ESPN 30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (2010)

Directed by Dan Klores

Basketball is not my number one favorite sport, but it is one that is great nonetheless. That being said, I am definitely one of these who feel like the college game is better at because of the passion and emotion that those kids play with. Obviously the talent level in the NBA is far and away better, and I am even starting to get a little more into the pro game that I have been the last few years. But it was not always like that and I can say that during the 90s I loved watching the NBA and especially the playoffs. Michael Jordan ruled the day, but there were plenty of other major stars in the game. When Jordan decided to retire early it was guys like Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller who carried the weight of the league, and they excelled at it.

Every sport has its rivalries and in the NBA in the 90s there was a nice little one between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers. The instigator, even if he may be a little hesitant to admit it, was Reggie Miller who might have been the best trash talker in the league. Miller was always second best growing up in a family where his older sister was Cheryl Miller, perhaps the greatest female basketball player of all time and when the Pacers drafted the UCLA product over homegrown star Steve Alford, Miller had that much more to prove. Looking back on his career now he was a superstar, and he lead the Pacers team to a number of great seasons, even if none of them ended with a championship. But the few seconds which have come to sort of define his career came in Game 1 of the 1994 NBA playoffs.

Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds in that game, but the film is more about the rivalry with the Knicks and being able to put that event into the right context for the viewer to further experience its greatness, and Dan Klores does a marvelous job of doing just that. First and foremost I was really taken by the tone of the film, which, for a film about rivalry, was surprising light and funny. Much of everything discussed was done so with a bit of jovial nostalgia about the times when they hated each other. This is such a strength when we are dealing with something like the sport of basketball because in the end it is a game and too often we see people taking it too seriously. You could tell that they really hated each other then, but you can also tell that hate has transformed into just a dislike with the silver lining that they helped create some great moments and memories.

At the same time the film captures why sports are so dramatic and what sells me as a fan. The pressure of the clock and the pressure of having the ball in your hands for a final shot are hard to match. The moment is so spontaneous and over so quick that if you blink you will most assuredly miss it, which would be a shame because sports create memories that last a lifetime. Reggie Miller had that edge during “winning time” and that is what made him a special player. Klores focuses just the right amount on Miller and all the events which surrounded the rivalry between the Knicks and Pacers.

At a little over an hour, which is slightly longer than the standard length in this series (51 minutes), the film uses its time wisely and efficiently, painting a perfect contextual tale to compliment the main event. That is what is important about these documentaries in this series. Sure, the filmmaker can pinpoint a momentous, naturally dramatic event, but it is what they do with it which sets the film apart, and Klores excels greatly in Winning Time. It is the stories with Spike Lee, and with Cheryl Miller, which turn this from a great sports story to a great film. And again I would like to compliment Klores on his style and by making the film as light and fun as it was because sports are supposed to be fun, even when some of the most dramatic events occur during them.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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