Q+A: Reggie Miller
The ex-Pacers great elaborates on broadcasting, Open Court and the current NBA season.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
NBA fans of the ’90s and ’00s know Reggie Miller as the Knicks Killer. He was the all-time leading three-pointer shooter who routinely busted teams with his elite scoring ability. (Ray Allen passed Miller to become the NBA career leader in three-pointers made in February 2011.) To a generation of NBA fans, Miller was the slim No. 31 in the Indiana Pacers jersey who scored 25,279 career regular-season points and who was one of the NBA’s most prolific Playoff performers and trash talkers of all time.
To the current generation of younger NBA fans, Reggie Miller is the TNT color analyst. Miller, who retired after the ’04-05 campaign to finish an 18-season career, all with the Pacers, has worked for TNT in a studio and game analyst role since 2005. He does games routinely with play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan. Miller also announces, at times, in a three-man booth. That most recently occurred last Thursday, January 5, when Miller, Harlan and TNT in-studio analyst Charles Barkley called the Atlanta Hawks-Miami Heat contest in Atlanta.
Miller will be apart of a TNT double-header on Monday, January 16—Martin Luther King Jr Day—in which he calls the Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Lakers game with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. That game in Los Angeles, starting at 10:30 p.m. EST, follows the Oklahoma City Thunder-Boston Celtics contest, in Boston, which will be announced by Harlan, Mike Fratello and Chris Webber. TNT’s studio crew of Ernie Johnson, Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will tip off the double-header from Atlanta at 8 p.m. EST and close it down following the Mavs-Lakers game.
I talked with Miller on the phone from his home in Los Angeles earlier this week to discuss his broadcasting career, the Pacers’ PR director he used to trash talk and what teams he’s interested in during this abbreviated ’11-12 NBA season.
SLAM: What was it like working with Charles behind the booth?
Reggie Miller: Well, I’ve worked with Charles before, calling games. And what I like about it is you know how frank Charles can be, and is. Whether you love that or hate that…I personally, I’m from the old school, so I love the honesty. And I think that’s how we come across. Kevin Harlan, who’s on play-by-play, gives us a long leash for he and I to banter back, which is great. What you see is what you’re going to get.
SLAM: Do you feel like you can go only so far in criticizing a player or a team?
RM: I don’t think it’s a really hard job to criticize. Charles does have more…I think studio guys do that more. I think I kind of said that on-air, too, ‘I’m glad you’re calling games because you guys throw a lot of darts from the studio and these [NBA players] never get a chance to see you.’ So, it’s good to be front-and-center on the front lines. If you’re going to say something about LeBron (James) or you’re going to say something about Joe Johnson or whomever, you know, say something. [Charles] was there. If those guys have a problem with it, they can easily walk on over to our little table and say something.
SLAM: What’s the difference in your strategy of figuring out what you have to say, and whatever time frame you have to say it in, during games versus being in the studio?
RM: Well, when we’re in the studio, the good thing about that is—I always tell people—it’s unscripted. It really is. I think we may be—the FOX football guys with Terry Bradshaw and Howie (Long) and (Michael) Strahan, they don’t look like they’re very scripted, as well. The only one who knows what’s going on is our traffic cop, Ernie Johnson. He has to know that. But when you’re working with Kenny, Charles and Shaq, everything is unscripted. Whatever is going to come across, it’s going to come across as fresh, new and we’re hearing about it for the first time. That’s the fun part because you just get to naturally react on certain things.
When I’m calling games, a lot more preparation goes into it. I like to be well-prepared, I love to study notes, I love to study tendencies, I love to talk to the coaches and players, come up with game plans and you’re telling a story. I’ve learned from Doug Collins, who to me is one of the best color analysts. You are telling a story to someone who’s flipping to the channel for the very first time and who is a very novice basketball player, who just likes to watch as a casual fan. You have to tell them a story. And that’s somewhat how I kind of try to approach it.
SLAM: Is it like when you were a player when you would work every summer to improve your game for the next season? Is there a similarity there in improving as a broadcaster?
RM: I think, yes. But the key is really being in-sync with your play-by-play [partner] as well as the guys and ladies in the truck, so that you have a smooth telecast. In any sport, there’s so much unpredictability because you’re calling live action. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You can project or you may assume what may happen, but it’s a live sporting event, so you never know.