Reggie Miller on Scouting Michael Jordan: 'He Didn't Have Any Deficiencies'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2020

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 19: Reggie Miller #31 of the Indiana Pacers and Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls look on during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 19, 1998 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1998 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller said he took part in the famed Space Jam pickup games in an effort to find weaknesses in Michael Jordan's game. His quest was unsuccessful.

Alex Squadron of Slam Online interviewed players who stopped by the Warner Bros. lot while Jordan filmed the movie before its 1996 release. The series of high-intensity offseason games were highlighted in recent episodes of The Last Dance documentary about the 1990s Chicago Bulls.

"Mike and I used to do battle and get after one another. I always wanted to be on the opposite team as MJ," Miller said. "My whole purpose of going to these games was to try and find a vice I could use if and when we faced each other during the regular season and/or playoffs. Safe to say I never found one because he didn't have any deficiencies."

Former NBA forward Tracy Murray told Squadron there were moments where everybody else inside the "Jordan Dome," the makeshift basketball training facility built on the lot, would stand back and watch Jordan duel with Miller.

"There was one particular day when Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan—and you know they had a rivalry—those two went at it," he said. "It was to the point where all of us on both teams, we just wanted to stand and watch the matchup. They were talking major trash, calling each other out. It got to the point where if you had the ball it was like, 'Man, you take it, I want to see what your reply is.'"

Perhaps the best MJ story came from Space Jam director Joe Pytka, who was allowed to play alongside the All-Stars a handful of times thanks to his NBA frame, per Squadron:

"The most memorable experience I had up there was, Michael was coming down on a break and I was going to take a charge right in the middle of the key. Mike was coming right at me and he never went left or right, he went right through me and dunked over me. I'm gonna tell you something and you're not going to believe this, I didn't feel anything. I don't know if he went over me, I'm 6-5 and weigh about 230. It was magic. It was like a ghost went through me and dunked. I don't know whether he jumped completely over me. I wasn't crouching down, I was standing straight up to take the charge. He just dunked it and it was like a ghost. I'll never forget that."

Yet, it always seemed to come back to Jordan and Miller.

"One of the players that he watched really closely, and he was there every night, was Reggie Miller," Space Jam technical advisor Nate Bellamy told Slam. "I remember one time he told me, 'Reggie doesn't like to go left.' And he kept that in his memory bank. If you watch from 1996 on, any time they played against Indiana, watch how he played Reggie. He always shaded Reggie to his left."

The Bulls and Pacers only faced off once in the playoffs during the superstars' careers. Their classic battle in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals went seven games before Chicago advanced en route to winning its sixth and final championship of the decade.

Based on the Space Jam stories, it's unfortunate Jordan and Miller didn't face off in more high-profile situations because they even turned pickup games into fierce battles.