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.
May 2nd, 2002: In every young man’s life, certain moments occur which etch an eternal home in his memory. He knows the time and the place in which each moment occurred and, to him, it seems like the moments happened just yesterday. I believe this phenomenon is known as a “flash bulb memory.” Personally, I identify one of my most vivid flash bulb memories with Miller Moment #6 in our countdown.
For my 13-year-old self, the time and place was a week day in early May at my grandparents’ house. For the Pacers, the time was the same, but the place was a deciding Game 5 in New Jersey against the first-seeded Nets. The Nets were the big dogs in the East that year but were really struggling to put the upstart Pacers away. Reggie, as usual, had willed the Pacers into a deciding game that no one expected to see.
The game was close the whole way through, and I can remember smashing two or three Dr. Peppers, supplied by the grandparents, to fight off my nervousness. I was on the edge of my seat, my grandpa was on the edge of his seat, and even my grandma was on the edge of her seat. As the fourth quarter wound down, it looked the the Pacers were going to lose it. It was really amazing that they had even made it as far as they had (citing the fact that Jermaine O’Neal was a star on the team and guys like Kevin Ollie and Jamison Brewer played crucial minutes). We were ready to accept the loss if needed but not quite ready to completely give up with Reggie still out on the court.
With the Pacers down by three, Richard Jefferson stepped to the line with a little under five seconds remaining and a chance to put the game away for good. Brick. The Pacers were still alive. Tension built. Another brick and the Pacers rebounded the ball! Surely the Nets would foul. Nope. Suddenly, out of the left side of the screen, #31 appeared, and you knew what was coming. 2 seconds left. Kevin Ollie crossed half court and passed him the ball. I personally moved from the couch to my knees in one quick swoop. Even this was out of Reggie range. He was at least 40 feet away from the basket and fading. 1 second. Reggie hoisted the shot, and my hands raised towards the sky. Time froze as the ball flew through the air. And then…
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I jumped in the air, my grandpa jumped in the air, and even my grandma, who uses a walker, jumped in the air. He hit it from 40 feet! The game was miraculously going to overtime.
Of course the Reggie magic wasn’t over yet. Once again, in the first overtime, it looked as if the Pacers were done. Reggie, once again, didn’t get the memo. This time with 5 seconds left Reggie drove the lane and dunked with two hands on the entire Nets team to send the game to a second overtime. Pure will. Pure Reggie. I, once again, jumped up in unison with my grandparents to celebrate an improbable feat. Reggie just simply refused to lose.
Unfortunately, Reggie wasn’t able to carry the Jermaine O’Neals and Jamison Brewers of the world through the second overtime. The Pacers would end up losing the game by eleven, but I will never forget the shot and the dunk that kept the Pacers alive. Those moments are ingrained in my sports memory forever. In my opinion, if the Pacers would have won the game, this moment could have easily been #1 in the countdown. But, they didn’t.
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