Craig Ehlo worked himself up from a misbegotten third round pick of the Houston Rockets, to a 10-day contract signee with the Cleveland Cavaliers, to a multi-year starter — a capable shooter and rugged defender who endured 14 years in the NBA.
And yet, all anyone wants to talk about it is “The Shot.” Ehlo reflected on that moment in his playing career — when Michael Jordan canned a game-winning, buzzer-beater jumper over him in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round — in an appearance on 670 The Score’s McNeil & Parkins Show.
“Any time I meet anybody on the street, at the grocery store, just passing by, and they hear my name, that’s the first thing. It’s the icebreaker,” Ehlo said on the show. “They have to ask me if I’m that guy that involved with ‘The Shot.’”
Ehlo takes it in good humor, though. He was quick to moniker Jordan the GOAT, and said that despite an initial sour taste in his mouth talking about "The Shot," he’s come to appreciate his legacy as a rival to Jordan over the years. Paid commercial opportunities helped assuage him, as well; as they say in the business, all publicity is good publicity.
Still, his cameo in ESPN’s “The Last Dance” featured, in his eyes, a few moments of hyperbole, especially from former Cavs teammate Ron Harper. In a present-day interview in the documentary, Harper claimed to have asked for defensive responsibilities on Jordan on the final play of the game instead of Ehlo, and called it f**king bulls**t that his wish wasn’t granted.
“We turned it (‘The Last Dance’) on, and all of it was going great, I was loving everything, and then we go to real-time when Michael says, ‘Honestly that (putting Ehlo on him) was a mistake,’” Ehlo said on the show. “I didn’t take that personal. I thought that was more directed at Coach Wilkins and his staff for making that decision. But my jaw dropped when Ron said, ‘Coach, I got MJ, I got MJ,’ cause I didn’t hear it.
“I’ve tried to watch some highlights of it and where Ron was in the vicinity with Coach Wilkins. But I think Coach Wilkins had an interview, and Mark Price did a couple I think, and they all said they didn’t recall it happening that way. So I thought, well, maybe Michael and Ron are such good friends after their three championships and they still hang out and play cards and golf together, maybe they fabricated that for good TV (laughs).”
Ehlo even recalled a conversation from when he first arrived in Cleveland, wherein Harper told him to take the lead guarding Jordan so Harper could focus his energy on the offensive end of the floor. Harper was a 20-point per game scorer in his Cavs tenure, and earned his reputation as a defensive stalwart later in his career — especially with the Bulls during the second three-peat.
On "The Shot" itself? Ehlo understands why it resonates to this day.
“I guess because it was such an iconic fist-pump and celebration and Doug Collins running onto the floor, it was just made for perfect NBA entertainment,” Ehlo said on the show. “It changed the course of both franchises in my book.”
But he doesn’t let it shroud his unique appreciation for the city of Chicago, even as a foe.
“I gotta say I love the Chicago fans,” Ehlo interjected as he was hopping off the phone. “I remember walking down Michigan Avenue one night after we ate somewhere and people just screaming at me saying, ‘Hey, Jordan’s gonna kick your ass!’ I love that kinda stuff, it was great.”