If you were to play a word association game in which you matched an NBA arena to an NBA player, which arena would you connect to Reggie Miller?
Miller spent his entire 18-year career with the Indiana Pacers, thrilling the home crowd at Market Square Arena and later at Conseco Fieldhouse, night after night. But the arena you would associate with Miller is not in the Hoosier state at all, it’s in New York City -- Madison Square Garden.
Over the span of eight seasons (1993-2000), Miller played six playoff series against the New York Knicks, winning three and losing three. Pacers vs. Knicks was the NBA rivalry of the 1990s, and Miller had multiple iconic moments at the “World's Most Famous Arena.”
The first was Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. With the series tied 2-2, the Knicks led by 12 after the third quarter. But Miller scored 25 of his 39 points in the fourth, leading the Pacers to a comeback victory, and giving Spike Lee an earful in the process.
The Knicks recovered from that collapse and won in seven games to advance to The Finals. But the teams met again in the 1995 conference semis, where Miller had another iconic moment in Game 1. With the Pacers down six with less than 20 seconds to go, Miller scored eight points in less than nine seconds to give his team a miracle win.
That win stood up, with Indiana also winning Game 7 at Madison Square Garden behind a 29-point performance from Miller. The Pacers again lost in the conference finals, but they would break through in 2000. And appropriately, it was the Knicks that Miller and the Pacers eliminated to make their first trip to The Finals. Miller scored 34 points in the series-deciding Game 6 ... at Madison Square Garden, of course.
Miller's 421 playoff points scored at Madison Square Garden are the most for a visiting player in NBA history. Not bad for the second-best player in his own family.
Miller grew up in Riverside, Calif., in the shadow of his older sister Cheryl, arguably one of the best players in the history of women's basketball. Reggie once came home after scoring 39 points in a high school game, only to find out that his sister had outdone him ... by a lot.
Miller starred at UCLA for four seasons. But at the 1987 Draft, most Pacers fans wanted the team to select Steve Alford, who had just led Indiana University to the national championship. Alford, eventually selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round, lasted just four NBA seasons.
And Miller had Pacers fans forgetting about the hometown hero. In his third season, Miller was an All-Star and ranked eighth in scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game. And the California kid eventually felt right at home in Indianapolis.
Miller eventually became the all-time leader in 3-pointers made. But over his career, only 37% of shots (a rate that would be below the league average these days) were 3-pointers. Miller was an all-around scorer, and in November 1992 -- when he scored a career-high 57 points in Charlotte -- 45 of those came inside the arc or at the free-throw line.
And if you asked Miller, he’d consider himself an "entertainer" as much as a scorer, enjoying his role as the villain on the road.
"These people, all day, from 9 to 5, have fixated to come to the game and purposely yell at you,” Miller has said. “So it's great. It's the best feeling."
Miller was a five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection. The skinny guy with the funky-looking shot was a bucket-getter and enjoyed a ton of team success, reaching the playoffs in 15 of his 19 seasons. And he was hitting big shots well into his 30s.
Those 19 seasons all came in Indiana, concluding with an emotional farewell in the 2005 conference semifinals.
Miller is the Pacers' all-time leading scorer, with almost twice as many points as any player in franchise history. That's a lot of buckets, inside and outside of Madison Square Garden.