But the Fab Five had style.
I don't actually have many memories of the Fab Five on the court. I remember being utterly heartsick when Webber called that timeout. That moment is undoubtedly the genesis of my obsession with rules that suck and should be changed*. I remember hating that technical when the ref could have just ignored it and left Webber to figure it out himself.
I also remember a black t-shirt I had commemorating the '92 Final Four, but incompletely. I know Cincinnati was on the shirt. I had to look up the other two teams, look up that Michigan beat the Bearcats in the semi before losing to Duke, look up the fact that Michigan was just a six seed. I remember the shirt being embroidered, because that's what happened in 1992 when you wanted something fancy. It was scratchy. I loved it.
I've got the heartsick and the shirt; everything else has melted away. When Wolverine Historian posted one of their games against Illinois I watched it and was stunned by… well, everything. A stone-cold packed Crisler full of people losing their minds. The helter-skelter nature of the game on both ends. Michigan—Michigan!—having a bunch of defiant, ruckus-raising black guys Jim Nantz remains terrified of to this day.
That is not the equilibrium state of Michigan basketball. That does not come from Earth. It comes from a planet with a green sun and marshmallow donkeys.
Later I remember loathing Chris Webber. Years and years had passed and Webber was on a very good Sacramento Kings team playing the Lakers in the conference finals. Sacramento had just gotten legendarily boned in game six. I remember watching game seven smugly, thinking Webber was born to fail in the moment of truth as he clanged threes and the Kings evaporated.
Anyone with a soul roots against the Lakers for the same reason they root against the Yankees. Sacramento had just suffered through a game that Tim Donaughy could point to years later as an example of a fix only to have obsessives like Bill Simmons say "tell me something I don't know." My loathing for Webber overcame all.
Some years later Webber was a trade-deadline acquisition for the Pistons during the period when the Billups/Prince/Hamilton/McDyess core still had my full attention. I was unhappy with it but dealt. I watched Chris Webber play basketball again. By that point he had suffered a variety of injuries that left him barely able to jump. He was useless defensively, an old man devoid of the thunderous athleticism that I assumed must have been part and parcel of why he was so good in college, the #1 pick in the draft, etc. By all rights he should have been out of the league already. Like Shawn Kemp, basically.
The reason he wasn't was his passing. Someone who paid more attention to the NBA than I did or wasn't 14 the last time he saw Webber play much already knew this. I didn't. I knew Chris Webber, though. I knew he was a liar and a choker and not very smart and just a general all-around jerk who wouldn't even apologize. I knew the Fab Five was just a bunch of guys who played schoolyard basketball because they were so outrageously better than everyone they could get away with it.
I knew Chris Webber until I watched him play. He dropped passes in spaces that didn't exist until he saw them. He hit cutters that didn't know they were open until the ball was in their hands. He was brilliant despite having the athleticism of Artie Lang. He was incredible fun. Despite myself I really liked watching Chris Webber play basketball, and now I don't think I know one thing about him.
To say Michigan has done a 180 in re: the cultural alignment of their basketball team understates things despite that being axiomatically impossible. The old ringleader just called black guys at Duke "Uncle Toms"; the new one is from Chesterton, Indiana, and once knew 62 digits of pi. After Michigan completed its season sweep of MSU the most desperate, laughable assertion I came across from some guy on an MSU message board was that Michigan had "thugs" on its team, an accusation that would have been uncomfortable during the Fab Five era and literally true when Ellerbe was running things into the ground.
Webber's been banned and feels repudiated and people feel free to demand an apology from him before he even thinks about setting foot in Crisler again, so I get why he doesn't feel like he owes anyone anything. If he wouldn't talk to Jalen Rose for his documentary, it's hard to believe he'll actually "tell his side soon" as he hoped on twitter.
This is immensely disappointing to me. I don't hate him any more and don't care about apologies, don't care about the crater he is often blamed for no matter how little input he had on hiring Ellerbe**. I'd just like to know every last detail of what happened.
Because I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.
Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.
It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions. I want Chris Webber to gently untie this Gordian knot in an hour-long interview on national television. When he's done the pieces will assemble themselves into a butterfly with big ears and a huge assist rate. This is the least he can do for 13-year-old me and my embroidered Final Four t-shirt. Thanks in advance.
**[Tom Goss, not Ed Martin, is the man who killed Michigan basketball.]
But the Fab Five had style.
UNLV won the title, the Fab Five didn't.
It is not hard to figure which is superior.
They didn't win as freshmen or sophomores. They were almost all upperclassmen in '90.
And why, not which was superior. Frankly, playing bitch Duke one year instead of Champ Duke was the only difference. Both lost to the great, experienced Duke team.
Webber took a loan out when he decided to declare for the draft. He had already decided to end amateur athletics and go pro, and figured he'd starting taking the $$. He should have waited a few more months. The guys after that though .... we've paid the price.
I feel that Webber was probably the least guilty of all the players involved in the Ed Martin scandal, but he was the highest profile. I also think he was the guy who really got Martin in the door as a fixture in the Michigan program. Fisher, as decent a guy as he seems to be, bears a huge chunk of the blame because he should've taken more interest in what Ed Martin was doing around his players.
Fisher should take the blame. There is absolutely no way he didn't know what was going on. However, what bothers me about Webber is you look at the life Howard and Rose had and the decisions they made. Webber didn't grow up an awful, one parent environment. He had a what appears on the surface to be a pretty normal family life and they weren't poor. So anyone can say 'you would take the money too," but the other guys didn't and they are the ones who probably should have!
I was in school during the fab five era and will never forget it. It was unreal and watching the doc reminded me how awesome it was. But Steve Fisher and Chris Webber will always remain in my dog house for what they did to Michigan Basketball.
The Man Who Sold the World, an appropriate cloaked reference if true and from the same time period. I was a Jr and Sr during the Fab5 era and was a Fr when UM won the NC with Hardaway Sr et al. Great years. The Webber timeout caused me to have a headache for about a year. I chose to only remember those golden years 88-92 and consciously blocked out the later ncaa violations and investigations and drama. C Webb is waiting for a book deal no doubt, maybe another chance to make some $$. If he was smart he would have had something released when the documentary aired but I am sure he wants to avoid pressers and questions dealing with the topic. Whether he was there or not or finally talks on his own terms, I seriously doubt he will apologize or even be completely candid about what he did. At this point, I don't care if he talks, it wouldn't take away that EFFFF'n timeout he called (yes, it's moot because the wins were vacated but it still gives me a headache to watch).
The championship team was 89, but the Fab Five Final Four runs were in 92 and 93. You couldn't have been for both unless you were in a 5th year. And Hardaway Senior played for UTEP, not us, and not on our Champ team.
Say what you will about Chris Webber, he is not stupid. At all. He's charismatic as hell and an absolute joy on TV.
The timeout change is a good one. They already get 8 TV timeouts per game. Another 12 timeouts on top of that is just pure nuisance.
I've always been annoyed when teams resort to fouling at the end of a game. If they couldn't win it on the court, do they really deserve a chance to win by hack-a-shaq. In the last 2 or 3 minutes of a game, give the fouled team the choice to shoot free throws or take the ball with a fresh shot clock.
Just make your goddamn free throws!!!
And don't get me started on soccer offsides, where it's the striker's job to know where the defender is.
That's why you play 40 minutes. Teams should finish out the game by executing against press defense and making free throws to keep teams out of it. That's a part of organized basketball; your system would effectively end the game with 3 minutes left if the deficit is any more than 8.
I'm old enough to remember when they added the current rule for getting two foul shots when you hit 10 team fouls (used to continue to be 1 and 1 ad infinitum). Same goes for the shot clock which was basically added for the same reason but on the different end of the spectrum - to make games more competitive at the end.
You think it's bad now with all the fouling, imagine when a team would go into a "4 corners offense" when they got up by about 5 or 6 with 10 minutes left (ahem, Dean Smith).
Some of the best buzzer beater finishes in history were set up by fouling to extend the game and come back from behind. (We almost did it on Saturday.)
I always thought Chris Webber was a pretty bright guy. Al McGuire once opined that he didn't want players who thought too much instead of just playing, and I thought of that a couple of times watching Webber play.
I suspect that Webber saw a lot of people who weren't as good at basketball, and who weren't as smart as he was, get away with a bunch of stuff, and now that he's the one that got caught, he thinks it sucks that it's not "fair," especially since the kids paid a higher price than the "grownups." In a way he's right, but that's the way you think when you're nineteen, not when you're thirty-nine. Telling the whole truth is the only thing that would change things for the better. Maybe he'll figure it out.
Did he graduate?
IIRC, Nantz LOVED the Fab Five. Don't know what brian is talking about regarding racism, being scared, etc.??
Nantz has been a harsh critic of the Fab Five, most recently during the game Saturday, cutting off his co-broadcasters to discuss how the FF "ruined UM basketball," etc. He's always displayed a discomfort talking about them, and taken a fairly pious view in doing so.
He's an asshat. One thing I've always hated about the tournament is that CBS injects him into the mix when things really start to matter, i.e. the conference tournaments and ncaa tournement. He has nothing to do with college basketball all year, and then we get to listen to him drone on and on about the most important gamesr. He's not really good at it, either. While I dislike his style, generally, and don't enjoy him calling golf, at least he's more suited for it.
His and any other "basketball purest's" opinion means as much as my opinion of their outdated views on basketball and how it should be played....you guessed it....zip.
I don't think he liked them - or at least, he didn't like their trash talking. It came up in Mitch Albom's book.
It didn't have to be as black and white (no pun intended) as the film made it sound. A lot of older alumni generally liked the Fab Five but thought they got too carried away at times, which is a fair criticism.
And I'm hardly freaked out by black players, OMG!, acting black.
I loved watching the Fab Five, but they often went way overboard with the trash talking to the point where it looked like they were losing focus on the game. Yes Jalen was the worst.
I would also get pissed at them jacking up three-bricks (some things never change) after only one pass. Yes Jalen was the worst.
Some of the racist stuff undoutably happened, but it was way overblown for the documentary. The Fab Five in general were treated like rock stars.
the racist stuff was absolutely, no-question a major aspect of this period, both overt and covert. i happened to be at breslin during one of the fab five visits...i'm no prude, i've heard it all and said even more, but the state student section was the most offensive, ignorant, low-class thing i have ever seen in my life, bar none. this was not just "you suck" chants, it was a kid with blackface and a dress with a fake baby bump laughing about how he was juwan's girlfriend from back home and other kids shouting "nigger" at the top of their lungs. way, way worse than anything i ever saw at my one visit to ohio stadium (and that was BAD)
really, really offensive, gag-inducing, depressing stuff. i didn't blame the players one bit for giving it back every second they were out there...i wouldn't have blamed them for going into the stands, actually.
I was only speaking about our own fanbase. Opposing fanbases were merciless.
He was brutal, especially the second year.
Nd as pointed out, still is, just crapped all over them during the game Saturday.
I always felt like Packer would have run the guys over with his car if he got the chance.
Nantz--the oldest 50-year-old in America--certainly loves him some Augusta, but never any Fab 5, as he confirmed once again on Saturday. And he didn't let any facts get in the way.
The thing people forget about Chris Webber is that he was a superstar even coming into high school. He was living in that bubble as early as 14 years old. Expectations being heaped upon him, everybody telling him he was going to be the greatest player ever, etc. He was LeBron James before there was a LeBron James. Chris never really lived up to those expectations the way LeBron has, but when he was at Country Day and Michigan it certainly looked like he was on his way, but it never really panned out for him at the pro level.
None of us can ever come close to understanding what that does to a person psychologically, and I think Webber is a guy who was never all that comfortable with the limelight, not in the way guys like Jalen or Juwan were. So I'm willing to give Chris a little understanding when he doesn't respond to the criticism of the Michigan faithful the way we feel he should. I, for one, would like to seem him welcomed back into the fold. I don't know if we'll ever be able to raise those banners again, but we can still honor those 5 players who for a brief moment in time made Michigan one of the elite basketball programs in the country.
does not mean he did not live up to expectations.
He played for a NC in college as a Freshman, then again as only a Sophomore. He carried a pro team on his back for years. He was that franchise.
He indeed lived up to the hype.
I agree whole-heartedly with the posters that say C-Webb's ranting about the injustices of the NCAA miss the point.
Yes, the rules are unjust. We all agree. But at the end of the day, U of M was left holding the bag for C-Webb's decision to break those rules (and U of M deserved to hold that bag, given that they went all ostrich on the UMBB team for the better part of a decade).
To focus on the injustice of the rules alone is the easy thing to do. Acknowledging the consequences of violating said unjust rules takes a lot of maturity. I still hope C Webb shows that maturity. As I said above, not because he "has to" - because it'd be really, really cool.
A few thoughts from a Michigan fan who was a junior and senior during the Fab Five era.
-I had a history class with all five the second semester of their freshman year. Despite the swagger, they were pretty reserved, at least in this class. The class that followed the blow-out loss to Duke in the Finals, all eyes were on them as they took their seats, of course. This was a pretty small class (maybe 40 students) so it was pretty uncomfortable. Our instructor did a really smart thing to break the silence...he just started clapping, which triggered a long round of applause from everyone in class. The guys finally gave us all a smile, and seemed genuinely humbled by it.
-In the pre-internet days, pretty much all we had was ESPN, SI, and the Detroit media for sports coverage. During those two seasons, it was all-Michigan, all the time. I don't think any Duke basketball team, or USC football team, ever reached that level of unanimous obsession (both for and against) among sports media.
-I watched the UNC game in a house on Church with about 15 other guys, all crowded around what back then was considered a "big-screen TV." It was one of those from-my-parent's-basement-wood-cabinet monstrosities that at best, had a 29 inch screen. Seeing the end of the UNC game last night gave me the exact same sickening, almost helpless feeling I had 18 years ago.
-Out of pity, my wife watched with me last night. She feigns interest in Michigan sports mostly because I have three daughters who don't even pretend to care. I looked over at her during the part when they showed like 2 full minutes of Webber walking to the locker room after the timeout, and she was crying. She's a good woman.
Watched the documentary with my wife as well (similar deal, pretends to like Michigan sports because I'm so obsessed with it - though she's a SE MI native and two-time grad of U of M). At the end of it, I rambled a bit about my conflicted feelings, my nostalgia, and most of all, my deeply contradictory emotions of sadness/excitement when talking about the Fab Five, and she seemed to get it a bit more.
Excellent stuff. One thing that is always overlooked amidst the fashion and bombast of the Fab Five is how they played together. The extra pass, the selfless sacrifices for the good of the team (on the court, obv), and the unselfish setups, hoping for the next guy to get the highlight. They played like best of friends with no agenda other than to win for each other, and it was a beautiful thing to behold. I was in 8th grade when they lost to Carolina, and being the only Michigan fan in my Wisconsin school, was faced with months of 'timeout' gestures from the next day on.
I tossed and turned in bed last night, remembering the heartbreak. The wound is still healing, all these years later. However, all the pain, the turmoil, the sanctions are worth it to me. I wish things had turned out differently, but you can't uncall timeouts and there are no do-overs in grown up life. That said, having something worthy of remembrance, important enough for me to lay awake at night and think about twenty years later, is all I ask from sports. Twenty years from now, I will still remember, whether or not banners hang and Webber is somehow welcomed back to raucous applause at Crisler.
One thing about Jalen's "Uncle Tom" comment: he said that that was how he viewed Duke's black players 20 years ago, not necessarily how he views them today. He did add that he was surprised how good Laettner turned out to be, and that he considered them a worthy champ in 1992. Also, he's founded a charter school in Detroit. I imagine he wouldn't be sad if a kid from there ended up at U-M.
Dammit, Brian is the best. When I lack the skills to explain why I'm hurting so much after watching a game on TV, I just pull out one of these pieces.
One day soon, we will wake up on the fourth Monday in November to a victory column, and it may be the greatest thing I will ever read.
Top rated ESPN doc ever. Tweets from LeBron thanking the Fab Five. I just love the cultural significance of that time. And having Michigan be the center of it. Jalen's right: No one can name anyone besides Montross on that UNC team. Or who won 4 years ago.
That 's true for the casual fan and I had forgotten Brian Reese until watching the doc last night. I did, however always remember Donald Williams who had the best weekend of his life in that Final Four. Bad timing for us. We'd handled them earlier in the year in Hawaii.
I graduated from Undergrad at UM in 1989 so i am a peer of Rice, Robinson, et al. But i do remember the Fab 5 and like most from that period, am probably "conflicted" (as Brian predicted ahead of time). Mostly, I'm a little upset they didn't really win any championships (no BT's, no National Champs) and that pain still lingers.
I won't go into all the back and forth, i think that's been well debated in all the comments today. However, one minor point that i do think the doc didn't quite play up enough was the "supporting cast." They did make the point of people being upset about losing their job to freshmen, etc., but there were a few notable times when the supporting cast saved their asses on the court, and they didn't relly mention that. IIRC, Voskul played a huge role down the stretch in beating Cincy in the first Final Four and Pelinka made many clutch threes (and was on the court during Web's unfortunate TO call).
about the Michigan basketball team. It was a doc about the Fab Five.
How often do you hear the names John Paxson and Steve Kerr when you watch something about Michael Jordan?
my point there was that part of the interesting story of the Fab 5 was that they were actually quite inconsistent on the court (as some pointed out) and despite their swagger, they needed the "nobodies" to save them on a few notable, high profile moments.
Not a huge criticism, just a minor point that i always found interesting.
We were able to get Howard to come to U of M (which sort of was the key to the Fab Five in total) because Illinois- his early preferred choice - was under investigation for violations.
In other words, THANKS BRUCE PEARL!
That's an easy name for me to remember: Knight, among others, hated him for what he (accurately) perceived to be a shady way of handling things in Champaign.
Ironically, Henson eventually moved on to New Mexico State to replace a coach they fired for cratering their program (essentially at the same time that this whole thing was going down) ...
No, he means "Thanks Bruce Pearl."
For those who don't know, Pearl first came to public consciousness as an Iowa assistant under Tom Davis when he secretely recorded Illinois assistant Jimmy Collins offering cash to a recruit and then turned the tapes into the NCAA. That's what basically brought down Lou Henson.
madhouse, joyous, pure love
this post means a lot to me. my first memory of really anything between my father and i is the both of us on our knees in front of the tv watching R. Robinson hit those two free throws. i was six. i don't know why i was on my knees, i don't know why my fingers were crossed, i was introuced into a world of shadow signs and symbols, i didn't know what it meant to win, but i felt it, and i have never stopped feeling like that child. watching the maize and blue.
when i came to consciousness, completely, when i GOT IT, it was during the Fab Five Era. I was in the fifth grade. i grew up with that team. i loved them with an absurd passion, i cried when they lost. tore at my hair. gnashed what little teeth i had. i think of the name calbert cheaney and shudder. I hate UNC, I hate Duke. I mean I really hate those bastards.
for good or ill, webber is michigan to me. he is my favorite player of all time. i can't help but feel his efforts are somehow tied up with mine. he's assumed some strange metaphoric presence in my consciousness. i had always said to myself, if webber can win a championship...but alas. he now seems more a sort of sisyphus, the mistakes in the periphery, the finger just grazing horry's threepoint shot in the forefront, representative entirely of what i think it feels like to be a michigan fan....always so close.
i don't know what else to add. you said it all. i just wanna say thanks. this post is amazing. this is why i'm on this site multiple times a day.