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About Utah: Scene of The Shot up for bids

In conjunction with swiftly approaching induction ceremonies of the 2009 class that includes Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, Jazz legend John Stockton and Jazz killer Michael Jordan, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has decided to auction off the basket and backboard that Jordan shot at in June of 1998 to nail the jumpshot that defeated the Jazz and won him his sixth and final NBA ring.

At the time of The Shot the basket was hanging in the Delta Center (now known as EnergySolutions Arena) in Salt Lake City.

So what's next, an announcement from the Hall of Fame that Dick Bavetta, referee of that fateful game, will be master of ceremonies?

Not that Stockton and Sloan are about to turn down their Hall of Fame invitations over it — or, knowing them, even act like they care — but, still, when they look back on their Hall of Fame careers, June 14, 1998 — six seconds on the clock in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Jazz are up one, 86-85, but Jordan has the ball — can't be the frame they want to dwell on.

Do you have to bring that up?

The culprit, as always, is Jordan.

Since it so happens that Jordan is being immortalized the same year as Stockton and Sloan, all things Jordan are shining even more brightly than usual in the basketball universe.

The Hall of Fame museum, like museums everywhere, could use some revenue.

And like it or not, the backboard and rim that once hung on the east end of the Delta Center court is as big a chunk of basketball lore as it gets.

"One of the greatest pieces of memorabilia in basketball history," is how Richard Russek, president of Grey Flannel Auctions, puts it.

How the hoop and backboard wound up at the Hall of Fame is a story in and of itself.

Not long after Jordan swatted away Jazz guard Bryon Russell and hit his championship-winner, the Jazz, not wanting any more to do with the scene of the crime, sold the entire Delta Center floor and basket to Dwight Manley, the sometimes agent of Jazz forward Karl Malone. (Whether Malone was part of the deal is not known, and Manley couldn't be reached for comment.)

Manley in turn sold at least half of the floor to Upper Deck, the sports card and collectibles company that in turn chopped up the floor and included pieces of it in card packets and other collectibles packages.

Manley then donated the remaining part of the floor and the entire basket, including rim, net, backboard and stanchion, to the Hall of Fame museum located in Springfield, Mass., basketball's birthplace.

Today, 24 feet of the Delta Center floor is mounted vertically — like a trophy deer head — on a wall on the museum's second level, along with a plaque describing MJ's historic shot.

But for 10 years the basket has been stuck in storage, too outsized for the space-challenged museum to display.

With Jordan being inducted this year, the Hall took the basket out of storage and consigned it to Grey Flannel — the same auction house that brought in $1,056,360 for the jersey Babe Ruth wore for his "called-shot" home run.

Who's to say what the Babe Ruth of basketball's championship shot will command?

Minimum bid is $25,000.

Anyone can bid online at LiveAuctioneers.com, but the real intensity should come at the live auction that will close the bidding and be part of Hall of Fame weekend festivities. That auction is scheduled for the morning of Sept. 12 — just hours before that night's formal induction ceremonies.

Maybe Jordan will buy it. Maybe it will be some Jazz fan with an anguished memory and a blowtorch. Whoever it is, bet on it not being Stockton or Sloan. They've got plenty of basketball memories to dwell on. The Shot isn't one of them.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com