Reggie Miller’s History of Late-Game Heroics in the Tri-State Area Birthed an Eerie Nickname
For years, Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller haunted basketball fans in the tri-state area.
Miller’s Pacers frequently met the New York Knicks in the playoffs during the mid-90s. Reggie typically took center stage in those contests, from scoring eight points in nine seconds during the 1995 NBA Playoffs to feuding with Knicks superfan Spike Lee.
The Hall of Fame 2-guard continued his terrorizing of fans in the Northeast, right up until the very end of his career. His remarkable clutchness in a 2002 series against the New Jersey Nets even inspired the birth of an eerie yet fitting nickname.
Reggie Miller routinely tormented the New York Knicks
Knicks fans probably still have nightmares about Reggie Miller lighting it up in Madison Square Garden.
Miller played 35 playoff games against the Knicks, including three straight matchups between 1993 and 1995. According to StatMuse, he averaged 23.1 points in those contests, also shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc.
The most memorable moments came in 1994 and 1995. New York defeated Indiana in seven games in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals after winning the last two games of the series, but Miller’s 39-point performance and “choke” sign at Spike Lee in Game 5 stand out.
The following season, the two teams again battled to a decisive seventh game. That series essentially swung Indiana’s way because of Miller’s impossible eight-point spree in a nine-second span in Game 1.
Miller more than earned his respect from members of New York’s organization. Former Knicks guard John Starks even claimed he was harder to guard than Michael Jordan.
But while many of Reggie’s notable playoff performances came against the Knicks, he also activated the clutch gene against the New Jersey Nets.
A veteran Miller turned back the clock in Game 5 of a first-round series against the New Jersey Nets in 2002
Although Reggie Miller’s scoring numbers began to dip toward the end of his career, the ball still seemed to find its way into his hands in the biggest of spots.
The Pacers and Nets remained deadlocked through the first four games of a 2002 first-round playoff series, with a do-or-die Game 5 in New Jersey. Miller struggled early.
Indiana’s veteran star scored nine points in the first quarter, but the Nets held him scoreless in the second period. However, Miller would put his stamp on the contest.
Reggie scored 15 points in the second half, none more significant than a buzzer-beater 3-pointer that banked off the backboard and sent the game to overtime. That shot provided ample shock value, but Miller wasn’t done yet.
Uncle Reg never carried a reputation as an elite athlete, but adrenaline took over and might have given him some added lift. The Nets led by two points late in the overtime period when Miller drove to the rim and stunningly dunked the ball, sending the game to a second overtime in the process.
New Jersey ultimately won the game and the series, eventually marching to the NBA Finals. But Miller, as he so often did, stole the show and offered a fitting description for his perception among Knicks and Nets fans.
Miller gave himself a new nickname following his latest batch of heroics
Reggie Miller reflected on his history of clutch moments in New York and New Jersey after the game. He said (h/t ESPN) tri-state basketball fans seem to think of him as an almost demonic entity who haunts their dreams.
“In this area, people think I’m the Boogieman of the playground, some myth who makes big plays.”–Reggie Miller (2002)
Miller’s incredible list of moments and his seemingly constant ability to rise to the occasion and crush the souls of his opponents makes the “Boogieman of the playground” moniker seem rather fitting. Former Pacers head coach Isiah Thomas gave Reggie big praises after the contest.
“He’s one of the greatest clutch players I’ve ever seen, if not the greatest,” Thomas said, via ESPN. “He’s right up there with (Michael) Jordan. He pushes a button and just keeps going.”
Although Miller never won an NBA championship, his reputation as one of the league’s greatest snipers and shot-makers will live on forever. From Zeke to another Hall of Famer and former Pacers head coach in Larry Bird, Reggie’s peers acknowledged his greatness and consistent ability to deliver with the game on the line.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.