Originally said by Reggie Miller:
The Pacer losses in games one and two were definitely my fault. Going into the series, I tried to be Mr. Nice Guy. After what happened the year before-- the trash talking, the head-butting incident with Starks, getting Starks ejected-- I said to myself, "We're in the Eastern Conference Finals now. I'm going to show New York that I can play a straight-up game. I'm not going to talk ****. I'm not going to do those antics. I'm just going to play basketball. I'm going to see how that is. I'm just going to beat them with my basketball talent."
The year before I didn't do that. Yeah, I scored some points and got Starks thrown out, but we lost the series, so none of that meant a thing. Face it: The Knicks are dirty players. Let me take that back. They're not dirty players, but when things aren't going New York's way, they're going to do whatever it takes to win. And if that means hurting someone, then they'll do it. That's what makes them the Knicks. I'm not going to say that's dirty, but sometimes they take it to the extreme. But I was determined not to let any of that bother me. I kept telling myself: Just play basketball. I was going to play the game and prove that I didn't need any of that other stuff.
Dumb move. In game one, I had 16 points. We lost by 11. In game two, I had 20 points. We lost by 11.
I was scoring okay, but I wasn't playing Reggie Miller-type basketball. From Gar Heard to Billy King to George Irvine, who are our assistant coaches, to some of my teammates, guys like Vern Fleming and Sam Mitchell, everyone was telling me, "You need to play the way you know how to play. You just can't be going through the motions and not getting on us and not talking **** to them. You need to play like Reggie Miller."
I was listening to them, saying "Yeah, yeah," but I already had my mind made up.
But the thing that really got to me was when my sister Cheryl called. It was the first time she ever called to jump all over me. Usually she just calls to give me tips: "Reggie, you're falling away on your shot." That short of thing. But this was different. She said I had always been a man's man, but now I was being too nice. I was helping the Knicks out. I wasn't taking the ball to the basket. I wasn't shooting enough. She said the only reason I was out there was that they needed five Pacers on the floor. She said I was doing exactly what the Knicks wanted me to do.
Then she really started criticizing me.
"What in the hell are you doing?" she said. "Don't you know you're in the Eastern Conference Finals, that you're playing the New York Knicks? You think you can just go through the motions with them? What in the hell have the New York Knicks won? Did they win the championship last year?"
"No", I said.
"Did they win the championship the year before that?" she said.
"Did they win the championship the year before that? I mean, what they hell have they won? When's the last time they won anything?"
I was listening to this and bam
, it hit home. "Damn... yeah, you've got a point there. If I need to go out there and cuss somebody out, then I'm gonna cuss somebody out."
So we went back to Indiana for game three, and that's when the series really started. I got into foul trouble in game three and ended up with 15 points; still, we held them to 68 points and won by 20. Then in game four I had 34 points, and I knew then that everything was going to be okay. The series was tied, 2-2, and we were headed back to New York for another game.
It was crazy. We were staying at the Plaza Hotel, and when we got off the buses, there were photographers and fans everywhere. People were screaming things at me, but I loved it. Oh, my God, I wanted to play the game right then. I was in New York, the media capital of the world. The Knicks fans were yelling things like, "Starks is gonna shut you down! You ain't nothing!" I just soaked it in.
I knew something weird was going to happen in game five, because that day everything went wrong for me, from room service to being late for the shoot-around to all the media asking all the wrong questions. Everything was just going bad that day. I was wondering what else could go wrong.
Then I got on the court, and everything seemed perfect. Going into the fourth quarter I was 6 of 16 from the field, but it was a good 6 for 16. Every shot I took looked good and felt good. I actually thought I was scoring better than I was.
We were down 12 going into the last period, so I said to myself, "You've got to do something to spark this team. You're either going to shoot us in or you're going to shoot us out, but you've got to take the fall, whichever which way."
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the score 70-58, I ducked behind a screen set by Kenny Williams and hit my first three-pointer of the quarter. Starks, who was supposed to be guarding me, couldn't get through in time.
When I hit the first one, Spike Lee, who sits at court-side and considers himself the Knicks' number one fan, was yelling at me, "That's luck, man." I just looked at him and started smiling. We had a bet: If we won the series, my wife Marita would get a role in his next movie. If the Knicks won, I'd have to visit Mike Tyson in prison in Indiana.
Then, with Huber Davis in for Starks, I hit a second three, and I gave Spike a look like, "We're starting to come back." He said, "Aw, y'all ain't gonna do nothing."
About a minute later I noticed Greg Anthony was on me. I drove right, pulled up, and hit from about fifteen feet out. I have five or six inches on Anthony, so it was no problem getting a shot off over him.
Then I hit a wide-open twenty-footer. Then a twenty-seven-footer from up top, which put us ahead, 75-72. That's when the famous choke sign made an appearance. I grabbed my neck with both hands and looked at the crowd, telling it that New York was gagging, that it had no balls.
After that third three went in, I could have tried a hook shot from half-court and it would have gone in. It didn't matter who was trying to guard me-- Starks, Derek Harper, Anthony, Davis-- I didn't care. It felt as if everything was in slow motion, like I was lifted above the court and I could see plays before they actually happened; a back door, a cut, anything. It was weird.
I finished with a playoff career high of 39 points, 25 of them in the fourth period, 5 of them three-pointers, and we won the game 93-86. When it was over, I slammed the ball down really hard. Bill Murray was there, and I said to him, "I swear, this is like another Groundhog Day
." He busted up laughing. Remember that movie? Things kept happening over and over and over again. That's how it was in the fourth quarter. I just kept making those shots.
Afterward, when we were on the team bus and then on the plane, people kept saying, "Man, I can't believe the things you were saying out there." But I couldn't remember anything I said. I had a terrible migraine headache after the game. People were saying, "Man, you were in a zone." Well, if that's how the zone is, then I hate the after-zone, because my head was killing me.
We were up, 3-2, in the series, but then we relaxed. We went home to Indiana and lost by 7. Then we went back to New York and got beat by 4. End of season.
I flew back with the team to Indianapolis and then the next day flew to New York to do the Letterman show. That was a strange experience.
Letterman was talking to me during the interview, and out of nowhere he started asking me about Spike Lee. Well, I was getting ready to rip Spike when I saw David looking over my shoulder. All the time he was saying, "You know, the quarrel between you and Spike... What's that about?" I was thinking, "What the hell is he looking at?"
I turned around and there was Spike coming out, and he was holding a Starks jersey. I was saying, "Oh, God. How funny is this?"
The New York papers and fans really ripped into Spike for inspiring me into that game five performance. But that's ridiculous. Sure, he was talking some **** to me-- still does-- but that's fine. I wish more teams had fans like Spike Lee. He pays his money, and he's there night after night. You can't fault him because he's the Knicks' number one fan. He got a lot of flak about talking **** to me and then having me go for 39. They were ready to lynch him. It was front-page news. Even today I kid him: "Man, your movie Crooklyn
was sagging at the box office until I started going off on you. If it hadn't been for me, that movie would never have gotten over the hump."
And if it weren't for the Knicks, we would have gotten over the playoff hump. But we didn't. Maybe we weren't ready. Maybe we were scared to win. I don't know the answer. I do know that this is going to be our year. I'm going to make sure of it-- Knicks or no Knicks.