Back in the 1990’s, I’m not so sure what we saw in the Heat – Pacers game would have been called as flagrant fouls. Series like the Knicks – Pacers had more bad blood and ugly hits in them in one quarter than 7 games in today’s series. This immediately had me thinking about Reggie Miller.
The first few things that come to mind regarding Reggie Miller have to do with his three point shooting. With his huge three against the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. With his series with the Knicks, and his 8 points in 9 seconds. But Miller won’t be entering the Hall of Fame in three months just because of being a great shooter.
Yes, his numbers – 18.2 points per game after 18 seasons in the league, while shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc, make him one of the deadliest shooters in the history of the league. To this day, I’m willing to gamble that people would prefer to see Ray Allen against them with the last shot than Miller, who might have hit less tres than Allen, but was probably more dangerous in the clutch.
There’s this winnerism about Miller, who never won the NBA title. Maybe it’s because he took a not-so-talented but tough as nails Indiana team to the top of their potential and beyond, reaching the NBA finals in 2000 and a few more visits to the Eastern Conference finals. Maybe it’s because what he brought to the floor beyond his scoring.
It’s leadership. It doesn’t really show in the rest of his numbers – 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He wasn’t even that great of a defender, never getting the most difficult scorer of the opponent to deal with. Miller was more about getting surprise steals with his long lanky arms. That, and getting into the head of opponents.
Trash talking can be an art-form when it’s done right, and actually gets into the heads of players. Gary Payton was huge. Kevin Garnett does it these days, which has made him less and less popular each season since joining the Celtics. Dwyane Wade has a big mouth as well. Michael Jordan had his moments. But Miller was just as good-annoying.
His most famous test subject was John Starks, who was a good player, but volatile and fragile, mentally, to be honest. Those Pacers-Knicks series in the mid 90’s were anything but friendly, and Miller made it his objective to get Starks rattled. He succeeded in more than one case, but none was as successful and memorable as this.