Sunday, March 14, 2010

30 for 30, "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks": Presence of mind

Just a reminder that, in addition to the premiere of "The Pacific" tonight at 9, ESPN is bringing back the "30 for 30" documentary series, with perhaps my favorite entry so far, Dan Klores' "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks," which I reviewed in this column a couple of weeks ago. I'm told the version that's airing tonight is going to have a bonus scene at the end from later in the Knicks-Pacers rivalry, but either way, if you like basketball - or just really smart, funny documentary filmmaking - you'll dig this. Feel free to discuss it here after it airs tonight.

33 comments:

mike___mc said...

Why on earth did ESPN schedule it against the premiere of The Pacific? With all apologies to the Sports Guy, I'll be watching HBO and DVRing this to watch some other time.

Anonymous said...

Mike - ESPN probably doesn't care that it's up against the premiere of The Pacific, the target audience for a documentary about the 90s Knicks/Pacers rivalry is vastly different than the target audience for a war documentary. And much more people get ESPN than HBO, so I'm guessing a lot more people will be watching Winning Time than The Pacific. I'm personally DVR'ing both.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, it's airing after their Bracketology episode about the NCAA tournament selection, which will be highly-watched, so it's one of the best basketball-related lead-ins ESPN could give it.

Between DVRs, On Demand, and multiple airings of stuff, cable timeslots barely matter anymore, it seems.

Allison said...

It's a great time for this documentary. I just watched the UK - Miss State and am all abuzz for b-ball. I'm Tivoing both, as well.

But I 'm almost 100% sure both are repeated, at least on alternative channels.

I haven't seen all the ESPN documentaries but I saw a three that I thought were excellent. The ones on Len Bias, Jimmy the Greek, and the one on the "U" were all very good. I wonder at times (often, actually) why they can't do a better job at covering sports. These docs made me regain some admiration.

tyroc said...

Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

I wonder at times (often, actually) why they can't do a better job at covering sports. These docs made me regain some admiration.

@Allison - There's a reason for that. Creatively speaking, the direction/content, etc. of these docs has been in the hands of the individual filmmakers, not the folks who program ESPN's day-to-day material. That's why it's so much better. Dan Klores put this together, from the FANTASTIC use of "Nessun dorma" in the opening all the way through. Dan Klores has, I'm almost certain, zero input into how SportsCenter/Baseball Tonight/NFL Live/etc. look/sound/feel.

Anonymous said...

That was easily the best 30 minutes of ESPN I've seen in years. As a Bulls fan, I enjoyed lustfully hating both of these teams.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing doc, on a couple points.

1) Didn't quite understand Cheryl Miller's fame until now.

2) Forgot how the basketball stylings of Pat Riley and Larry Brown were the originating culprits behind the the NBA's defensive oriented style that almost killed the league in the post=Jordan 90s and early 00s.

3) the awesomeness that was the Spike Lee-Reggie Miller spat

4) how scary Indiana looked in the file footage (pennants as Klan hats??)

Henry said...

I liked the section with the trash talk between Spike Lee and Reggie. Gotta love that New York turns on Spike after that loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Anonymous said...

2) Forgot how the basketball stylings of Pat Riley and Larry Brown were the originating culprits behind the the NBA's defensive oriented style that almost killed the league in the post=Jordan 90s and early 00s.

I was going to say the same thing.

Good doc, didn't realize that Klores also did Black Magic, which is really good. Because neither team won a title there was a sense that the story wasn't really complete, but I'm not sure how else they could have ended it.

And it's surprising that Spike Lee STILL tries to explain the whole situation as Indiana racism. The "choking" was about the Knicks choking and Reggie getting hot because HE egged him on. It wasn't racial, Spike Lee's just an idiot.

mizenkay said...

That was highly entertaining and extremely well done. Made me nostalgic...and I don't cheer for either team - but I remember the headlines in the NYC papers about Spike.

Chris said...

Who was the guy at the tail end who was saying "I've got no words - he deserves no words"? He seemed really familiar, but I just couldn't place him.

Alyson said...

Who was the guy at the tail end who was saying "I've got no words - he deserves no words"? He seemed really familiar, but I just couldn't place him.

That was actor/Knicks fan Michael Rapaport.

Chris said...

Thank you. And I was remembering him from "Prison Break", for the record.

Zach said...

Excellent excellent documentary. For a Knicks fan who was 8 when Reggie had his 8 point turnaround in the 18.7 seconds, really brought back some memories. Thought they did a real good job getting interviews from all parties involved, even the Dunking Dutchman Rik Smits.

If there was anything I would have changed, I would have liked to seen a minute or so about what happened after the 94 and 95 series. I don't think the subject of the Rockets winning it all both those years was even broached. But again, great doc and I'm loving ESPN and Simmons for putting this series together right now.

Flap Jackson said...

I thought Miller's last line to close out the documentary was an absolute classic.

I loved this episode and thought it was really fun, but I personally still like "King's Ransom" better. It drew me into a story I knew nothing about, and it just had me compelled all the way through. Plus Peter Berg just did such a great job. Again, this one was well done also, but just not in a compelling way.

CTTS in Indy said...

"4) how scary Indiana looked in the file footage (pennants as Klan hats??)"

That was two people. There are racists everywhere, thankyouverymuchforremembering.

dickey simpkins said...

I think the film is meant to be kind of incomplete because both teams never won that championship. Even how the film ends with Miller saying "I wish it could have been in the Conference Finals."

It's two really good but not great sports teams, but because of Reggie, Spike, and NYC became a much bigger deal. I'm actually happy the Pacers got their due since they are a terrible team nowadays. Klores could have made a much easier documentary about the Bulls-Knicks rivalry, but that story has been told a thousand times.

SteveInHouston said...

Yeah, that was a great punchline to the doc from Miller ... it really kind of lets the air out of the whole thing in a very satisfying manner.

Understand that - as you might guess from my name - I was and am a Rocket fan. I don't know if there's any way we can convey how resentful we've always been about our town's only championship team getting completely ignored for our two straight years of glory.

First time around, the only basketball memory people seem to have is of John Starks bricking the universe in Game 7; most people will remember only the fact that OJ made his most famous run in the middle of Game 5.

The second year, with the Rockets winning four straight road series and Olajuwon playing an otherworldly style of basketball is more remembered for the second-round tilt between the Pacers and Knicks.

What I loved about the doc tonight was that it both celebrated the fact that it was, in fact, a great story between Indiana and New York, but also slyly pointed out how the most cosmopolitan city on the planet is also one of the absolutely most parochial when it comes to sports.

I guess that's a pretty fair trade-off.

M. Haubs said...

I thought it was fine, well-made for sure. I just had trouble getting worked up about a 2nd round series and a 3rd round series that didn't decide any championships.

A bit of NYC exceptionalism in glorifying one of the ugliest teams to watch in NBA history. The game is much better to watch now that it's decided by speed and skill rather than pushing and shoving.

I enjoyed Magic & Bird much more, and would be much more likely to watch again (and again). Maybe it's just about subject matter, but that counts, too.

paul said...

Reggie Miller was one of the most entertaining players in the league, both on and off the court. I say that even as a Bulls fan. His reaction to finding out the bit about Starks' mother was absolutely classic. I'd forgotten the stunned/chagrined look that gradually spread across Starks' face when Ewing and Oakley grabbed him following his ejection. Great stuff. I really enjoyed this one.

Anonymous said...

@ M. Haubs

I thought the same thing. Especially when Klores remarks that no one talks about the Celtics-Bulls series from last year outside of Boston and Chicago but that, supposedly, everyone still talks about this series. Outside of New York and Indiana I doubt too many basketball fans harken back to these series all too often.

But still a fun doc to watch.

Anonymous said...

"how scary Indiana looked in the file footage (pennants as Klan hats??)"
I haven't seen this doc yet, but as a native Hoosier I have to comment. Indiana's history of race relations does include some ugliness, but it isn't as different from that of most Midwestern (or even many Eastern) states. There were lynchings in downstate Illinois and Ohio several decades ago, but those states can be featured in national media without an inevitable Klan or racism reference. Spike Lee (who I respect as a director) is entitled to his opinion, but shoehorning a racism angle into the story of the Pacers-Knicks rivalry is a bit much.

Anonymous said...

Very good, but 2 thoughts:

1. If it weren't for Spike and Reggie would this rivalry be worth remembering?

2. If the Knicks-Pacers rivalry got their own 30 for 30, I want a 30 for 30 of the Red Wings-Avalanche. Those playoff series made Knicks-Pacers look like a company softball game.

Scott said...

I liked this 30 for 30 pretty well, but like some other non fans of those NBA teams, I didn't get why it has gotten all the praise it has. It was basically a doc about what, 3 games out of 14? I think if the hype machine hadn't been rolling the past few weeks, I would have enjoyed this a whole lot more, but I liked it maybe 3rd best. It was nowhere close to the U, which I think was the best by far.

Sonia said...

I'm a HUGE Knick fan (even though they are unwatchable now), and I LOVED this rivalry. I hated HATED Reggie Miller with a passion, but even now I must admit, he is one of the most clutch shooters...at least against the KNicks...that I have ever seen. That 8 points in 18 seconds was just insane. In SANE. And he is very well spoken and obviously a very smart man.

Jerk. LOL

Great documentary and really brought me back -- I got no sleep when these two teams played against each other...none...I was so wound up after every game! And I devoured every newspaper to read about each game the next day -- I still have the newspaper clipping of Patrick Ewing standing up on the scorer's table and screaming at the top of his lungs when they beat the Pacers to advance in the playoffs one year. One of my favorite photos of him.

Those were the days. Sure, these weren't the best teams to ever come out of the NBA, but the cast of characters is extremely interesting -- and makes for a great documentary.

Anonymous said...

Klores comes from a generation that is programmed to dislike the current game. His comment about the Bulls-Celtics series was ignorant considering it was the highest rated playoff series of all-time for TNT.

As for people dismissing the doc because the two teams never won a title, I never realized sports documentaries were reserved only for champions. The whole point of 30 for 30 is to tell a compelling story that time has forgotten. The best documentary ever created (Hoop Dreams) didn't exactly end on a happy ending, or at least a fulfilling conclusion. HBO can keep churning out boring, predictable Bird vs Magic films. I'll take Winning Time over it any day of the week.

flem snopes said...

What a great program with keen insight into what sports rivalries and competition is all about.

I smiled everytime Reggie appeared on camera and especially liked the scene when he hugged Spike Lee and his wife Tonya at the end of the series Indy won.

Anonymous said...

As for people dismissing the doc because the two teams never won a title, I never realized sports documentaries were reserved only for champions. The whole point of 30 for 30 is to tell a compelling story that time has forgotten.

I liked the doc and didn't dismiss it, stylistically it just seemed to end oddly, though. The Pacers win and then you get Reggie Miller's comment. It was a good comment and maybe the appropriate ending, just seemed odd or out of place. Kind of like the ending of Sopranos for a lot of people.

Allison said...

Dan Klores put this together, from the FANTASTIC use of "Nessun dorma" in the opening all the way through.

Thanks for reminding me of all that, "Anonymous". I wrote down most of the music from the credits..it was wonderful.

The beauty of great sports is that they stir up memories of the event and your own history. I never paid much attention to pro b-ball before I fell in love with a sports nut in college and went to school with a lot of NY fans. So I also fell in love with the Knicks in the Dave DeBusschere days. Loved Patrick Ewing from the first second I saw him at Georgetown. But the trash-talking history of Reggie Miller, the look by Ewing like he was going to dismantle Sparks, the Spike Lee feuds, all that was great. Also loved the beautiful line from Jackson, that he was Bundini Brown (Ali's colorful trainer) to Reggie Miller.

Cheryl Miller still has one of the most amazing stories I've ever heard from sports. The fact that NY fans were chanting her name at her brother was inspiring and funny, IMO.

My sports nuts husband (yep, the one from college) said Ernie Grunfield, who was in the documentary (then - the general manager for the Knicks) was the second best player for U. of Tenn. Bernard King was THE best player and they were called the "Ernie and Bernie Show" back in those days.

j. pitts said...

great documentary. i am a knicks fan, but watched it with my roommate who also thoroughly enjoyed the film (we live in pittsburgh, where there aren't too many pro-basketball fans).

i grew up hating reggie (and phil jackson and michael jordan for that matter), but noticed that hate had subsided after all these years, and it was hard not to laugh at his antics during these series'.

good lord, living and dying by john starks... i am glad they didn't s ow that rockets series where starks clanked at the buzzer when he could have won the series. too hard to watch.

the four point play from lj at the end was amazing as an afterthought.

Anonymous said...

Biased opinion coming up, but that was enthralling entertainment. I love the Knicks, and admit that 3 games provided all the footage of that rivalry. But those were 3 of the best playoff games in 15 years. Horry should get a doc, Jordan has had many, and bullsh$t ref calls need a 2 hour one, but there has been no other NBA playoff story as exciting since. Maybe if LeBron loses again, refuses ro shake hands again and goes WWF heel, we'll have a new one?

mike___mc said...

Alan, how did 30 for 30 do against The Pacific in the ratings?