What might have been: Craig Ehlo

What might have been for Craig Ehlo?
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan shoots the basketball over his defender, Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Richfield, Ohio, April 16, 1989.

In sport and life, one dramatic moment can change a lifetime of experiences. This post will take an alternative view of one of the most dramatic moments in NBA history. For the CBS generation, most of us clearly remember the dramatic rise of Lenny Wilkins Cleveland Cavaliers in the late 80s. Ironically, the Cavalier rise began in the most tragic draft in NBA history, 1986. But the Cavs, picking number one, got 3 quality players.

By year three, the Cavs would win 57 games, and be the best team in the Eastern Conference through late February. After cooling off, they were still the consensus to seriously challenge the Detroit Pistons for Eastern supremacy. But Mr. Jordan was the first obstacle, and at home for game 5, this seemed doable. Even inevitable. This leads us to the topic of this article.

He is usually seen as a near laughingstock today. A sacrificed fool charged with guarding history’s most celebrated NBA superstar on game-winning shots. But it was almost not to be. On May 7th, 1989 Joel Craig Ehlo hit a near desperation layup over the outstretched arms of Michael Jordan. With 3 seconds left, a gassed and limping Ehlo almost won a series (and reversed history) with a beautifully executed play. In so many ways, he also nearly put the emerging Bulls dynasty on ice. After all, then coach Doug Collins feared for his job (he would be fired anyway), and already management was considering big changes to the Bulls roster. We already know the outcome, but today Ehlo makes 60 years old. How would history have been altered had Ehlo’s layup been the game-winner?BTW, Happy 60th birthday Eggs.

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