alternate headline: man does job
A couple years ago we saw an amazing 30 for 30 about the Fab 5, but one persepctive was missing — Chris Webber's. Soon we'll finally (we hope, at least) get his side of the story when he releases his autobiograhy.
Although I'm sure he'll also write about other things, I think it's fair to say MGoBlog Nation will skip straight to the Michigan years.
I profiled Chris Webber in last week's Sports Illustrated -- he's become one of the more interesting NBA voices as a studio and game analyst for NBA TV and TNT -- and during our conversation he told me that he's been working on a documentary about his life for the past six years. Webber said he plans to release both the documentary and an autobiography at some point next year and the working (but unlikely final) title is The Black Forrest Gump.
Nice little interview with Simmons as they chat CWebb. The story about how Jalen met Chris was great, and it's really interesting to me that both Jalen and CWebb are now so very active members of the media.
A new Youtube video is a well-done 6-minute long video of the greatest moments in the history of sports.
It's a bit heavy on Jordan, Ali and Vince Carter dunks, but there are some Michigan clips that are included:
- Desmond striking the pose
- Webber's timeout
- Sam McGuffie hurdling his HS opponent
- Brady during the Patriots' SB celebration
As you probably know from the repeated forum posts, Beilein is in a close race with Ohio's coach Matta for the ESPN Inspiration is Contagious Award (vote now). I clicked over there today to vote for Beilein as much as I did to vote against Ohio. But then I saw that the winner recieves $100,000 for their charity, and Beilein's charity is the St. Louis Center... which brought back some powerful memories from the Fab Five era and my first job working at St. Louis. Please read my story (and first diary) below.
Back when I was an undergrad in the early 90's, I worked at St. Louis Center, a home for mentally/emotionally/physically disabled youth and adults. Probably around 1/2 of the kids had gone through some abuse and as wards of the state, were placed in St. Louis. Some of the stories that some of these kids went though would blow your mind. Two decades later, these boys and some of their stories are still prominent in my mind.
I took the upper youth home (middle school / high school) on field trips every weekend. We went to Crisler a few times for women's basketball games. We'd watch the game, and then afterwards, would help clean the arena and UM would pay St. Louis Center for our work. (our work was slow and low quality, but they would always hire us none-the-less).
One Saturday, as we finished our work and were walking back into the players tunnel, the men's team came out of the tunnel for their practice.
You have to understand what my boys looked like - some looked as disabled as you could imagine; some didn't know how to interact socially; many wore braces or helments, etc. For some people, for various reasons, it is hard to face people like this - even harder to connect with them in any real sense.
As you can imagine, as the players came out of the tunnel, my boys put up their hands to give them a high five sort of tunnel. They were so stoked! Back at the home, we would always watch UM basketball and the boys were well aware of the Fab Five. My boys called out their names as they passed...
Both Ray Jackson and Juwan said hello, politiely. Jimmy King looked terribly uncomfortable, but he smiled and said "Hi", and tried to act normally. I appreciated it becuase I could tell he was trying. But Jalen Rose and Chris Webber stopped and talked - for a long while.
I probably had at least 10 kids with me, and each asked them at least one question, often awkward and hard to decipher questions. Jalen and Chris laughed and talked with the boys. One kid asked Chris to dunk for him. Chris immediately ran onto the court and threw down one of his left-handed power dunks. Then he jogged back to our group and celebrated like they just won the game. He then promised that he'd dunk for real in the next game just for those kids.
Watching that next UMBB game back at St. Louis Center, you can probably imagine the excitement when Webber had his first dunk. All the boys really believed that dunk was for them. Why? Because Webber (and Jalen) were so real with the boys.
Weber and Rose saw through their disabilities; they saw through the wall that makes most people much more comfortable by just turning away. They treated the boys as real boys, as real people. It meant the world to my boys at the Center and was probably the highlight of their year.
Later, as Chris Webber went through all the scandals and problems for UM, I never could judge him harshly. I still won't. It might be illogical to give him a pass for those things simply b/c of that one day with my boys from St. Louis Center, but that's how I see it. I feel like I saw something in Webber that is hard to see from most people, let alone stars.
Webber was enjoying his time helping other people. He was doing it for the boys, yes, but he was doing it for himself also because he truly loved making people happy. That, I believe, says a lot about who he is. More than the money he took and the reasons why. In my mind, Webber will always be that guy could see the humanity in others and loved making them happy.
anyway, that's my story....
It's great to see UM basketball's connection with St. Louis Center is still active, and likely even stronger. Go Blue, Go Beilein, and you GO VOTE!
Just in case you missed it or want to watch Jalen rip on Duke again
I understand why everyone gets so emotional when the discussion of Chris Webber comes up. He was the central figure in an investigation that set our basketball program back more than a decade. He lied to the authorities and has refused to apologize to Michigan fans. Our feelings are hurt and the banners are down.
But I'd like to kindly ask you to forget about the RESULT of his actions for a moment. Rather, I would like you to consider his motivation at the time of his actions.
Chris Webber was a kid with a skill.
He played basketball really well.
There are 14 and 15-year-old tennis players getting paid millions of dollars in endorsements for similar skills. There are teenagers who sign lucrative deals out of high school as top draft picks in the MLB. To a lesser extent, there are teenage kids making big cash as young hockey prospects. Shaun White, the olympic snowboarder, was making millions in endorsements by age 13, when he went pro.
Why do we not vilify these kids for aspiring to cash in on their athletic success at such a young age? Why do we read about these kids in KidzWorld and Forbes magazine? Shouldn't we discuss their behavior with wagging fingers in the editorial section of the New York Times?
The answer is simple. Those kids play sports that have systematic ways of providing monetary reward for aspiring talent. The MLB and NHL have spent millions investing in legitimate farm systems that develop talent and pay players modest sums. Tennis and snowboarding allow players to go pro whenever they like, freeing athletes to be sponsored by major corporations.
The NBA, on the other hand, continues to use the NCAA as a free minor league, sorting the best talent from the worst at the expense of universities--and the aspiring athletes.
Chris Webber elected to get paid under the table because the NBA didn't provide (and still doesn't provide) a viable minor league that pays well and invests in star athlete's futures.
Sure, Webber could have used better judgement. He could've been more honest with federal investigators. And he sure could apologize to UM fans for letting them down.
But I hope we can acknowledge his wrong doings within the context of his circumstances. While other teen athletes were cashing in on their success to the tune of millions, we wanted Webber to simply smile and be thankful for a college scholarship. It was, and is, an unfair expectation, and we have the NBA to thank for it.
To those outraged by Webber's behavior--who don't want to see him back in Crisler under any circumstances-- I hope you hold similar contempt for Sidney Crosby, Maria Sharapova, and Michelle Wie. They were just a bunch of silly, greedy kids, who couldn't wait to cash in on their athletic success.
EDIT/ADDENDUM: To clear things up, I do not wish to absolve C-Webb for all wrongdoings. I think he should apologize and acknowledge that he was a stupid kid who got caught up in something bigger than he could've fathomed as a kid.
I bring up the "NBA has no viable minor leauge" thing because I think it makes his actions more understandable given the context. Teenage MLB draftees don't face the decision C-Webb faced. They sign with agents and develop while they get paid.
Lastly-- to those who say he could've gone pro out of high school-- there was NO precedent for this. NONE. Shawn Kemp went to UK and was kicked out for stealing. He went pro because he had no other options (and faced the consequences of entering that world too soon). Moses Malone was drafted in 1974 by the ABA. Not an option for C-Webb. Darryl Dawkins was the poster child for why going pro out of high school is a BAD idea. C-Webb did what everyone did before Kevin Garnett (who went pro ONLY because he failed to get a 17 on the ACT).