February 17, 2013

THE BEST THERE EVER WAS:

"I'm Gonna Tell You What I'm Gonna Do": What It Was Like To Guard Michael Jordan, According To Craig Ehlo (Emma Carmichael, 2/16/13, Deadspin)

In honor of Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, we reached out to a man who, possibly more than anyone, understands the sneering greatness of Jordan in his prime: Craig Ehlo, the former NBA player (14 seasons with the Rockets, Cavaliers, Hawks, and SuperSonics) who was on the wrong side of "The Shot" in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference playoffs. Ehlo is now an assistant coach for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team. What follows is his recollection of guarding Jordan, in his words.

I was lucky enough to play in the same division as the Bulls, so not only did we see them in the regular season, but also three or four times in the playoffs. So I saw him extra. I wouldn't say I was the unfortunate one, because still, like my dad always said, you'll be the best when you play the best. I was always thrilled to be in that position.
Usually, Ron Harper would start on him, then I would come in and go to him, and Ron would go to Scottie Pippen or something like that. I always felt very lucky that Coach Wilkens had that faith in me to guard him. Michael was very competitive when he got between the lines. He was never a bad talker or too arrogant, but it was just like what Jason [Williams] said: He'd tell you. He only did that to me one time, from what I remember. It was his 69-point game, and things were going so well for him that I guess he just went for it. We were running up the court side-by-side and he told me: "Listen man, I'm hitting everything, so I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you can't stop it. You know you can't stop this. You can't guard me.

"I'm gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I'm gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I'm gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway."

And sure enough ...

Like I said, he was never mean or bad about it. But on that one play I was like, OK, well, if he's gonna tell me what he's going to do, then I'm gonna take advantage of this. And I was right there with him when he did--but sure enough he banked it off the backboard. We were heading back down court, and he gave me that kind of shrugged-shoulder look that you'd always see and he's like: "I told you. I told you." And I just said, "Don't do that again."
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Posted by at February 17, 2013 9:16 AM
  

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