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The Last Dance

The Last Dance: Who is Craig Ehlo? Fast facts on the former Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard

Craig Ehlo is a name forever etched in Michael Jordan lore.

One of Jordan's most famous shots came in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the 1989 1st Round between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. With the Bulls down 100-99 in the closing seconds, Jordan received an inbounds pass and - guarded by Ehlo - hit a jumper from the foul line at the buzzer to win the series.

The lasting image of a young Jordan leaping into the air and unleashing an emphatic fist pump is one that will live on forever. Up until Kawhi Leonard's shot in Game 7 of the 2019 Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the only game-winning buzzer-beater in a winner-take-all playoff game in NBA history.

But Ehlo is far more than merely a footnote in one of the NBA's seminal moments. Here are some other things you might not know about the Cavaliers shooting guard who wound up on the wrong side of history.

Just before The Shot

It's almost completely lost in the narrative, but just moments before it was Ehlo that played the role of hero.

With six seconds left, Jordan hit a jumper to put the Bulls up 99-98. On the ensuing play, Ehlo snuck through on a back-door cut and made a layup to give the Cavaliers that 100-99 lead, which set the stage for Jordan's heroics. It's a forgotten play that nobody remembers yet one that had Jordan missed would have certainly gone down as yet another chapter in pre-rings MJ heartbreak.

It's also easy to lose sight of how good Ehlo was in the game itself.

Both Mark Price and Brad Daugherty were All-Stars that season for the Cavaliers while future Jordan three-peat teammate Ron Harper averaged almost 20 points per game. But it was Ehlo who led the team in scoring in that decisive game, pouring in what at the time was a playoff career-high 24 points. Ehlo averaged just 7.4 points per game that season and was coming off a dreadful Game 4 in which he shot 0-for-6 from the floor and scored just one point.

Ehlo's career

The Houston Rockets selected Ehlo with the first pick of the third round (48th overall) in the 1983 NBA Draft. It's hard to imagine now but there were actually 10 rounds in the draft back then, a far cry from two rounds today.

Ehlo spent his first three seasons in Houston playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson before moving on to the Cavaliers prior to the 1986-87 season. He spent the next seven years in Cleveland before leaving for the Atlanta Hawks, where he played three seasons. Ehlo spent the 14th and final year of his career with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996-97.

Only five players from that 1983 draft played longer than Ehlo, who also finished with more career points than the first (Ralph Sampson) and second (Steve Stipanovich) overall picks.

Ehlo and Jordan

'The Shot' is not the only time that Ehlo and Jordan crossed paths. In fact, Ehlo had somewhat of a tortured co-existence with the Chicago legend.

Ehlo started at shooting guard opposite of Jordan when the Hall of Famer went off 69 points and 18 rebounds on March 28, 1990 in what was the most statistically prolific game of his career.

He also started at shooting guard when Jordan hit another series-ending buzzer-beater against the Cavaliers in the 1993 playoffs, which ended up being Ehlo's final game with the Cavaliers.

Time and time again, Ehlo unfortunately had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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