It’s one of the most memorable moments from Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” and will certainly endure as an iconic quote from the series.
Ron Harper on Michael Jordan’s game-winning, series-sealing, buzzer-beating jump shot over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers:
“We up by one. I said, ‘Coach, I got MJ. I got MJ. So the coach tells me, 'I’m going to put Ehlo on MJ.' And I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever. F**k this bulls**t.’”
But now, scandal!
Ehlo and Cavs teammate Mark Price offered differing accounts of the events in interviews with Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com in the wake of this anecdote being sprayed out to millions via “The Last Dance.”
“Back then, Harp and me were on the court at the same time, and he was our big offensive threat,” Ehlo told Fedor. “So, when I came in, it was a no-brainer that I would guard Jordan so Harp could rest on defense and play on offense.
“Harp had never really talked about defense or guarding people. He wasn’t a bad defender, I will give him that much, but I think those years with the Bulls where he got those championships, he was definitely third or fourth fiddle, so all of a sudden, he becomes this lockdown defender, apparently. I don’t really remember him during our time wanting to play defense that much. He kind of shocked me with those comments, saying he wanted to guard Michael.”
Harper’s defensive prowess was renowned in his time with the Bulls during the second three-peat, so hearing him purport to want the Jordan assignment in that moment was certainly believable. And with such meme-able delivery. But apparently, this story isn't so simple.
“That caught me a little off guard. I didn’t know Ron had such strong feelings about that because I didn’t really remember all that,” Price told Fedor. “Maybe it’s because we were in the midst of everything, or maybe that was something where Ron had talked to (Cavaliers coach) Lenny (Wilkins) on the side or before. I didn’t ever really recall that situation being a big deal at the time when the game was going on. I just remember Lenny kind of telling us what we were going to do, and then going out and trying to do it. Obviously, it’s something that had bothered Ron.
“Whoever (Lenny) picked, it wasn’t really a major factor as far as I was concerned. I thought, overall, it was a contested shot. It was good effort.”
Fair enough. Jordan’s anti-gravitational bounce and clutch shot-making certainly had more to do with the outcome of that game than Ehlo’s defense.
The Cavaliers of yesteryear don’t appear ready to stand idly by and let Harper, in their estimation, rewrite history.