Almost a year ago, I created 4 threads about this. These stories are from Reggie Miller in his 1994 book “I Love Being the Enemy: A Season on the Court with the NBA’s Best Shooter and Sharpest Tongue”. I decided for fun I'd dig them back up, and create one new thread with all four "Tales". Enjoy!
Tale I: On Larry Bird
Tale II: On Michael Jordan and Star TreatmentOriginally Posted by Reggie MillerMy rookie year, we played the Celtics at Market Square. It was a close game, but we never could beat them. It came down to free throws. There were about twenty seconds left, and we fouled Bird. We were down by 3 points. Bird went to the line to shoot two.
I was standing on the line—and being a rookie dumb *** and not realizing this was one of the best free throw shooters ever to play the game, I tried to throw off his timing. As he went to shoot, I kind of said out of the side of my mouth, “Hey! Hey!”
He stopped right before he shot, looked at me, and said, “You got to be kidding me. Rook, you got to be kidding me.”
He shot one. Boom. We were down by 4 now.
Bird got the ball again, and before he shot, he said, “Rook, I’m the best shooter in the league right now. In the league. Understand? And you’re up here trying to say something?”
Boom. We were down by 5.
What made it worse was that Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge were laughing their asses off. I was thinking, “What a dumb *** I am. You’re up here talking **** to Larry Bird. He’s at the free throw line.” I felt so stupid.
The one boost of confidence I got was after my second game in the league, which was at the Boston Garden. The Celtics were about ready to beat us—there was maybe a minute or so left—and I was standing back there as someone was shooting a free throw. Standing nearby was Bird, but I wasn’t saying a thing. I mean, this was Larry Bird, and I was playing only my second game. But he took a couple of steps over and said, “Reggie, keep working on your game. You’re gonna be a great player.”
I didn’t know Larry from Adam, but that meant a lot to me. I had played decently that night, scored 10 or 12 points. But for him to come up and say something to me… he didn’t have to say anything. I was just another snot-nosed rookie. But something must have caught his eye.
Of course, Chuck Person tried to talk **** to Larry all the time, but it didn’t work too often.
In my fourth year in the league, we were playing at the Boston Garden. It was close to Christmas, I think. Chuck was all psyched up to face Larry. I think Chuck envied Larry, especially when Boston came to Indianapolis. Chuck played for the Pacers, but Larry was born and raised in Indiana. He played at Indiana State. He lived in French Lick during the off-season. Chuck resented Larry’s coming to Market Square and having the place sell out, with everybody wearing Celtic green in Bird’s honor.
Hey, the man’s from Indiana, right? So you got to give the man his props. He’s one of the greatest players of all time. I think Chuck envied that.
So we were playing in the Garden, and Larry was taking the ball out in front of our bench. He had been on a roll, and I think Mike Sanders was guarding him at the time. Chuck was on the bench, and he said to Larry, “You wouldn’t be doing that **** if I was out there.”
Larry turned to Bob Hill, our coach, and said, “Bo, put this clown in.”
Bo started laughing, but Larry said, “No, Bo, I’m serious.”
Then Larry turned to the scorer’s table and yelled, “Sub!”
Man, the ref was starting to do the five-second count, and Larry was doing this ****. Chuck wouldn’t get up, so Larry said, “I thought so,” and then threw the ball in just in time. I was thinking, “This guy is crazy.”
Later in the same game they were coming down on the fast break. Their point guard threw the ball to Bird, and he got it at the three-point line, in front of our bench again. Mike Sanders was on him. Larry turned around, found Chuck on the bench, and said, “Chuck, this is for you: Merry Christmas.”
He turned and shot a fallaway three. Boom. Nothing but net.
Tale III: On the Knicks IOriginally Posted by Reggie MillerProbably the greatest player, both physically and mentally, was Michael. No question. On occasion I tried to break him, tried talking **** to him, but it never worked.
Man, I was stupid back then. It was during my second year in the league, and we were playing an exhibition game in Cincinnati against the Bulls. We were kicking the **** out of them, and Michael was just going through the motions. You know, exhibition game, big deal.
Then Chuck Person, who always talked **** to people, started egging me on during one of the timeouts.
“Talk **** to Michael,” he said. “He ain’t any good.”
I was hitting shots all night, thinking I was hot ****, so I said, “Yeah, okay, I will.”
We got back out on the court, and I started talking. I’d make a shot and yell at him, “Take this, *****.” I’d make a driving layup and say, “Don’t get me started, *****.” Or if he hit a jumper or something, I’d say, “Is that your best shot?”
The next thing I knew it was like, ding-dong, Michael’s home. We were up something like 12 points with five minutes to go. That’s when Michael scored the next 20 points—on me. They won the game with ease.
As we were walking off the court, Michael came up behind me and said, “Don’t you ever talk **** to me again.” And then he was gone.
Two things: I never talked **** to Michael again. And I never listened to Chuck Person again.
Michael could talk some ****, too. He was also one of the most physical players I ever faced.
Remember that fight we had a few years back in Indiana?
Here’s how it really started:
It was a fast break, and we were coming back on defense. I was trying to catch B.J. Armstrong, who had gotten ahead of me on the break. I accidentally got tangled up with Michael; we both tripped, and he fell on his wrist. B.J. missed the layup, and I caught the rebound on the floor and threw it to one of our guys on the outlet.
We both got up, and he went over and talked to Phil Jackson, their coach. I went over to him and said, “Yo, Dog, you all right?” He looked at me all crazylike. I think he thought I purposely tried to trip him.
I said, “Mike, you all right?”
He kept looking at me crazy. So I said, “**** you, then.”
The next play they started running that motion offense of theirs, that 1932 offense that they think is so mysterious, and Michael began giving me elbows and shots. I thought, “This guy is really tripping out,” but the referees weren’t doing anything about it. Now I’m thinking, “Damn, these guys are going to let him get away with this ****, too.”
A shot went up, and I went to box him out. I tried to give him a good pop, but he moved out of the way. We got the rebound, had a fast break, and Vern went in for a layup. But Vern missed it because Michael ran right in front of him at the last moment. I was trailing the play, tipped it in, and then saw Michael’s momentum sort of carry him out of bounds.
After I tipped it in, I purposely went out of bounds and gave him a shot. And that’s when it started. I got in his face, and he started grabbing and took a swing at me.
Said and done, I got thrown out, got fined ten thousand dollars and I’m thinking, “You got to be kidding me.” No foul, no T, nothing on Michael (though he did later get suspended for one game for the fight). I had scratches and blood coming down, and I told the refs, “Look at me. And I get thrown out, and there wasn’t a scratch on him.”
The refs said I got thrown out because I went out of my way to throw a little elbow. And then one of the refs came up to me and said, “You should have come to me when he first threw the elbow.”
“**** that ****,” I said. “You saw it happen right in front of you. Y’all didn’t do nothing about it. I’m not gonna sit there and take that ****. I gotta protect myself out here.”
That’s when all the media was talking about preferential treatment to superstars. Well, I saw it. It’s true.
Tale IV: On the Knicks IIOriginally Posted by Reggie MillerIt should have been us, not the New York Knicks, in the NBA Finals. It should have been us against the Houston Rockets for the world championship. It should have been us playing for the ring.
Should have been...
Could have been...
Instead, we got beat by New York in the '94 Eastern Conference Finals. And the year before that we got beat by New York in the first round of the playoffs.
I'm telling you right now, I hate the Knicks. Absolutely hate those kids.
I'm not saying we would have won the world title, but we should have been there to find out. Instead, we lost to the same team for the second straight year. Three games to one in '93, four games to three this past June.
I cried in the locker room after the game seven loss in New York, and it still hurts to think about both of those series. I guess every team has its demons. The Knicks are ours.
I never used to hate the Knicks. But then came the '93 playoff series against them, and all that changed. Now I can't stand that team.
They beat us in the best-of-five series, but not before John Starks made a complete *** of himself-- which, if you think about it, isn't unusual. I had never had any problems with Starks before the series. He had always played hard, tough basketball, and I respected that. But on the first play of the first game, I drove to the hoop and he gave me a shot in the back.
"Whoa, John, what's up?" I said.
"It's going to be like that all this ******* series," he said.
Hey, I figure, it's the playoffs, so I let it go.
On the second play of the game, I got to the top of the key, made a move to the hoop, and he fouled me again, giving me an elbow to the throat. Two plays, two fouls.
I looked at him, and he said, "*****, it's going to be like that all series. I'm just going to let you know that right now."
Well, first of all, you don't ever call me "*****." I call you that. That's my game, my house. I'm listening to Starks and I'm thinking, "This guy don't know who he's dealing with."
Those two fouls changed my whole way of thinking about those guys. I went into that series not knowing if we could beat the Knicks, but those first couple of plays changed my whole attitude. They beat us, but their intimidation tactics didn't make the difference. They were the New York Knicks, and we were the small-market Pacers, but once the series started it was just basketball, and that stuff didn't give them any edge. That gave us confidence, and that series was the last time I ever questioned myself and our team. It was also the last time Starks was stupid enough to call me "*****."
Game one of that series was the beginning of the ongoing Starks-Reggie confrontation. I didn't start it, he did, but damn if I was going to let him get the last word. From then on I tried to make life hell for the Knicks-- especially Starks.
I scored 36 in a three-point loss in game one. It wasn't just the points, though; I was in a zone just talking ****. I don't think about what I say. It just comes out. It's best when I don't have any set things to say, it's just natural.
In that first game when I started to get on a roll and I was scoring point after point, I'd look at the scoreboard and say to Starks, "Miller 26, John Starks 5. You ever gonna score tonight?"
That would **** me off if someone said that to me. And I know it pissed off Starks. But I wasn't about to let up, so I told him, "You should have never touched me in the first place. In fact, I think you kind of like me."
Oh, man, you could see him steaming. And every time I said something to him, I made sure I turned and acted like I was talking to the referee. That way if he decided to try something, the referee would see him do it. Hey, it's a war out there. You play every angle you can.
We lost game two, too. One more defeat and we were out. We went back to Indianapolis for game three, and it was close. One time there was a loose ball, and Starks stuck his feet out to trip me. I jumped over his feet because I knew what he was trying to do. I fell, and as I was rolling I made sure I kicked him in the face. I just wanted him to know that I was on to his cheap ****.
He got up all upset, but the referee didn't see the kick because I was sliding on the ground. But I'll admit it: I was purposely trying to kick him in the face, but only because he tried to knock me over with that move of his.
A couple of plays later he came down the lane-- this was in the third quarter, and the game was close-- and made a very nice move and then a nice shot over me. I thought, "That's kind of sweet." I kind of elbowed him on the play as we were running down the court, and, well, he snapped.
If you look at the videotape, you'll see him running at me, pointing at me like some psycho man. It was hilarious. The whole time I was thinking, "This is going to be the perfect opportunity to bait this ***** into something."
So I walked up to him like I was going to confront him. Then I put my hands up real quick like I wanted no part of him. Jimmy Clark, one of the refs, was looking at me. All of a sudden, John head-butts me. Starks's little hollow head didn't hurt, but I didn't want Clark to know that, so I do some Academy Award-level acting and fall out of bounds from the supposed force of Starks's mighty pop. It was a great fake fall. You would have thought I'd been shot in a battle, that I'd suffered a concussion, that I needed a CAT scan.
Of course, Clark teed Starks up with a flagrant foul and then kicked him out of the game. Our crowd went nuts, and so did Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. They were pushing Starks and saying, "How dumb can you be, you dumbass?" That's because the score was tied at the time. After that, they were dead.
Rolando Blackman came in, and I knew he had no chance of guarding me. Too old. Then they sent in Hubert Davis, who was a rookie at the time. Too young. I scored 36, and we won, 116-93.
That was one of those games where I felt I couldn't miss a shot. It also was the first time I ever felt in a shooting zone at home. I've always shot well on the road, gotten into one of those zones, but never at home. I don't know why. That's really wild, isn't it, to play much better on the road?
I was making everything that game-- an absolute shooting frenzy. I remember getting the ball right in front of the Knicks' bench at the "short three" (Before they changed the three-point line, the "short three" was the shortest distance, twenty-two feet, to the hoop. [Hicks edit-- don't know where the line is now compared to when this was written]) I could hear the crowd and the fans yelling, "Three!" Then I heard Charles Oakley on the benching yelling, "Reggie! Reggie!"
I took the shot, and soon as the ball left my hands-- and remember the ball hadn't even gone through the net yet-- I turned around and said to Oakley and the rest of the them, "Take this, you *****es. You *****es aren't as tough as you say you are."
Well, the ball was still in the air. I just stood there talking **** to them. Pat Riley was standing right there, and I was telling his team, "You *****es aren't as tough as everybody says you are." Fans behind the bench were going crazy, and Oakley was busting up laughing at me. I must have cried when I saw the tape of that. But the ball went right through-- all net, I must have looked like a madman, but when I step on the court I became a different person. Always have been that way.
That's how it was in our seven-game series against the Knicks in June. People say it was the best series of the entire playoffs that year, and I think they're right. I just wish I could have changed one thing: the ending.
Original URLs:Originally Posted by Reggie MillerThe 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.