Winning Time: Pacers-Knicks and the Legacy of Reggie Miller

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Wow. What a movie. A great documentary by Dan Klores. This movie was really special towards Pacers fans, and come on some of you Knick fans: you know you probably kind of liked that movie, too.

I am glad such a documentary was recorded like this. The Pacers haven’t seen that much national attention since their playing days with guys like Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, and of course: Reggie Miller. This movie should how important Reggie Miller was to the whole state of Indiana and how this state were brought together in happiness in this fine game of basketball.

The Pacers-Knicks rivalry changed the whole aspect of the NBA during Michael Jordan’s first retirement. When he quit the NBA for baseball, the NBA ratings looked to go down. Larry Bird was getting old and was having problems and Magic Johnson retired with his HIV. The Pacers-Knicks rivalry was pretty much a football game on a basketball court, but minus the equipment.

Fans loved it. Though it was just a Divisional Playoff round, it sure felt like the Conference Finals. Actually, scratch that: The actual Finals. The big show. The half-and-hour movie was worth it, especially for every basketball fan on the planet. This is easily one of the best documentaries I have seen.

This is where Reggie’s legacy became untouchable. The Knicks rivalry. During Reggie’s early years, he was always regarded as “Cheryl’s sister.” Because he was. Cheryl was simply better. She was good enough to play with the boys. People were afraid to play here. She kicked everyone’s butt when she was in her childhood on the block. Reggie always got beat. And then one day during their high school years, Reggie was coming back from a game where he scored 60 points. Fantastic. But his Dad was like, “Uh-huh.” Why? Well, the thing is, Cheryl scored 105 points. Uh-huh.

Mr. Boom Baby was simply the middle finger of New York. Everyone hated him. During the 194 NBA Playoffs,  the Pacers and Knicks were rolling and fighting against each other. The Knicks one the first two games of the series, each by eleven points. The Pacers then fought back, tying the series to 2. And then the next game was in the Garden. Spike Lee was in attendance as usual. But in this game, he was the voice of the whole crowd, and later…simply the hater.

Lee was taunting Reggie. And Reggie’s wife maybe played a role in one of Lee’s movies. How? A bet was made. If the Pacers win, Reggie’s wife plays a role in one of  Spike Lee’s future movies. I don’t know if ever happened. But, however, if the Knicks win: Miller will have to meet Mike Tyson in prison. Yikes.

So here were the Knicks killing Indiana entering the fourth. They were getting killed throughout the game. But Miller’s self-esteem rose and he was ready to kill the Knicks. Spike Lee was somehow the inspiration. And there it was: the choke sign. Miller was killing the Knicks. The Knicks just couldn’t stop him. Miller kept staring at Lee after every shot he drilled. Shot after shot after shot after shot. And Miller brought out his hands, put it on his neck and made a choke signal at Lee. And just a few seconds after that, one hand stayed on the neck. The other? It was on No. 31’s crotch. Right to Spike Lee…and his wife. Damn son.

This 6′7″ guard brought hell to New York. And after that game, the Knicks fans were so pissed and confused in my mind that they just had to blame Spike Lee on all this. Now that’s just not right. He didn’t do anything. He’s just some fan. And I bet you Reggie probably laughed at that. Hysterical. But unfortunately, the Knicks won the series.

Entering 1995, the Pacers signed what I would call a detective for the team: Mark Jackson. He played for the Knicks a year earlier and knew their schemes. Now he was going to kill that team with Reggie. It 31 and 13, Reggie and Mark. It was all going to be good. There was Rik Smits. They were all hungry. After sweeping the Hawks in the first round, it was like “We meet again,” as the Pacers will face New York.

It started out well. Both teams fought hard. The first fourth quarter of the series and the last play of the series were the most important parts. There were 8.9 seconds left. The Pacers were down 105-99. The Knicks knew they were gonna win. Donnie Walsh went into a room to smoke. “Goddamn,” he must be thinking. “Here we go again!” Yes, here we go. But something magical happened in those seconds of the first game.

Let’s just get a three. Reggie Miller received the ball inbounds and shot a quick three. Swish. 105-102. Then the Knicks worst inbounds passer was in. Oh boy. This was going to be interesting. He threw the ball in and Reggie somehow got it. He sprinted back to the three point line, and shot it. Swish…to the second power. 105-all. Oh boy, oh boy. In the words of Ahmad Rashad, taking that three took some…balls. A lot of balls.

The Knicks didn’t screw up this time passing the ball. John Starks received the ball and got fouled. Two free throws. He didn’t know what was happening. He couldn’t believe it. Was he dreaming? He missed both as if there was no point shooting them and as if the Knicks were up 105-95 instead of being tied at 105. It was like that. Miller rebounded, and was fouled. Things were just getting better and better. Miller made both and ended the game, 107-105. After that game, Miller was the savior of Indiana. His legacy was now made. A legend. Now I guess Pacers fans shouldn’t be mad after drafting Reggie instead of Steve Alford, eh?

The Pacers eventually won the series, 4-3. In the Garden for Game Seven, this looked like an easy win for New York. Both teams played hard. They played harder than any team that year. And at the closing seconds of the game, the Knicks were bouncing back big after a huge deficit made by Boom Baby. With a few seconds remaining, the Knicks were down 107-105. Five seconds left, Knicks ball. It was obviously going to Patrick Ewing. Ewing took the ball, drove down the lane and looked for the easy layup. It looked like it was easily going in. The ball hit the back of the rim, and it went in…then out.

The Pacers won. They finally won. They succeeded the impossible. It was incredible. Miraculous. Glorious. Fantastic! And that is when Miller’s true legacy was born. And that’s what this documentary was all about. Reggie Miller made the difference. He brought the joy to Indiana basketball. Reggie Miller wished it was the Conference Finals, though. Good joke.

But the Pacers eventually made it to the Finals, but lost to the Lakers. Miller’s legacy will live on and is easily a Hall-of-Famer. Always learn this folks.

Wherever, whenever…it’s Always Miller Time in Indiana.

Movie Rating: 5 out 5 stars.

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