If you were a kid in Boston during the '80s, Larry Bird moments are more memorable than Christmas mornings.
And right now, if you are a kid growing up in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant is branding lifelong memories of game-winners and dunks.
But, if you were kid growing up in Indiana in the '90s, Reggie Miller is your Zeus, Mohammed, and Jesus rolled into one. When he touched the ball behind the three-point line, you screamed “Boooooooom Baby” before it even left his hands. At the end of games, you didn’t need to worry because Reg-gie had it. He was Mr. Clutch, and it was Miller Time, or Winning Time.
Recently, I had the opportunity to screen the new ESPN 30 on 30 documentary “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks” about Reggie Miller and the Pacers rivalry against the New York Knicks in the mid-90s. I will admit that I am 100 percent biased. I grew up in Indiana during this time and I was the biggest Reggie Miller and Pacer fan there was (after all, my Dad was the assistant coach and vice president). This movie gave me goose bumps from the opening credits until the ending, and it was a fantastic documentary.
In order to give the film an objective critique, I will go ahead and take off my bias cap, though I know it will be tough. However, I can’t be any worse at it than the Sports Guy with the Celtics. Regardless if you are a Pacer or Miller fan or not, I still believe the film was great, in large part due to the fact that it engages in the NBA when it was fun. A time in the NBA when there were real rivalries, when teams actually hated each other, and hard fouls and fights were the norm.
It was a time when playoffs seemed to really mean something to these players, and you could tell they left everything on the floor. “Winning Time” captures the essence of a great NBA playoff rivalry—which we have not seen for some time—and they are only classic games in our memories.
Furthermore, the documentary does a fantastic job of giving the behind-the-scenes look at what the players at the time were thinking and acting like. You see clips of Reggie Miller in interviews trash talking the Knicks’ players between games.
Sidebar : When does this happen now? Wouldn’t that be fun to see LeBron and Wade going back in forth in the papers? Wouldn’t that make the playoff games more exciting? Why does everything have to be so PC, and why can’t we get “playoff fouls”...in the playoffs? Doesn’t that take away from the game and minimize what the playoffs are about? The NBA is always questioning why they are losing support; Let them play basketball and add some competitiveness and showmanship to the games—take the one lesson that boxing gave us. Do you think Ali would be nearly the iconic figure he was if he was quiet like Dwyane Wade in a post-game interview?
This film gives...scratch that—reminds us of what the NBA playoffs used to be. It showed us what these games meant to each hometown, particularly Indiana. The one fault of the film is that I believe it should have incorporated the fans' perspective more.
The documentary does a great job giving us the players’ view, the front office’s view with Donnie Walsh, etc., and the sports writers’ view with Peter Vecsey, for example, but never do we get to see what these games meant to the thousands of families and kids who watched religiously, and for whom it was life or death at that time.
For example, interview my family and I about what these games meant. During these iconic games in the Garden, I can talk about how my brothers and I had to watch the game in completely separate rooms from my step-mom because she cheered so crazily and obnoxiously loud on every possession. But, we would meet halfway during crucial timeouts to discuss the last few minutes of the game, only to go back to our respective seating positions when the timeout ended.
However, there was one fourth quarter that we all watched in the same room and that was the Reggie vs. Spike quarter, where Miller drained 25 points and the Pacers toppled the Knicks.
Or, I can talk about how when Spike Lee showed up to Market Square Arena, I passed him in the hallway and at the age of about 13 or 14, stood approximately 12 inches from his face and gave him the finger. There were about 20 other people with me doing the same thing.
Or, I can talk about how when I moved to Virginia and met my first Knick fan, who in return hated Miller and the Pacers. I was in shock. Who could actually like those guys? Who doesn’t like the Pacers???
Or, I can talk about when Patrick Ewing blew the layup that finally sent the Pacers past the Knicks in the playoffs and I still can hear Mark Boyle yell, “Ding-dong the witch is dead”, as Dale Davis snatched the rebound. Not only do I have goose bumps right now typing this, but I remember sprinting around our house and almost coming to tears while hugging my family. Ok, I am sure I came to tears, but was trying to act manly.
My family and I are not the only ones with stories about these times. There are probably thousands in New York and Indiana who could go on for hours about what they were doing at the time of these games or what these games meant. Let's get their perspective.
“Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks” by Dan Klores airs March 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. I strongly encourage you to watch the film and would love any and all feedback. Here is the trailer. Enjoy!