I was expecting lots of goose bumps, but I wasn't expecting to laugh so much.
Somehow Dan Klores delivers plenty of both in his documentary "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks," a film all Pacers fans should run to see when it premiers at Conseco Fielhouse on February 26th.
In a mere 68 minutes, Klores takes the viewer back in time to the heated Pacers and Knicks playoff games from 1993 to 1995, dredging up wonderful memories filled with emotions that continually bounced between pain, joy, anguish and jubilation. Interviews with all of the major players, often with differing recollections, provides plenty of laughs while the truth shown in the footage brings out the goose bumps.
The story is woven around four memorable moments in the playoff series beginning with the John Stark's head butt game in 1993, masterfully set to opera while drawing out the comedic elements of the game within the game Reggie played with words.
Then we move to Game 5 in 1994 and Reggie's 25-point fourth quarter in sparked by Spike Lee's - presence which would fuel the Knicks vs. Hicks theme and take the rivalry to another level. Spike Lee is wonderful in his interviews as the devious villain, taking pride in the hatred he engendered in Indiana.
The movie plays up the stereotypical view of Indiana, really all of middle America, from the perspective of a New Yorker. Spike throws in some hyperbole which may rub some the wrong way but they'd be completely missing the tone and humor behind the comments. We're talking Spike Lee and Reggie Miller talking about their talking. There's no punches pulled when they get the smack going, even today.
The key moments wrap up with the 1995 series starting with Reggie's improbable eight points in nine seconds which allowed the Pacers to steal Game 1 in Madison Square Garden.
Finally, the Pacers break through in Game 7 after Patrick Ewing misses a layup that would've pushed the game to overtime. Kloresdigs deep into the basketball soul of Ewing, who is wonderful in the film by the way, and finds a tragic hero who's learned to live with that miss despite the pain.
The whole film is seasoned with the subplots of Reggie Miller stepping out of his sister's shadow to seize the moment on the big stage in New York and the contrast in basketball and culture between New York and Indiana the latter drawn out in the Spike Lee discussions.
The development of Reggie and the sibling rivalry he felt growing up with his older sister, Cheryl was quite interesting. Finally, Reggie had made it to the big stage with the bright lights shining on him not his sister, but now the Knicks were playing the role of Cheryl, fueling his drive to continue exploring just how good he could become.
The passion for Pacers basketball shown in the delirious crowds at Market Square Arena and the greeting crowds at the airport are a nice reminder of how the Pacers can capture the hearts of the city and state. It also is a painful reminder of how long it's been since the city went crazy for the NBA.
But with the time past, and the wonderful light tone brought to this rough and tumble rivalry, it also reminds us that in the end it is all just game.`