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Thursday, February 2, 2023

The return of Reggie Miller

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“I hated Reggie,” said former New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing on one of the NBA’s “most deadly clutch marksman.”

It’s the return of Reggie Miller, only this time it won’t be on a basketball court. Well, not necessarily. Miller lovers will be able to see the former Indiana Pacer on the big screen for the special movie premier of “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks,” Friday, Feb. 26 at Conseco Fieldhouse.

This sports documentary style comedy set to opera, highlights Miller and the Pacers’ road to the 1994 and 1995 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against their then arch nemesis, the New York Knicks.

Led by Ewing, John Starks and the Knick’s super-sixth man Spike Lee, “Winning Time” gives audiences a Sodom and Gomorrah, country versus city view of what Miller and his crew were facing during one of the most exciting times in basketball.

“This was his platform. He wanted to beat the Knicks,” said Cheryl Miller, the former Indiana shooting guard’s sister.

In addition to appearances by Cheryl, the film features commentary by sports announcers Ahmad Rashad and Marv Albert, former teammate Mark Jackson, Lee, Starks, Ewing, former Knicks coach Pat Reily, former Pacers coach Larry Brown and other basketball elites’ take on those two historic championship games held at Market Square Arena and Madison Square Garden.

Audiences will also get a behind the scenes look and historical background on the Pacers and Kincks making it to the championships, the relationship between Hoosiers and New Yorkers, Miller and Ewing’s path to NBA greatness and Miller’s first hand account of “what really happened.”

The Recorder recently spoke with the Indiana Pacers’ 1987 first round draft pick to find out about how he became involved in film-making, his film company, Boom Baby Productions, and his legacy on Pacers basketball.

Recorder: When you retired from the NBA in 2005, did you ever think you’d be making films?

Reggie Miller: Yes. It was always a plan. I started forming my company, Boom Baby Productions, before I retired. The contacts, the format of television or films we were looking to do; I knew once I retired, the ball would already be rolling. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it was something I had a passion for doing. When you set your mind to something and you plan for it, it becomes easy.

But you still get your basketball fix, right?

Yes, working on TNT as an NBA announcer I get to do both. To be around the young players of today and stay connected to the game. I get to give my insight and thoughts with TNT. But with the production company, to read scripts, meet with up and coming producers, directors, writers – it’s a different kind of format. You get a chance to be behind the scenes, so you can build something that way.

What was the inspiration behind “Winning Time?”

Dan Klores, who’s done other stuff like “Black Magic,” “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story.” I saw “Black Magic” on ESPN and it was fabulously done. He called me out of the blue and said ‘I don’t know if you know, but ESPN is doing these 30 for 30 series. I would really love to do something between yourself and the whole New York rivalry.’ At first I was a little hesitant (laughs)…I didn’t know if I wanted to go back that far because it was a lot of things that were said and done during those series. But, um, it was good to go back, good to reflect. After seeing the finished product; there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know went on that’s in the film. When you’re wrapped up in the series, you’re not worried about things on the periphery. You’re worried about ‘how am I going to stop Patrick and John.’ The outside stuff is being seen in this film, which is great.

This is a comedy though.

I love how Dan did this. It’s a comedy along with opera music. People are like ‘how are you doing this with a basketball series?’ It really works. Yes we’re talking about the rivalry between the two teams, the two cities. What’s better, Indiana basketball with the bounce pass, jump shot, the fundamentals? Or the street ball of New York? You get into those dynamics. You have all these great former and current players talking about the rivalry. People are expecting to come and see a lot of yelling, which you will. But I think Dan does a great job of drawing out the funny aspects in each person.

When you learned about all of the things going on ‘off the court’ what did you learn about yourself and the significance of those series?

It’s funny because what’s missing in today’s game is rivalries. Not necessarily individual rivalries. You have Kobe versus LeBron, LeBron versus Dwayne Wade. But it’s the team, the city rivalries. You actually had all of Indiana versus all of New York state. That’s missing from the LA Lakers versus the Boston Celtics. It was great between Magic (Johnson) and (Larry) Bird. But Boston hated LA and Philadelphia. Even when I played, it was the Lakers versus the Sacramento Kings. That was a great rivalry because of the cities. The Chicago Bulls versus the Detroit Pistons, the Bad Boys versus the Windy City.

When I got a chance to go back and produce “Winning Time,” I found New Yorkers bleed the Knicks. Even though they’re horrible now, they’re die-hard Knicks fans. Indiana isn’t doing that well either, but you have so many fans that are so connected. Especially in Indiana because it’s such a small-knit community. It goes back to where basketball shuts down a town and everyone follows the team in a bus. It’s the rivalry, how much love is between both teams.

How’d you feel when you found out the film was accepted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah?

I’ve heard of it and to be a spotlight feature, we’re excited. I think people will love it.

What about when your fans and Pacers fans see the film?

I was a little nervous to go back, but I think Indiana Pacers fans are looking for a nice outlet. I know the team is headed in a different direction and they’re working on getting better. (Jokes) this is a chance for fans, who want to Michael Jackson moonwalk back in time, to those early 90s when it was the Indiana Pacers versus all of New York state and city. This will be a chance for them to go back and say ‘I remember that.’ I want everyone to come out. That’s why we wanted to make tickets cheap.

What other projects are you working on?

We have one in pre-production called “Born Confused” taken from a book. We’ll probably start shooting that early summer in either Toronto, Canada or New York. It’s a small independent film similar to “Bend it Like Beckham.”

“Winning Time” is a film that is NOT to be missed. (Actually, I’d see it a second time). The movie does, however, contain strong language.

For more information, call (317) 917-2500 or visit www.pacers.com.

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