Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller battled Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and John Starks during his 18 year NBA career. However, his most iconic battles came with someone who never (officially) stepped on the court: Spike Lee.
During Pacers/Knicks games in Madison Square Garden, the two went at each other as hard as any two people in the building. The sharpshooter and the filmmaker had such an intense rivalry they even made side bets during playoff series. Miller has explained to Dan Patrick and Jimmy Kimmel what started the feud.
Reggie Miller and Spike Lee famously battled during New York Knicks games
In the 1990s, the NBA Eastern Conference consisted of the Chicago Bulls and then everyone else. Within that “everyone else” group, the two best teams over the course of the decade were the Pacers and the Knicks. One of these teams appeared in six of the eight Eastern Conference Finals from 1993-2000. Three times – 1994, 1999, 2000 – the teams faced off against each other in this series.
Oscar-winning Brooklyn native Spike Lee was, in the 90s as he is today, the most famous New York Knicks superfan in the world. From his courtside seat, directly across from the Knicks bench, Lee has cheered, booed, and talked trash for nearly 30 years.
The most famous interaction between Miller and Lee came during the 1994 NBA Playoffs. The Knicks and Pacers were vying for a spot in the NBA Finals – a spot the Knicks would ultimately earn – and in Game 5, Miller put on a show.
Down 12 heading into the fourth quarter, the Pacers outscored the home team 35-16 in the final stanza. Miller put in 25 on his own, just four points shy of the NBA playoff record for points in a quarter.
The whole time, Miller jawed with Lee, who was vocal with the Pacers star earlier when the Knicks were winning. The signature moment was Miller wrapping his hands around his neck in the universal choke sign as the Knicks gagged up their large lead.
Miller revealed the origins of his feud with Lee
Miller appeared on the Dan Patrick Show during the 2021 NBA playoffs and discussed the origin of his beef with Lee. “It started with the ‘Cheryl’ chants, and ‘Cheryl was better,’ and that’s kinda what started it,” Miller said, referencing his older sister, one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time.
Patrick asked what Lee would say, exactly, and Miller shared:
He’s like, ‘put a wig on!’ ‘Cheryl Miller is out here playing!’ I’m just like, is he really saying this? Is he really saying this!? I was like, ok, if you’re going to talk, if you’re gonna pay all this money for expensive seats, you’re gonna be a part of the game, Spike. And I made him part of the game.
In 2015, Miller appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and echoed these comments when discussing his overall relationship with Lee. “I will say this about Spike, God bless him. I love him,” he admitted. “But he talks too much. He talks too damn much.”
He continued to explain how the famous exchange went down:
When you’re trying to play the game, you hear the fans, and you hear hecklers and guys booing you and stuff like that, but Spike, he takes it a little personal. He makes it a little personal, so I decided to bring him onto the court and make him part of the game.
Although Miller is gone and he and Lee seemed to have buried the hatchet, the guard still can’t help taking shots at the director. During the 2021 playoffs, Miller called Lee a “fair-weather fan” when he left a Knicks loss to the Atlanta Hawks early.
The best NBA players to never win an NBA Final
Miller is on the shortlist of the greatest NBA players to never win an NBA Finals. After years of waiting out Jordan and the Bulls in the East and the Houston Rockets in the West, He finally got his shot to play in the Finals in 2000.
Unfortunately for Miller, that was the first year Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant made the NBA Finals together. The dynamic duo would not only beat the Pacers to win their first championship together, but they would also win the next two after that.
Many of the other best players to never win a championship come from Miller’s era, thanks to Jordan’s dominance. Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins, and Patrick Ewing are all on the list.
Also in the mix for this unwanted honor are Elgin Baylor, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.
One more player who is on the list now but may be able to get off it soon is Chris Paul. The long-time outstanding point guard’s Phoenix Suns are currently in the NBA Finals, tied at two games apiece with the Milwaukee Bucks.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference