When you talk about some of the greatest players in NBA history that didn’t win a ring, Reggie Miller‘s name is near the top of that list. The sharpshooting guard played his entire 18-year career with the Indiana Pacers, going down in the history books as one of the most loyal players ever. Unfortunately for him, that loyalty cost him a ring. But in the 2000 season, Reggie came closer than ever to the promised land in his only Finals appearance.
Reggie’s Indiana Pacers would go up against the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers, with a young Kobe Bryant and quite possibly the best version of Shaquille O’Neal. A team that was becoming a dynasty and the favorites to take these Finals. But the Pacers were no slouches, as Reggie had a couple of good veterans by his side in the likes of Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Sam Perkins, and Rik Smits, alongside some young guns in Jalen Rose and Austin Croshere.
Everything was set up for a great Finals matchup, and it delivered. The Lakers took command of the series in Game 1, winning easily and establishing the tone. Reggie Miller struggled mightly in his Finals debut, as he shared yesterday on Dan Patrick’s Show how that game haunts him to this day.
“I had a horrendous, horrible Game 1, and to me, to this day, it bugs and irks me that my Game 1 performance affected our team the rest of the series, I thought. I shoot 1-13, I had like 12,13 points, but that set the tone because I have always been the guy. If I would have played well and we still lost, that still would have gave the rest of the guys hope. It’s all mental. I played great rest of the series, but to me, that Game 1 just haunts me. I should have been better in that Game 1 just to put something on Kobe’s and Shaq’s mind. And I didn’t. It just bugs me.”Reggie Miller, The Dan Patrick Show
Well, Reggie is right about having a terrible Game 1, as he only scored 7 points while shooting 1-16 from the floor. Sure this wasn’t prime Reggie Miller, as he was already 34 years old at the time, but still more was expected from such an elite marksman. He would redeem himself the rest of the series, playing very well and leading his Pacers in scoring with 24.3 ppg. But it didn’t help as the Lakers eventually won in an exciting six-game series, claiming their first of three consecutive championships, with Shaq getting Finals MVP honors.
The Pacers had their chances, as Reggie, later on, pointed out. Game 2 in which Shaq shot an abysmal 18-39 from the free-throw line, and especially Game 4 in which Indiana lost in overtime after Shaq fouled out and an injured Kobe Bryant sealed the deal in front of the loud Indiana crowd. It was a tough day for Reggie, who just continued to reminisce on all the missed opportunities in these Finals, as his chance to become a champion fell short by a couple of details.