TheIndiana Pacers and the New York Knicks' rivalry in the 90s provided NBA fans with a reprieve from the oversaturation of the Chicago Bulls' dominance. Some fans who grew up watching the intense battles eventually became NBA players themselves, such as Al Harrington. That made getting drafted by the Pacers bitter-sweet.
Reggie Miller - the archenemy of the New York Knicks
Al Harrington was drafted in 1998 by the Indiana Pacers. He was chosen as the 25th pick and proved he belonged in the league by having a 16-year-career. As someone who just realized his dream of playing professional basketball, Harrington shared that he was relieved but wished he would play for another team.
In an interview with Gilbert Arenas, Al confessed he was a New Knicks fan, and playing for rivals Pacers was a hard reality at first.
“Being drafted by the Pacers, you know relieved that i got drafted. Then it was like damn the Pacers, I'm a Knicks fan. So, I'm like i got to go play with Reggie Miller. I was hot. I was mad at first bro my damn Reggie Miller all people that i got to go play. He's broke our hearts so many times as Knicks fans.”
Al Harrington, Fubo Sports
Harrington did not have a great rookie year and only averaged 2.1 points and played for a total of 21 games. The team was loaded with veterans at the time with Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller, and Rik Smits, which could be a reason for his limited appearances on the floor. Al had his breakout season during his 4th year in the NBA when he averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Miller and Harrington played together in Indiana for six years. The power forward added that he overcame the worries he had playing with the archenemy of New York Knicks fans. For Reggie, becoming public enemy number one for the fans watching in Madison Square Garden was a recognition only elite players deserve.
Rivalries are defined by the amount of hate the fans have for opposing teams' players. For the Knicks, it was Miller who broke their hearts countless times with his clutch moments. The choke gesture he made directed for Knicks superfan Spike Lee is one of the most iconic moments in NBA history.
Miller set the standard for loyalty as one of those players who refused to ring chase before retiring. He played all his career for the Pacers and did not join rival teams to win a championship. As much as they hated him, Reggie won the respect of Knicks fans through his performance on the court. We could not imagine the amount of hate coming from the Pacers' diehards if Miller jumped ship and joined Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and the rest of the Knicks.
Reggie Miller may have no rings to show, but he has the ultimate respect of fans, in the form of hate and admiration, especially from New York Knicks' followers. That's worth more for your legacy than joining someone else and being the 2nd or 3rd fiddle with a ring. If only more players today understood that.