Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller's storied rivalry culminated in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals.
"If I had to pick a team that gave us the toughest time in the East, it'd be Indiana," Jordan said in Episode 9 of "The Last Dance." It's a prescient point. The hard-nose Pacers took the Bulls to seven games in that series, and led in the fourth quarter of the winner-take-all finale.
"He and I had somewhat of a unique relationship," Miller said in the episode. "Most people feared Michael Jordan, and rightfully so. But I didn't fear Michael Jordan like the rest of the league did, and we had to lock horns over it."
That much was clear from the inception of their rivalry. Also in Episode 9, Miller recounted a time in his rookie year when he faced off with Jordan (then in his third season), and he had the audacity to talk trash to the Bulls' surging star.
It's not clear which of the Bulls and Pacers' five regular season matchups the game in question was, but to hear Miller tell it, he had it going in the first half to the point that he had Jordan "riled up." That was by design. A young Miller was all-in on the matchup, looking to prove himself to a man he "respected so much."
At halftime came his crucial error.
"‘You're Michael Jordan, the guy who walks on water?'" Miller recalled saying to Jordan - with a laugh after all these years.
"Second half, I ended up with two points. He ended up with a lot more," he continued.
And all Jordan had to say on the way out: "Don't ever talk trash to Black Jesus."
In a past telling of this story, Miller claimed Jordan outscored him 40-2 in the second half. The particulars almost don't matter. Jordan found his motivation, crushed the opposition yet again and in the process produced one of the more iconic lines of "The Last Dance," late in the game (classic).
And a legendary rivalry was born. The fire between the two was evident from a montage of them openly sparring on the court to open the episode. But the mutual respect shone through in a behind-the-scenes shot from the '98 Eastern Conference finals, in which Jordan and Miller dapped up.
Whatever you think of Miller, you have to respect the gumption. It seems Jordan did.
Michael Jordan to a young Reggie Miller: Dont ever trash talk Black Jesus originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago