When you think of trash talking in the ’80s and ’90s in basketball, a few distinct names come to mind: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Bill Laimbeer, Gary Payton, Charles Barkley, and Reggie Miller. Miller “The Knick Killer” was notorious for his trash talk, especially in late game moments, but he also had his kryptonite. It came in the face of legendary international star Drazen Petrovic.
Reggie Miller went on the “Dan Patrick Show” to discuss basketball, and when the topic of Stephen Curry shimmying in Luka Doncic’s face during the Western Conference Finals after a three pointer came up, Miller compared that type of trash talk and showmanship to Drazen Petrovic and his antics.
According to Miller, Petrovic would get under his skin during their battles.
“To this day I tell people he was my hardest cover, and I hated him,” Miller said.
“Drove me absolutely mad with his antics, because he was so good at scoring the basketball right in my face and talking junk right in my ear,” Miller continued.
Petrovic, considered the greatest player to ever come out of Yugoslavia and among the Top 3 European players of all time, was unfortunately killed in a car accident in Germany in 1993, just as he was entering his basketball prime at age 28. His life was tragically cut right at the apex of his ascension. In his last game with Jordan, he gave The GOAT a 40-piece wing dinner with extra biscuits.
Petrovic was a talented scorer, who started out with the Portland Trail Blazers. Initially he didn’t get much playing time and had an insignificant role. He eventually ended up on the New Jersey Nets, where he started getting some real burn on the hardwood. For his two seasons in Portland, Petrovic averaged seven points per game, and in three seasons in New Jersey Drazen averaged 19.5 points per game. He also averaged 20+ points per game in his last two seasons with the Nets, showing the type of form he was coming into before his death.
Petrovic was a bucket-getter, and a common theme for players who could score very well in the 90’s was to taunt their opponents throughout the game. There were no technical fouls for taunting or being too physical. Reggie Miller is a perfect example of this as well. He was a high volume scorer, and one of the greatest shooters of all time. He would taunt his opponents and get under their skin on both ends of the court.
His notorious “choke game” against the Knicks, where he made a choking gesture after he managed to win the game late in the fourth quarter is the stuff of NBA lore.
In this game, Reggie had 39 points, along with 25 points in the fourth quarter in a crucial Game 4 against the Knicks in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. This, among many other antics, along with his stellar play against New York, earned him the reputation of a big-game hunter.
Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk
Reggie Miller was no stranger to trash-talking and playing the ‘villain’ role in a basketball game.
He’s one of the greatest trash-talkers of all time, and it only gets scarier when you realize he would terrorize you without even dunking on you.
Miller is still relevant as an announcer and media personality. But Petrovic, a true pioneer when it comes to the influx of European players into the NBA and their influence on the style of play, isn’t covered in the media much now because of his untimely passing. Many people who claim to be basketball experts are unaware of his excellence.
For the unflappable Reggie Miller to name “Draz” as the one guy who got under his skin, says something about the type of player Petrovic was. Miller couldn’t stop the Croatian star from scoring, and Petrovic made sure Miller knew that.
This only adds to the legend of Drazen Petrovic and how great he was, and only furthers the question of how much he would have accomplished in the league if he was able to live just 10 years longer.