Last night after Detroit’s 88-79 win over the Indiana Pacers a thought occurred to me, this is the last time I will see Reggie Miller playing a NBA basketball game. I sat and pondered this for a while, then I realized that all the players I grew up watching and trying to imitate are no longer in the NBA. Reggie Miller was the last of the 80s superstars.
Reggie Miller was the 11th pick in the 1987 draft, though at the time some thought him to be a bad choice by the Indiana Pacers, especially with guys like Mark Jackson, Tellis Frank, and Reggie Lewis still on the board. But Miller soon proved his doubters wrong and lead his team to the Playoffs in 1989.
The Pacers would go from a perennial loser into one of the Eastern Conferences elite teams behind Miller. But it wasn’t an immediate wakening, the Pacers and Miller struggled thought-out most of the early 90s. The Pacers usually finished around .500. Then in the 93-94 season Reggie Miller would lead the Pacers to their first ever NBA playoff series win, as they swept the Shaquille O’Neal lead Orlando Magic. In the second round the Pacers faced the Atlanta Hawks, beating the Hawks 4-2. The 1993 Eastern Conferences Finals may be the series of games which immortalizes Reggie Miller. This is when Reggie Miller got his epic 8 points in 15 seconds. But the Pacers would lose 4 games to 3.
The Next season Miller lead the Pacers to capture their first central division title, and then after a sweep of the Hawks, Miller and the Pacers once again faced the Knicks. Millers Heroics proved to be to much for the Knicks as the Pacers won the series in 7, and their second straight trip to the Eastern Finals. The Eastern Finals once again proved to much of a hurtle for Millers Pacers, as they feel to Orlando in seven games.
After what looked to be a season that the Pacers might have a legit shot at the title, something happened that was out of their control. Michael Jordan had returned to the NBA the season before but was out of shape. But in the off-season the Bulls acquired Dennis Rodman. The 95-96 season was a good season for the Pacers non-the-less as they won 52 games, but fell short of winning the division by 20 games. Then the Pacers faced, and lost to the Hawks a team they had beaten in the previous two playoffs.
The 96-97 season would be a disaster for the Pacers, Miller got hurt, and never fully recovered and the Pacers won only 39 games and missed the playoffs for the fist time since 1988. The Next year however the Pacers were rejuvenated, winning 58 games and taking the Bulls to the wire in game seven of the ECF before losing.
The lockout shortened 98-99 season saw the Pacers win 33 games and the central title, the Pacers would sweep the Bucks in the first round, and Philadelphia in the second round. Only to lose in six to the 8th seeded New York Knicks.
As the 2000 playoffs rolled around many thought that the sun had set on Reggie Millers chance to play in the NBA finals, they were wrong. The Pacers captured their second straight central title, and plowed their way thought Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and New York before facing the Los Angeles Lakers. The first two games of the series were blowouts in favor of the Lakers, but the Pacers exacted revenge in game 3. The Lakers would win game 4 in a dramatic fashion as the two teams slugged in out in the highest scoring finals game in years. The Pacers would blow out the Lakers in game 5, before losing to the Lakers in six.
Reggie Miller would never get back to the NBA finals, the closest was the 2004 playoffs were the Pacers lost to the eventual Champion Pistons. As this season started some considered the Pacers to be a treat, but after the Nov. 19th brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills were Ron Artest was suspended the rest of the season, Reggie’s title hopes dwindled to nothing.
Reggie May never have won a NBA title, but he won the hearts of many fans, and his opponents along the way. Former Knick John Starks once said “you can never leave him open, if you do for one second it’s to late...three pointer” This statement is a fitting one for Miller as he is one of the best 3pt shooters in NBA history.