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Insert favorite highlight from the 18-season compendium of Reggie Miller near-mythical moments here, right?
Sharing your favorite clutch play from the supreme shooter and consummate competitor's storied career is as much a rite of passage among the Pacers-faithful as it is cliche. But, for the record, mine is when he came out of nowhere with that epic two-handed slam to force double-overtime in a win or go home Game 5 against the top-seeded New Jersey Nets back in 2002.
That play was so not something Reggie Miller would do, except it totally was. Rather than doing the expected and shooting the quick three-pointer off the screen, he opted to go for the tie by attacking the paint and converting the last dunk of his professional career in traffic. (Oh, by the way, he was fouled. My broken twelve-year-old heart still believes he should’ve been at the line putting the game on ice.) Even though I was only one-third the legend’s age back then, I vividly remember two things about that particular end-of-game possession: Being spellbound by Reggie Miller’s ageless lack of quit and the look in my dad’s eyes when he witnessed it sitting beside me.
Unsurprisingly, the latter has far more to do with why I’m a fan of the Indiana Pacers than the former.
Of course, a little background information is needed to reinforce the truth behind this statement. I would liken my younger self to Hayden Panettiere’s character in Remember the Titans. My dad coached high school boys basketball for over a decade and for those twelve years I probably couldn’t have been more like Bill Yoast’s daughter.
Not only did I watch the games, I ran the clock at pointless summer league round-robin tournaments, took stats meticulously, road along for scouting trips, watched film, assembled playbooks, attended open gyms at five o’clock in the morning, and when I was really lucky... (wait for it)... listened and learned from discussions on strategy.
I couldn’t get enough of cross-comparing how coaches from neighboring counties had game planned for IU’s next top recruit (punt offensive rebounds to build a wall in transition) or the state’s leading scorer (box-and-1).
Suffice it to say, I probably wasn’t your normal teenage girl. Not because I ate, slept, and drank the nerdy side of basketball. There were probably others like me in that regard — though I hadn’t met any. Instead, what I felt made me special was that I had a dad who welcomed his daughter’s opinion like a son’s, which is saying something because at that age I’m sure I had some real doozies.
During those years, the living room was like our classroom and the NBA was our much-beloved teacher.
Remember that playbook I told you I helped him assemble?
Inside it was a set called “Argentina” which mimicked an action Gregg Popovich used to call for peak-Manu Ginobili. Seriously, that was a thing. But, he would also tell me old stories about Roger Brown and the ABA Pacers, and every time we watched Tayshaun Prince — no matter which uniform he happened to be wearing —- one of us would bring up the anguish of that loathsome block.
It was simple, in a region of the state chock-full of college basketball purists, dad loved the NBA, so I did, too.
Together, we had immersed ourselves in Hoosiers Hysteria traveling to remote towns to take copious notes on the next Jimmy Chitwood, but it wasn’t until January of 2003 that we made the ultimate scouting trip to Conseco Fieldhouse. Fittingly, his team had tickets, and I tagged along. Admittedly, I don’t remember much about that particular win over the Lamar Odom-era Los Angeles Clippers, but I’m confident my dad still remembers the look I had in my eyes when I witnessed it sitting beside him.
I won’t soon forget Reggie Miller’s overtime heroics against the New Jersey Nets, Jermaine O’Neal scoring 55 points in 36 minutes of action against the Milwaukee Bucks, or Paul George’s dunk over Birdman, but that’s more so because of who I shared those fond memories with than the iconic moments themselves.
Because of him, I’ll always be a fan of the Indiana Pacers.
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