Friday, October 3, 2008

The Legend of the Shot

The Best Game I've Ever Seen by Jack McCallum

On the morning of May 7, 1989, a Sunday, I had breakfast with the Chicago Bulls at a suburban Cleveland hotel, probably a Marriott. It was a simpler time, you see, more mingling between the superstars and the unwashed, ink-stained wretches back then.

Michael Jordan, fresh off his third-consecutive scoring title and at the top of his one-on-one powers, was loose and confident. But his demeanor belied the mission of the day -- beating a strong Cavaliers team (Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Larry Nance, Craig Ehlo, the "team of the '90s," as Magic Johnson described them) -- that was playing on its home court in a decisive Game 5 Eastern Conference first-round playoff game. The Cavs had beaten the Bulls six times during the regular season, and Jordan had missed a free throw that had cost Chicago Game 4.

Some four hours later, Jordan and his teammates began a game that was tightly played throughout. The crowd was loud, and the Cavaliers led 100-99 with about seven- or eight-seconds left. Brad Sellers of the Bulls inbounded at sidecourt after Chicago coach Doug Collins had called a timeout. Everybody knew Sellers was going to try to get it to Jordan, who already had 42 points, but Ehlo, a scrappy 6-foot-7 guard, had a reputation as a "Jordan stopper." Cue laugh track.

Jordan made a mad dash for the pass, like a kid trying to get loose during a playground game of tag. He got it, took a couple frantic dribbles, and, with Ehlo right on him, double-pumped in a 15-foot jumper to win it. But you know that part. You've seen it -- what? -- a thousand times.

In a career filled with iconic moments, for some reason this one, which occurred in a first-round game and did not lead to a championship, ranks with any of them. Why? Perhaps because it won the game and beat the buzzer. Perhaps because we remember Jordan's exultant leap. And perhaps because we remember Ehlo's "what-just-happened?" expression of pain, not the last time the Cavs would be tortured by His Airness.

I also remember Jordan alongside of Collins after the game. Somebody asked Collins what the final play was called.

"That was the 'get the ball to Michael and everybody get the f--- out of the way' play" answered Collins.

Jordan cracked up.

What's neat is that I can remember playing that shot out a million times in my backyard. Certain things stick with you your whole life, certain lessons learned, certain stories played out, and somehow these stories become bigger as we grow older. I remember watching that game. I remember thinking about how clutch a performer Craig Ehlo was by making two go ahead shots at the end of the game....but too bad for him, Jordan was too!


BoufMom9 said...

Isn't it funny the memories that we play back in our heads over & over from sports? I remember playing out the 1984 Olympics with my friends in the backyard of a neighbor all summer long. LOL (well, til one of the kids broke his arm anyway )

Matt's Miscellany said...

It really is. I still love watching that shot.