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    The greatest ever at his greatest ever...

    1989 Michael Jordan "The Shot" Hoop & Backboard from Historic Buzzer-Beater at Cleveland Cavaliers.

    UPDATE: Please note that the "North" identifier is on the stanchion and not the backboard. The consignor is willing to include the stanchion free of charge if the winning bidder desires. The added cost of shipping the stanchion will be the responsibility of the buyer if he chooses to claim it.

    The buzzer-beater when it matters most is the fantasy of every kid who ever hurled a ball at a playground hoop, so a relic that links such an event to the most important name in the history of the sport carries with it a bone-deep appeal. Like "The Catch" from Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, "The Shot" towers so conspicuously in sports history that it can be filed under the most general of terms and everybody nonetheless understands the reference. It goes without saying that Jordan's career highlight reel of historic moments is a feature-length film, but if one were constructing the two-minute trailer for that film, "The Shot" would definitely be a part of it.

    Any serious player for a Michael Jordan piece of this significance will know the story well, but we should all take a few moments to remember the path that led to those immortal three seconds of NBA history. The Chicago Bulls had met the Cleveland Cavaliers six times during the 1988-89 regular season, losing each and every one of that half-dozen, including a 90-84 defeat in the final regular season contest even as the Cavs rested their starters for the postseason while Jordan posted twenty-five. Cleveland entered the playoff tournament seeded third, and the Bulls at sixth. They'd meet in the first round of the playoffs, and the smart money was gusting away from the Windy City, not toward it, for reasons that were not difficult to understand.

    However, Chicago would finally draw Cleveland blood in their seventh meeting of the season, taking Game One in the hostile ruckus of Richfield Coliseum. Cleveland would respond with a win of its own in Game Two. The Bulls would claim Game Three, retaking the series lead back home in Chicago, but once again the Cavaliers would answer, in overtime of Game Four. And so the stage was set for a decisive winner-take-all Game Five back in Cleveland.

    At the end of each of the first three quarters of that climactic May 7, 1989 finale, it was the Cavaliers on top, the Bulls deficit at six as the fourth quarter began, the largest of any of the breaks. The stage was set for the miracle to come.

    An eleven-to-zero running of the Bulls in the fourth quarter briefly silenced a stunned Coliseum crowd, the Chicago lead swelling to five points at its height, midway through the final quarter. But as the clock drained further, the teams found themselves deadlocked at ninety points each, their seasons' life or death dependent upon the last 180 seconds of action. Those final three minutes of Game Five are widely considered some of the most dramatic in the history of the NBA, the hardcourt equivalent of Hagler vs. Hearns.

    Each team landed thunderous blows upon the other down the stretch, a flurry of twenty-one points between them. Craig Ehlo nailed a pair of clutch threes. Bull center Bill Cartwright tipped in a Hodges miss and Pippen drained a corner three, just a second left on his shot clock. Jordan pulled up with six seconds to hit a lead-taking shot, but Ehlo worked a masterful give-and-go with Larry Nance and laid in a one-point Cavs lead.

    Three seconds left, Bulls down by one, inbounding.

    In the post-game interview, Bulls coach Doug Collins described his strategy in the simplest and most rational of ways: "Get the ball to Michael and everybody get the [expletive] out of the way!"

    We'll turn to Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Nance to pick up the action on CBS television:

    "Sellers will inbound. Sellers has Jordan. Jordan with two seconds to go. Puts it up. It's good! At the buzzer! Michael Jordan has won it for Chicago!"

    Only at the moment did the game's greatest figure allow the ice water in his veins to thaw, wildly pumping his fist as his teammates swarmed him in celebration of the purest distillation of "clutch" ever exhibited in professional sports.

    Despite a solid fourteen-season career in the NBA, Cavaliers point guard Craig Ehlo's hard-luck position in that three-second snippet of highlight reel remains his primary basketball legacy to this day, and he properly feels honored--not shamed--to have died by that sword on that day. Ehlo was also somewhat ironically the only man on the court that evening to rise within twenty points of Jordan's personal tally of forty-four.

    But the last two points of their game-long battle, at that defining moment, will forever be counted among the most beautiful ever recorded.

    Though the Bulls would ultimately fall to the notorious "Bad Boys" of Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals to end their wild 1989 postseason ride, the fuse had been set upon a bomb that would blast its way through the league for years to come. The Bulls would hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the last day of six of the next nine NBA seasons.

    Heritage Auctions is privileged to present to the collecting community the hoop that swallowed that most historic of Michael Jordan jumpers, and the backboard to which it was affixed. Remarkably, both hoops from the Coliseum have spent most of the past twenty years in a rural Cleveland driveway where our consignor preferred the name "James" on his number "23" jerseys, but always nonetheless understood and appreciated the unique significance of his personal playground.

    The included letter of provenance tells us that our consignor was gifted both baskets used at the Coliseum by a gentleman named Daniel Dzina, a well-known Cleveland-area property developer and president of the Cleveland chapter of the Golden Gloves. As the outdated arena was slated to succumb to the wrecking ball in the late 1990's, Dzina "approached the Gund family representative regarding the contracting of the demolition and procurement of the contents of the historic "Coliseum," located in Richfield Township, Ohio. Mr. Dzina would ultimately purchase both baskets used throughout Cavs history, including on the fateful night of May 7th, 1989." George Gund, of course, was the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers at that time, and still holds a minority stake to this day. His greatest claim to fame is the drafting of a teenaged LeBron James in 2003.

    For about two decades after Mr. Dzina passed both baskets on to our consignor, they formed a court outside our consignor's home in the suburbs of Cleveland, exposed to the elements and exhibiting those effects to a limited, acceptable degree. It was years before the thought of determining which of the pair was "The Shot" basket was considered, and a brief amount of research revealed it was hit at the north end of the arena. Fortuitously, the baskets were marked with their geographical locations, allowing for a definitive attribution to "The Shot."

    An examination of game film finds not a single deviation in form, except for the loss of the protective padding at the lower edges, and the fading of the NBA logo sticker at lower left. This auction lot contains only the backboard and hoop, but our consignor still has the stanchion (and the full southern hoop, backboard and stanchion), and Heritage will facilitate the sale of any part of that should the winning bidder desire.

    At such a uniquely unsettling period of our national and global history, the celebration of true human excellence as delivered through "The Last Dance" documentary has been a most welcome diversion, a source of inspiration when America needed it the most. And, to us, "The Shot" will always feel like the quintessence of Jordan. Three seconds left, enemy court, one shot for the entire season to live or die, for every guy on his team, for his entire city.

    Jordan wants it. Jordan takes it. Jordan hits it. That is greatness like Everest is a mountain. Letter of provenance from Daniel Dzina. LOA from Heritage Auctions.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2020
    24th Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 37
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 9,894

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold on May 24, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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