Thursday, May 19, 2005

Happy trails, Reggie

Reggie Miller played his last game tonight, thanks to the machine-like Detroit Pistons. Can anyone bet against this team in the clutch? I think they play the best 4th quarter defense I've seen. It should be an absolutely epic clash against Miami--I'm looking forward to seeing if/how Dwyane Wade can dissect the Pistons.

But back to Reggie. As a loyal Knicks fan, he tore my heart out on multiple occasions. I must admit, that as a sports fan I've only cried after losses a handful of times, and each time was because of the Knicks losing in the playoffs. Mr. Miller, quite famously, played a starring role in a large number of those defeats. I grew to despise him and his arrogance, which was probably the source of his clutch shooting ability. Miller wasn't a great all-around player--he was a shooter first, second, and third, but his utter skill at this one facet of the game made him one of the most memorable players of his time...and of course, his otherworldly performances at MSG. Miller's aura was such that no one seemed to remember all of the desperate airballs that he has launched up in recent years, a product of his failing body losing its inevitable battle of attrition.

But Reggie went out on a good note tonight, scoring 27 points on 11-16 shooting (4-8 3 pt). Larry Brown and the Pistons displayed ultimate respect, calling a 20 second timeout to applaud Miller as he exited the game for the final time. The response from the Indiana fans was surprisingly benign, although I attribute this to a combination of playoff exit shock syndrome and those damned thundersticks. His final shot was one of those desperation threes, his beanpole legs and wrists flailing, trying to catch any part of the defender to draw a foul. Apparently, he's made more 4-point plays than anyone in history. No dice tonight. Ben Wallace blocked the shot, deflecting it harmlessly into the air, a sad end to the career of a marksman.

Why am I writing this about Miller? Is it because I hate him? Surely that has something to do with it. But there's more. I think deep down, every die-hard Knicks fan has nothing but respect and admiration for Reggie Miller. Only two opposing players ever really came into MSG and claimed it as theirs, Jordan and Miller, and we hated and respected them both for it. They did what so many of our players couldn't do. For all the moxie that John Starks showed, I don't think there's a Knicks fan on the planet who wouldn't have swapped Starks for Miller. We wanted him on our side. It was never meant to be, and we were resigned to hatred.

So I bid Reggie Miller a wistful goodbye. In a sense, he is the last link to those Knick teams of the mid 90s--Ewing, Oakley, Starks, Mason--teams that would elate and confound and let down, sometimes all in the same game. Saying goodbye to Reggie is also saying goodbye to all those players. Ah, that's why this is so hard.


Anonymous Dan said...

Amen on Reggie. I hate the guy with a fury. I think he's an arrogant ass who can't shut his mouth. But at the same time, i have nothing but respect for him as a player. And for that, i was touched by what happened last night. Even as a i let another Pistons playoff victory soak in, i couldn't help but get a little choked up watching him exit the game for the last time. And i was so proud of Larry Brown for calling that time out and taking the team to halfcourt to applaud him. In all, it was an incredible moment.

And P.S. Have you ever seen two teams put so much crap behind them so quickly? I mean, with all the shit between the Pacers and Pistons this year (brawl, suspensions, bomb threats, etc.), the teams went at each other hard for 6 games and showed ultimate respect for each other at the end. It was nice to see.

2:27 PM  

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