“The Shot,” it’s called – that and nothing more.
“Of all the famous buckets Michael Jordan sank,” Sports Illustrated recently noted, “only one of them is iconic enough to be known simply as ‘The Shot.’”
It happened on May 7, 1989. With time running out, the Chicago Bulls trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-99 in the fifth and deciding game of an Eastern Conference playoff series at Richfield Coliseum.
Jordan was then 26 years old, a superstar who had yet to earn the first of his six NBA titles. Even that season would end in disappointment, with the Detroit Pistons banishing the Bulls from the playoffs (and Chicago’s first conference finals in 14 years). But even in defeat, that moment when Jordan sank that buzzer-beating jumper over the outstretched arm of the Cavs’ dinged-up Craig Ehlo lives on.
It’s been relived countless times and documentaries, too, including ESPN’s record-setting The Last Dance. It was “one of the best three seconds in Bulls franchise history,” The Jordan Rules author Sam Smith recently wrote on NBA.com.
It’s not just The Shot that lingers in the memory. It was Jordan’s reaction afterward – the iconic leap, the shouting in a dead-silent arena, the wild swinging fists. A moment of catharsis for the young man told too many times in his burgeoning career he would never win The Big One. Moments after the ball fell through the net, Jordan would call it “my most memorable shot ever.” It still is, all those titles and myths and documentaries later.
The basket that Jordan aimed at on that day wound up in somebody’s driveway where more than a few northern winters beat it up a bit—but it survived– and it’s now on the auction block. The rim and backboard are being offered in the May 24 Heritage Auctions Sunday Sports Collectibles Auction and could bring $10,000 or more. The consignor still owns the stanchion, too, and a separate purchase of that behemoth piece can be negotiated.
Chris Ivy, Heritage Auctions’ Sports Auctions Director calls it “a once-in-a lifetime shot for one of our bidders to own an iconic piece of sports history.”
The so-called Palace on the Prairie is no longer. It was demolished in the spring of 1999 and that’s where the story actually takes on a crazy twist.
The court’s two baskets were rescued by a Cleveland-area property developer named Daniel Dzina, who, in the 1990s, approached Cavs ownership about demolishing the structure and keeping its contents. Before it was razed by the National Park Service, Dzina bought both baskets used during the Cavs’ 20-season run in the facility.
Dzina eventually gifted them to the Heritage consignor, who installed them on the court outside a home in suburban Cleveland, where they remained for two decades.
The owner eventually wanted to determine which of the pair was the basket immortalized by The Shot, and a bit of digging revealed the moment had taken place at the north end of the Coliseum. Fortuitously, the baskets were already marked with their locations. Heritage says the Jordan hoop has been extensively studied, and an examination of game film “finds not a single deviation, save for the loss of the protective padding at the lower edges and the inevitable fading of the NBA logo sticker at lower left.”
The basket comes with a letter of provenance from Dzina, as well as a letter of authenticity from Heritage Auctions.
“The game-winning buzzer-beater is the fantasy of every kid who ever heaved a ball at a playground hoop, and this was the ultimate buzzer-beater from the ultimate player,” said Sports Consignment Director Chris Nerat, based in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago office and assisted with the consignment.
Now, a new owner will have the chance to re-enact the game-winning moment as often as they want, on the same hoop a young Michael Jordan made famous.