA season (and Christmas) as we remember and honor one of the NBA’s most clutch performers and the Indiana Pacers’ greatest player ever.
November 15, 1987: For our #21 Miller Moment we are going way back to Reggie’s rookie season. The Pacers were taking on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics at Market Square Arena. We’ll let Reggie himself take it from here.
“It came down to free throws and we fouled Bird. We were down by three. Bird went to the line to shoot two.
“I was standing on the line and being a rookie dumbass, and not realizing this was one of the best free-throw shooters ever to play the game, I tried to throw off his timing. As he went to shoot, I kind of said out of the side of my mouth, ‘Hey, hey!’
“He stopped right before he shot, looked at me, and said, ‘You got to be kidding me. Rook, you got to be kidding me.’
“He shot one. Boom. We were down by four.
“Bird got the ball again, and before he shot, he said, ‘Rook, I’m the best shooter in the league right now. In the league. Understand? And you’re up here trying to say something?’
“Boom. We were down five. What I was thinking? What a dumbass I am. You’re up here talking shit to Larry Bird.”
Reggie Miller was many things during his NBA career. As we’ve already seen in this countdown he was a great giver in the community, and of course, he was one of the best clutch players of all-time. Also, as we can see with his little tussle with Larry Legend back in 1987, he was one of the boldest and best trash talkers in NBA history as well. Not many cats have the stones to run their mouth against Larry Bird as a rookie.
According to Miller, 70% of his trash talking was simply used as a way to motivate himself. The other 30% was Reg trying to get inside his opponent’s head. Obviously sometimes trash talking can backfire as it did in ’87 against Larry Bird (although who are we kidding, the Legend was making those two free throws regardless). At other times, Reggie’s big mouth inspired great performances from himself and disrupted the mental pysche of his opponent (most frequently John Starks). Many of Miller’s greatest moments were born from trash talk. His incredible 25 point 4th quarter performance against the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs (thank you Spike Lee) and the time he bated Starks into a headbutt come to mind as the most famous instances. Perhaps even more impressive than these two performances though was the time Reg climbed inside the head of the greatest basketball player to ever live, Air Jordan himself. In a game early in Reggie’s career, Miller really got underneath MJ’s skin. Jordan completely lost his mind and tried to rip Reggie’s eyes out of their sockets. Great stuff. Reggie did basically the same thing to the great Kobe Bryant when Kobe was in his prime. (Spoiler alert: more on these fights later in our countdown).
Reggie took on the best with his mouth. And for the most part, he was always able to back up the smack with his game. Those are really the qualities of the greatest trash talkers. You take on the best, and then you walk the walk.
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