NBA

Reggie Miller Couldn’t Avoid Michael Jordan’s Return to the Spotlight

The ’90s were a golden age for basketball. Some of the greatest, most celebrated players of all time played during this era. Among the most famous were Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan. To most fans, Jordan is considered the greatest of all time.

Miller will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best alongside MJ. He’s already made his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame. But when these two players met on the court, it was anything but wine and roses.

What’s the beef with Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller?

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Jordan and Miller have a long history together. Part of the problem was that both men were prolific trash talkers. Both men had an uncanny ability to get inside their opponents’ heads. While most people remember Jordan as (arguably) the greatest of all time, he had a reputation for being utterly vicious on the court.

To make matters worse, so did Miller. From the time he was a rookie, reports the International Business Times, Miller prided himself on playing the bad guy during games. The animosity began at their very first meeting.

As the story goes, during his rookie season Miller went up against Jordan and made the mistake of taking a shot against the GOAT. Early in the 1st half, Miller had put up a double-digit score compared to the more seasoned veteran’s four points, and he decided to let Jordan know it. 

Of course, fate had other plans that night. Jordan would go on to score 44 points while Miller’s game completely stalled. According to Bleacher Report, Miller reported that Jordan told him after the game, “Never talk to black Jesus that way!” That set the tone for their relationship going forward. 

Tensions reached a head four years later when the two met during the 1998 playoffs. During a post-game conference, Jordan began making fun of Miller’s thin frame, likening Miller to a woman. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

The Last Dance

On April 19th, 2020, ESPN debuted The Last Dance, its docuseries on Michael Jordan’s life and career. The 10-part documentary highlights Jordan’s magnetic career, from his thrilling debut in the ’80s to his on-the-court dominance in the early ’90s. And you can bet that his prolific gift for trash talk is on display, too.

An important part of Jordan’s history was his return to basketball in the late ’90s, including a highly competitive playoff series against the Pacers and a much more seasoned Miller in 1998. Talking about Jordan’s late-career resurgence makes for great TV. But that means opening old wounds for Miller. 

Forced into healing

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Needless to say, those were scabs Miller didn’t necessarily want picked. When he was approached about being part of The Last Dance documentary, Miller initially refused. Twenty-two years was apparently not enough time to get over Jordan’s on-court antics. 

Besides, Miller’s career came a long way in the time between their first meeting and the 98 play-offs. Over 18 years in the league, he put up incredibly solid numbers, reports NBA.com, averaging 18 points per game. Among his accolades were an Olympic gold medal and induction into the NBA Hall of Fame. He was a legendary player in his own right. 

Some wounds are harder to heal than others. Michael Jordan’s trash talk struck a deep and definitive nerve with Miller. He’s even been quoted as saying that he might punch Jordan if he met him again, as Clutch Points reports.

Still, Miller appears to have given in to pressure from the NBA, ESPN, and even his fellow players. You can expect to hear his side of the story as The Last Dance unfolds on ESPN.