Craig Ehlo is on the wrong side of one of the best-known shots in NBA history.
Thirty-one years later, he’s hearing flak about it from a former teammate. And he didn’t see it coming.
The average basketball fan has seen the clip of Michael Jordan’s buzzer-beater to lead the Chicago Bulls past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs countless times.
With the Bulls trailing by one in a decisive Game 5, Jordan took an inbounds pass and sunk a 17-foot jump shot over the outstretched hand of Ehlo as the buzzer sounded to eliminate the Cavs.
The shot was a significant step in Jordan’s rise to all-time great status and was featured Sunday on ESPN’s broadcast of “The Last Dance” documentary.
Harper displeased with defense on play
Ron Harper — Jordan’s teammate on three Bulls championship teams and a member of the Cavs at the time — was interviewed in “The Last Dance.” He was surprisingly salty.
Not for Jordan hitting the shot — but over Ehlo’s defense on the decisive play.
Harper described his account of the defense being set up on the last play. In NSFW terms, Harper made clear that he was not pleased with head coach Lenny Wilkens’ call.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) April 27, 2020
“We’re up by one,” Harper said. “I said, coach, I got MJ. I got MJ. So the coach tells me I’m gonna put Ehlo on MJ. I’m like yeah, OK. Whatever. F--- this bulls---.”
Jordan was also perplexed by the decision in hindsight, telling “The Last Dance” that putting Ehlo on him was “a mistake” and that Harper defended him better.
Ehlo: Harper didn’t want ‘to play defense that much’
This all came as news to Ehlo, who talked about Harper’s comments with Cleveland.com.
“Harp had never really talked about defense or guarding people,” Ehlo said. “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.”
Ehlo said that it always fell on him to guard Jordan in part to free Harper up to “rest on defense” and exert his energy on offense.
Harper’s comments also caught Cleveland’s All-Star point guard Mark Price off guard. Price told Cleveland.com that he didn’t recall Ehlo’s defense being any sort of issue at the time and believed that Harper wouldn’t have been able to stop Jordan either.
“That was pretty interesting,” Price said. “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. ...
“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.”
More from Yahoo Sports: