i couldn't agree with you more.... But when i would play bball with my neighbors with the adjustable hoop brought down to a level that a 10 year old kid could dunk i was always Jalen Rose. I hope the university will reach out to Chris and bring him back into the mich family.
The Man Who Wasn't There
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.
- Timeouts in basketball. There should be one, period, like in hockey.
- The NHL rule where flipping the puck into the stands from your own zone is a penalty. It should be handled like icing, which is what the NCAA does.
- Hockey offsides is brutal. Widen the line to reduce whistles.
**[Tom Goss, not Ed Martin, is the man who killed Michigan basketball.]
I can't sit here 20 years later and blame anyone for anything. The fact is exploitation occurred on a variety of levels by a variety of 'institutions'.
We all need to be objective and unattached; firm and dispassionate regarding a subject that conjures up so many emotions...good and bad. I liked the Fab Five for what they were and I didn't hate them for what they were. What they really were, for me, were uniquely skilled 18 & 19 year old kids. Not because they were outstanding athletes but because they had the ability to come together and accomplish something that had never been done in the past and won't again happen in the future.
The bottom line is that everyone (the Fab Five-individually and together, U of M, the NCAA, Nike, CBS, ESPN, college basketball, the list goes on...) used and got used, exploited and got exploited. No group was more victimized than another. No group was more culpable than another. The courtship, the marriage, the honeymoon and the divorce were like any other and now the neighbors stand around and feel the need to take sides.
I didn't know these kids or anyone else in the world of college basketball. What I did understand was that they were really unique in all facets of the game both on and off the court. They piqued my interest and I admire that quality in anyone...good or bad. They were really different from me and from where I was from but, my god, if that wasn't a good thing I'd be mired in a boring life straight out of some replica of 'The Truman Show'.
I think Jalen Rose gets it and I hope Ray Jackson will come to understand it. I haven't been able to decipher the points of view of Jimmy King or Juwan Howard after my first go 'round. But I'm certain Chris Webber will talk about it. Bottom line...Jalen's effort was supreme then and now and because of that I know where he stands and what he values.
I understand the impact that the Fab 5 had on college basketball. It was an such an exciting time for Michigan basketball fans - I'll never forget it! I loved those five guys as basketball players, but as citizens??? I am not qualified to speak on that (nor are the countless others I hear).
What I don't understand is the "controversy" of the banner reinstatement.
First , as Mr. Brandon explained, U of M essentially had to pull those banners because of the NCAA violations. Do I agree with NCAA rules? HELL NO!!! BUT... rules are rules - you either play by them or face the consequences. Those banners were taken down because of Chris and/or Mayce Webber, Steve Fisher, and Tom Goss. We'll likely never know the true story behind Chris and "Big-Money Ed," but someone in the Webber family got paid (he did plead guilty). Fisher and Goss were responsible because it was their job to make sure money wasn't exchanging hands (no matter how hard that may be). I hesitate to put Jalen in that group because of his relationship with Ed Martin - I think that lied in a grey area of NCAA rules, not those that would result in vacating wins.
Second, besides the coaches and players on those runner-up teams, who wants those banners up in Crisler? For a Michigan fan, those two national chamionships were the most forgettable basketball games! The end of the UNC game seems like a nightmare caught on camera.
I believe UM should open its arms for the Fab Four - Jalen, Juwan, Ray, and Jimmy. I think they should be acknowledged for their play, both in pictures in Crisler (and the new development center) and in the stat books. There is no need to welcome Chris Webber back because he wants no part of it. Unfortunately for his old teammates, he holds the key to those banners.
The players and the fans will always have the memories. Keep the banners in that library,,, or burn them for all I care!
Cheers to the memories to come!
on how great of a player C-Webb really is. He is athletic, can do it all at PF position. Outstanding vision/passer and can really jump out of the gym. It's easy to see why he was the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Imagine if C-Webb hadn't be traded by the Magic. Shaq and C-Webb would have wreaked havoc from playing high-low game. The Magic would have been a NBA champ or at least give the Bulls a challenge(Bulls prob would not have won 6 NBA title).
i can't believe you would hate Webber as much as it sounds like you did. He played his heart out for Michigan, took us to the brink of 2 NC, and has done so much for the city of Detroit. From what it sounded like in Jalen's doc is he probably took some cash after he decided to go to the NBA. The timeline sounds a little fuzzy and is probably against NCAA rules, but so is "streatching" to much as you call it. Also why is what he did so different from what top players do now... before they go into the draft they get "advancements" from agents, to me the only difference was that Ed Martin was part of the Detroit reality... gambleing rings, and using the unions as muscle.
please dont' compare taking cash as a college player to stretching for 20 minutes. One is a major violation in every sense of the word. The other is a "major" violation in name only.
In an imaginary world, where stealing ice cream is a felony, your post would also read:
"Homicide is a felony, but so is stealing ice cream, so what's the big deal."
Clearly I'm not the only one, but there are times in life when you're more impressionable than others. I turned 13 a few days before that first Duke game. I'd been going to every football and basketball game with my parents for five or six years, but I can still picture them taking off their warmups and seeing the yellow uniforms for the first time. I can even picture the angle from our old seats. I can picture the details of the hotel from New Orleans when I was at the 93 Final Four. There's a reason that the only rap I know is from 92-94. There's a reason that at 32 years old, I just got back from a rec basketball game with black shoes and socks in my bag. There's a reason I can picture Daniel Horton curling off a screen to hit a three to beat MSU for the first time in forever, Courtney Sims missing a dunk that would have sent UM to the tournament against OSU, Deshawn Sims going backdoor for a dunk against UCLA, Manny getting the and one against Clemson and Stu hitting the clinching three against MSU this year, but have trouble remembering specific plays from any football game in the last ten years.
So I'm not conflicted. Not even a little. Those guys defined the most impressionable period of my life and I will love them forever. That's it, the rest is just noise, and I'm not interested in it.
He was the greatest basketball player ever to wear the Maize and Blue, all fairness to Cazzie Russel, Rudy Tomjonavich and Glen Rice. If Webber didn't have the injuries in the pros he would have won multiple NBA titles and gone on to be a Hall of Famer.
I will always be embarrased and disappointed that he took money and lied to the grand jury, but he and the University of Michigan have already paid a steep price. I would like him to say sorry, but I would also gladly welcome him back to Crisler in 2013 whether he ever does or not.
for posting my exact sentiments. I loved the Fab Five for shaking things at UM up, and for once, making UM the "cool" team to root for. It was fun while it lasted, and even though the banners are down, the memories live on.
And while I'm no longer a Chris Webber fan, I hope everyone that did not have strong memories of his UM playing days got a chance to observe what an athletic freak he was during the highlights that were shown. My 22 year old son was marveling at the things Webber could do on the court while watching Fab Five with me.
So, if Webber finally does apolgize or something, do you think he'll finally come clean on how much money he banked for tanking the UNC game. Come on, forgetting not just one, but two basic rules of the game within seconds of each other. A local Book launders money through him. Not hard to connect the dots. Ed Martin dying early was the best thing that could have happened to him.
And, yes, I am here for the Neg Bang.
Excellent post, Brian
But, I loved the Fab Five. Have no trouble celebrating them or looking back fondly, despite my occassional Webber conpiracy theories.
I say fuck the NCAA and put those banners back where they belong: The Crisler Arena rafters.
I really enjoyed the Fab Five and recall those times with fondness. South Forest their freshman year and Church Street their sophomore year. Good times. Lots of cultural shift happening back then. Hip hop, gangster rap, Rodney King, etc. Had the pleasure of meeting them from time to time on campus and house parties. IIRC when I wasn't sporting Michigan gear I was probably rocking a Raiders cap which was just perfect for a white kid from the burbs.
I'm guessing we won't be hearing anything along the lines of an apology from Chris for some time if ever. Perhaps when he's an older man and he's penning his memoirs...
Webber seems like a nice guy. Nice guys make mistakes too, and he has already been put through the ringer for it.
As a Michigan alum, I have always tried be a good person and to represent myself in a positive light, but no one has any expectations of me. Webber had so much talent that everyone had sky-is-the-limit expectations of him.
I'm not sure that he was prepared for all of those expectations, and just being himself at the same time. Lots of child prodigies burn out under less pressure than Webber had.
I was a little bit disappointed for him (not for me) that his pro career didn't turn out better because he was on some bad teams early in his career and had some bad luck later in his career, but that's life. Lots of great players get stuck on bad teams or get unfortunate injuries.
I don't get the whole "hating" athletes meme. This is just their job. Would you have the same outrage if an engineering student was receiving improper and excessive financial aid? Being a fan doesn't entitle you to weigh their souls in your hands.
I get that there was some collateral damage to the Michigan basketball program because of the Ed Martin scandal, but do you really think that's how the athletes planned it? It's really easy to blame people because the train came off the tracks, and after the fact, it's pretty obvious that a bunch of things never should have happened (and, yes, it really should not have ever happened), but I'm cynical and just assume that this sort of thing happens all of the time in major college sports. Only when Yahoo! or the FBI gets involved does anyone actually find out about it.
I have gained so much respect for Jalen Rose over the past few days, I can't even express it. Every M fan or NBA fan needs to check out the Simmons Jalen podcast recorded before Fab 5 was aired. Jalen's #5 should be retired. Right this minute.