NBA fans everywhere have been gripped by the ESPN and Netflix documentary ‘The Last Dance’. But there was one guy who almost ruined Michael Jordan’s final victory parade: Reggie Miller. In game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, he ‘lightly pushed’ Michael Jordan and drilled a three-pointer to give the Pacers a historic win. Indiana would ultimately falter and collapse in Game 7, but Miller’s legend was given yet another page for the history books.
Reggie Miller was gangly and his shot unorthodox. He didn’t have the flashy dunks. His defense wasn’t anything to write home about. He made the All-Star team a few times, but so have many other players. But those other players have been forgotten. Reggie is a Hall of Famer. Why? Because when the clock is winding down and you need a clutch bucket, you feed that ball to Reggie Miller, no questions asked.
In this editorial, we’ll take you back to perhaps the most famous of Reggie’s clutch performances: the implausible and altogether legendary 8 points in 9 seconds.
The Where and When
Madison Square Garden. May 7, 1995. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Pacers versus the Knicks. Two NBA juggernauts about to embark on one of the most legendary playoff series of the 90s. The already tense and highly charged rivalry between these two teams is about to get even spicier.
In the 90s, the Knicks and Pacers hated each other. It was one of the most physical, nail-biting, and exciting rivalries of the decade. Patrick Ewing against Rik Smits, the dunking Dutchman. The slick Pat Riley against the animated coach Larry Brown. The muscle of Mason and Oakley against the formidable Dale and Antonio Davis. The hicks from Indiana against the city slickers from New York.
And then you’ve got Reggie Miller against Spike Lee. Reggie Miller against John Starks. Reggie Miller against the entire Big Apple. The rivalry is so epic that ESPN focused an entire episode of its famed 30 for 30 series on Reggie vs. the New York Knicks.
The score is Indiana 99, New York 105. With only 18.7 seconds left on the clock, a Knickerbocker win is a foregone conclusion. The Pacers have the ball, but there’s no way they can come back from this one. Some New York fans have even walked out of the building, celebrating their win while trying to avoid subway crowds on the way home.
Big mistake. World Sports Network knows that when it comes to sports in Indiana, it ain’t over till it’s over. You don’t bet against the Pacers, especially when Reggie Miller is involved. And in this particular game, it was about to get to Miller Time.
Mark Jackson with the inbound pass to Reggie. He quickly takes the three.
“Miller for three! And he got it,” the announcers exclaimed, but with little fanfare.
The MSG crowd is calm, the Knicks don’t panic. New York has a 3 point advantage and it’s their ball. Jeff van Gundy, the Knicks assistant coach, is still nervous. Anthony Mason has the ball. And he’s the team’s worst inbounder.
“And a steal, Miller retreats to the three-point line and hits again!” The commentators are incredulous, almost leaping from their chairs.
The game is tied. Reggie has not only stolen the inbound pass, but he also has the presence of mind to step back and take the three to tie the game. Are we heading into overtime? Not if Reggie has anything to do with it.
At this point, the ridiculous circumstances of this game get to everyone. Indiana’s Sam Mitchell commits an unnecessary foul and John Starks gets to take a stroll to the foul line. Are the two most clutch threes in history going to be for nothing?
John Starks walks to the foul line. He looks dazed. Pained even. His recollection of the moment? “At the time I’m walking over to the free-throw line and I’m thinking, man, did this dude just did this?” We’re pretty sure every single New Yorker had the same question running through their mind.
Not a good omen from John Starks. He proceeds to miss both free throws. The ever-dependable Patrick Ewing has no luck with the putback. And who ends up getting the loose ball? Reggie Miller.
And he gets fouled. Again, for absolutely no reason. Miller is not only a clutch three-point shooter, he’s also solid from the free-throw line. In fact, he led the league in free-throw percentage five times. He sinks both buckets without breaking a sweat. The Knicks squander the last seconds and don’t even get a shot off. They are in complete disarray. The remaining crowd can’t believe what just happened. Neither can anyone watching it on television.
The most unlikely comeback in NBA history is a fact. Reggie Miller further cements his reputation as the ultimate “Knick Killer”. And we’ll be watching and rewatching those 9 seconds for decades to come.