Legendary NBA villain Reggie Miller likes what he sees out of the league’s newest bad guy – Trae Young, of Atlanta: “People say Trae Young is borderline cocky, but I don’t mind that”. Miller told Sports Illustrated.
Decades after tormenting the New York Knicks in front of their own fans and earning the villain moniker, Miller’s taken note of Young’s villainous play this post season: “Becoming the villain, that’s almost bestowed upon you,” Miller told Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso. “It was bestowed upon me from my clashes with the New York Knicks. Not everyone is going to be able to wear the white hat and be cheered and adored in important buildings. Michael Jordan was adored everywhere he went. I embraced wearing the black hat, and it kind of looks like Trae enjoys being on the road, performing at the highest stakes and quieting crowds.”
It’s fitting that Young’s starring role as the bad guy (outside of Atlanta) began under the bright lights of New York’s Madison Square Garden – the same building in which Miller terrorized the hometown Knicks and superfan Spike Lee in the 90’s. The 22-year-old Young slayed the same Knicks franchise earlier this month in the first playoff series of his career. After filling the box score night after night amid taunts (and even spit) from the crowd, Young bowed to the MSG crowd upon ending New York’s season. And a villain was born.
Young followed his breakout debut performance with a second post-season masterpiece, leading the visiting Hawks to a game seven win over favored Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The 6’1 point guard averaged 29 points and 11 assists in the series despite being serenaded with a chorus of boos from the Philly crowd.
The opportunity for Young to play villain for a third-straight series is on the table. Atlanta and Milwaukee are currently tied 1 – 1 in a matchup that will send the winner to the NBA finals. Young likely won’t receive any pleasantries from Bucks fans, but according to Miller, that doesn’t mean they’re not impressed: “His skill set is so good, and he is so talented, and people cheer and boo because they really respect his game. I think he’ll appreciate that the older he gets, but it’s been a pleasure to watch.”