Defending Against The Unstoppable

February 25, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston   

(A non-sociological post.  But I love this anecdote.)

I have a colleague who used to play pro basketball.  This was decades ago and in the European league.  But he played in an informal US tournament once – something like the Rucker tournament – and wound up playing against Julius Erving. 

I asked the obvious if tactless question.  “How many points did he score?”

“As many as he wanted to,” he said.  “As it happens it was about 40, but it could have been 60.  It could have been 80.”

Elsewhere, Michael Jordan turned 50 recently, and Emma Carmichael at Deadspin interviewed Craig Ehlo on the topic of guarding Jordan.  At the time of this anecdote, Ehlo was with the Sonics.
We were running up the court side-by-side and he told me: “Listen man, I’m hitting everything, so I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you cant stop it. You know you can’t stop this. You can’t guard me.

“I’m gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I’m gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I’m gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway.”

And sure enough ...

I was like, OK, well, if he’s gonna tell me what he’s going to do, then I’m gonna take advantage of this. And I was right there with him when he did—but sure enough he banked it off the backboard. We were heading back down court, and he gave me that kind of shrugged-shoulder look that you’d always see and he’s like: “I told you. I told you.” And I just said, “Don’t do that again.” 
(The full interview is here)

I like Ehlo’s response – don’t do that again.  Better to get beat than to get beat and be humiliated too. 

For the record, Ehlo was not some second-rate benchwarmer.  He played fourteen seasons in the NBA.  The Ehlo incident that stands out in my mind is really a Charles Barkley moment in Philadelphia when Barkley was with the Sixers.  Ehlo had the ball under the hoop and leaped up for a jam, both hands high above his head.  That left his whole body unprotected.  Barkley drove a hard shoulder into his ribcage, and Ehlo fell to the floor in obvious pain. When the screen in the arena showed the replay, even the Philadelphia fans grew quiet.

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