In 1989, when LeBron James was four years old, the Cleveland Cavaliers were just coming into their own. They had made the playoffs for the second straight season and would make the playoffs nine times in 11 years. With Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Hot Rod Williams and others, the Cavs were starting to believe they could become a major player in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NBA.
The problem was, so did the Chicago Bulls. Even worse, they had Michael Jordan.
As you may recall – or as you’ve seen thousands of times on commercials and highlight films – Cleveland played Chicago in the first round of that postseason, pushed the Bulls to a win-or-go-home Game 5 and had a chance to win the series.
Jordan wouldn’t let it happen, though. He hit “The Shot” – a double-clutch jumper from the foul line – over the outstretched arm of Craig Ehlo, who, at the time, was one of the best defenders in basketball.
The Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs went home.
“It hurt probably for about five years,” Ehlo said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “It seems like that magic moment kind of gave them the upper hand on us. We played them in the conference finals in ’92 and we lost in six games. I think we felt like we just couldn’t get past it. That was part of it. It was hard to live with.”
Indeed, the Cavs never got to the NBA Finals – not until James came along and resuscitated the franchise.
Ehlo, meanwhile, played 14 years in the NBA, filled key voids and put up respectable numbers. But “The Shot” haunted him for a long time.
“I had great support in my teammates and coaches and front office,” Ehlo said. “They were like, ‘Just let it go.’”
Eventually, about 15 years later, he was able to. Sort of.
“All of a sudden Gatorade called and said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you some money if you let us use your likeness,’” Ehlo explained.
Most people aren’t able to profit off of their personal setbacks. Ehlo was able to – and his mindset changed as a result.
“Using my likeness all of a sudden became very lucrative for me, so I started liking it,” the 54-year-old joked. “I started riding that pony.”