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.
We’re here. It’s Christmas Day, and we’ve arrived at the pinnacle of our month-long tribute to the moments of Reggie Miller. We’ve had a lot of fun this month, sharing some of our favorite sports moments with all of you. Hopefully we’ve entertained you this month with some well-known moments as well as perhaps some new tidbits you hadn’t already known. It’s been a great pleasure to put these posts together.
Our top Reggie Miller moment of all time happened on May 7, 1995, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. By this time, the Pacers-Knicks rivalry was already established (see the Starks Head Butt in this post) and was thriving after two very memorable playoff series in the previous two seasons (the Knicks won both). The setting for the game was a raucous Madison Square Garden, but the setting for our #1 moment was a pretty relaxed and content arena, as the New York Knicks had a 105-99 lead with 18.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. There was laughter in the stands and laughter on the Knicks bench by this time. No one ever comes back from that sort of deficit-and-time scenario. No one, except Reggie. (Click here to watch)
(Notice how Bob Costas calls Reggie “One of the greatest clutch playoff performers of his generation,” and this is only in 1995. Awesome.)
Let’s talk first about the first six points of this comeback. When you’re down six points with less than 20 seconds left, you’re hoping and praying for a quick three, then two missed free throws, and then a buzzer-beater just to TIE and get to overtime. It’s an extremely tall order. Reggie Miller took 3.1 seconds to tie the game on his own. What kind of competitor has the presence of mind to step back behind the three-point line after getting the quick steal, and having a wide-open look at two points? When asked, Reggie said “I wanted to drive a stake through their heart.” That’s ferocity.
People often forget about what happened after the game became tied – the Pacers fouled John Starks inexplicably. Why on Earth would Sam Mitchell foul John Starks after Reggie just pooped on the entire Knicks nation? It would completely ruin the moment! Luckily for the Pacers, John Starks choked and somehow missed both free throws because he was shocked. But even then, Patrick Ewing rebounded and put up a 10-footer, which also missed. The rebound fell into Reggie’s hands, who was then inexplicably fouled, too (the game was tied, why were people fouling great free-throw shooters!?).
After taunting Spike Lee and Knicks fans on his way to the line, Reggie drained both free throws and won the game for the Pacers.
Rick Weinberg does a great job of covering the aftermath, with this excerpt:
Miller, in one of the most blatant acts of trash talking in history, proclaims on national TV that the Pacers — who had been eliminated from the playoffs the previous two seasons by the Knicks — would now likely sweep the Knicks. He then dashes inside the tunnel to the Indiana locker room, shouting, “Choke artists! Choke artists!” — a phrase that was splashed across the sports pages of the New York tabloids the following morning.
Only Miller, the King of Clutch, the King of Bravado, the guy who had stunned the Knicks the previous year with a 25-point, fourth-quarter explosion in a Game 5 conference finals victory, could get the Knicks crowd in such a frenzy. “The Knicks, New York, and Madison Square Garden,” Miller says today, “bring out the best in me. Always has. It lights a fire inside of me. There’s nothing I want more than to beat them on their stage, to steal their show. I got great enjoyment from it.”
The ramifications of this moment were huge. The Pacers went on to win the series in seven games. Pat Riley resigned as coach of the Knicks after the devastating loss, replaced by Don Nelson, who didn’t last a season. It put the Knicks in disarray for a good while. It also cemented Reggie Miller as one of the greatest playoff performers of all time.
What a tremendous showman, a ferocious competitor, and a loyal Pacer. Thank you, Reggie, for this moment, the other 24 moments, and everything else. See you in the Hall of Fame.
From all of us at Back Home Again, we sincerely thank you for joining us this month. Look forward to many more blog entries in the future bout various topics in Indiana sports. Happy Holidays to you and yours.