THE first two episodes of “The Last Dance” reminded everyone about the greatness of Michael Jordan.
It seems the next few episodes will open old wounds on the ones he tormented.
Reggie Miller, one of Jordan’s fiercest rivals, made a joke that probably was half meant when he guested on the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday, Manila time a day after the premiere of the documentary mainly about the Chicago Bulls’ final championship season in 1998.
Asked by Patrick on what he would say if he saw Jordan today, Miller paused for a second and answered that he “might” throw a punch at MJ as he recalled his regrets from the Indiana Pacers’ heated matchups against the Bulls.
“I might punch him. I don’t know,” Miller said, to which Patrick replied, ‘Are you being serious?’ He continued: “It was a lot of stuff being thrown back and forth. I respect the heck of that dude. He’s the greatest.
“But I don’t know,” he was quick to add. “It just hurts because when you feel, I just felt we should’ve ended them in (98). I felt we were the better team. And it just pains me and hurts me. Not so much bitter or animosity towards him.”
After all, the Pacers came close to dethroning the Bulls in 1998, taking them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals before surrendering in the sudden death. Chicago went on to beat the Utah Jazz in a finals rematch capped by “The Shot” of Jordan in Game Six.
The hostility between Jordan and Miller goes back to as far as 1993 in a regular season game when the two figured in a fight. Miller started it with a push and Jordan retaliated by charging at Miller and throwing a punch at him. Referees made a controversial call that ejected Miller, but not Jordan.
Miller said he had long known he would eventually butt heads with Jordan considering their same competitive mentality.
“I just knew. I knew that we were going to be on a collision course,” the former UCLA star told Patrick. “How my nature is and it’s hard for me to hold my tongue, and I think being baptized during my UCLA days by Magic, and Michael Cooper, and Byron Scott telling me to never back down, always take two steps forward, and being a young kid and very impressionable, never help anyone up, you never bow down, you never, never do that.”
“I don’t care who the man is in front of you” Miller added. “And I just could never hold my tongue. And being in an arena and having our friends cheer for him (Jordan), it burned me. There was a rage inside of me and it made me want to be better. That’s what MJ did. He made other people, he made me want to be better because you wanted to be on his same footing, which was never going to happen for a player like me. But in my head, I thought, though.”
Miller is expected to make an appearance in an upcoming episode of the documentary as he “reluctantly” granted an interview to the production staff.
“It brought back a lot of those good and bad memories of going against that dude,” Miller said of Jordan.
“Maybe it was a healing part of it to talk about…,” he continued. “I don’t want people to think that it was some big rivalry, because a rivalry to me is we are on equal footing. I was never on equal footing with MJ, but I loved the battle.”
“And I know, a lot of players I played against, they would bow down to him. And that was just not going to be me. It was not in my nature to do that, so maybe I was hard-headed. Maybe I should’ve bowed down to him. But it was good to talk about it in some of those times to help myself move on,” Miller added.”