Michael Jordan famously used the summer of 1995 to both re-mold his body into basketball condition, and film “Space Jam."
Central to that joint mission was “The Jordan Dome,” a Warner Brothers-constructed basketball training pavilion with amenities only Jordan could dream up. That big, billowing white tent played host to some legendary pickup runs between NBA stars and celebrities, alike, including fierce rivals such as Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers.
“It was some of the best games. No officials. You’re calling your own fouls,” Miller said in “The Last Dance” Episode 8. “So it’s a little bit more rugged and raw.
“I don’t know (how) he (Jordan) did it. I don’t know how he filmed all day and then still had the energy to play three hours. We would play until like 9 or 10 at night. He’d still have to get weight lifting in, and then his call time was like at 6 or 7 in the morning.”
And as impressive as the physical toll of such a schedule was for Jordan, he was putting in mental work, as well. In “The Last Dance,” B.J. Armstrong pointed out that Jordan actually used those games to scout his competition for the upcoming season.
As it turns out, Miller had that same instinct. In an oral history on the “Space Jam” pickup games reported by Alex Squadron of SLAM, Miller is quoted explaining how he tried to use those exhibitions to find cracks in Jordan’s game.
“Mike and I used to do battle and get after one another. I always wanted to be on the opposite team as MJ,” Miller told Squadron. “My whole purpose of going to these games was to try and find a vice I could use if and when we faced each other during the regular season and/or playoffs.”
And… Maybe it worked? To a degree? Two of the Bulls’ 10 regular season losses in the 1995-96 season came at the hands of the Pacers, though Jordan averaged 31.8 points in those contests compared to Miller’s 19.7 (he played in three of the four games and only one of the wins).
Even Miller was quick to dispel the notion that there were any fruits to his scouting.
“Safe to say I never found one (vice),” Miller told Squadron, “because he didn’t have any deficiencies.”