The Man Who Wasn't There Comment Count

Brian March 14th, 2011 at 3:51 PM


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.]


Webber's Pimp

March 14th, 2011 at 4:13 PM ^


Part of being a man is owning up to your mistakes. Chris has never done that where his Michigan family is concerned. Most of us here love Chris Webber. But we'd like to see him show some sort of remorse over this whole fiasco. It's not that he has to beg for forgiveness. A simple acknowledgement that he made mistakes as an 18 year old kid will do. 

The fact is he (and others) put this program in a bind that we are still recovering from 15 years later. It would be nice to have the prodigal son come home so that he can be embraced by his family. But for that to happen the prodigal son has to want to come home. Chris has always had a chip on his shoulder (whether it's pointing out who's making money off  of whom or pointing out how he was wronged etc).

It's time for him grow up. If he looks hard enough he'll always find an excuse to justify whatever it is he did wrong. We all know the NCAA system is screwed up. But that's just one of the many angles to this story.  Chris needs to show the courage and maturity to admit fault and speak up on these matters without laying blame at somebody else's doorstep. As far as I can tell Dave Brandon was trying to convey that message in the documentary...

Oh and one last thing. I was there for both Final Four runs. It was beautiful...


March 14th, 2011 at 5:23 PM ^

Based on following Chris Webber for all these years I'd say he still feels justified in what he did. Rationale being that a) he was being exploited by the NCAA and the University AND b) that Martin was a family friend without a real relationship to the University of Michigan.  Chris is smart (no matter what stupid views and emotions Brian wants to stubbornly cling to) and probably knows that reason A won't be accepted by most people and is somewhat bullshit because he signed on knowing the system.  But B - B still probably stands for Chris.  He knows its complicated and he knows he broke rules, but he also knows those rules were BS and he 'deserved' more than what he got from UofM in the same way that an overachieving employee deserves more once they've proven themselves.

As for the damage he did, I call BS on "still recovering 15 years later".  The program is way better off now than it was before Chris Webber arrived.  Remember the Michigan wasn't a great basketball program and that '89 was an abberation (a 6 seed winning).  The 90-91 team went 14-15, their best player was named Demetrius Calip, and their best young guys were Talley and Riley.  Ray Jackson didn't start because he was amazing; he started because every other non-freshman kind of sucked.

Michigan is back to a historical norm and has fully recovered.  Yes, the Ellerbe era sucked, but it's in the past. If there is any lasting ramification from the Fab 5 it is a positive association for recruits, and the espn documentary helps that even further.

Was the Fab5 worth it?  Anyone who, unlike Brian, was paying attention to every game back then says yes.  We have Chris to thank for that.  However you view his sins, he probably feels he still deserves our love and appreciation enough to warrant some forgiveness.

But Chris knows its complicated.  He can't say what he really thinks without getting criticized further.  So why bring it up again?  It would be nice if Chris apologized and the University embraced and forgave him, and we could have another charistmatic spokesman but I'm not going to sit here and question his manhood just because thats my preference.


March 14th, 2011 at 5:46 PM ^

ACTUALLY, 90-91 was the aberration. We won the Big Ten Title in 85, played the undefeated Indiana team for the National Championship in 76 (?), and had gone to the Final Four in the 60's, making 4 consecutive decades of Final Four appearances. If not top ten, we were at least among the top 15 of all basketball programs by the time the Fab Five era ended. And the Championship team was a 3 seed. (The Fab 5 in year 1 was a 6 seed).

MI Expat NY

March 14th, 2011 at 5:55 PM ^

I'm not here to debate your points about Chris Webber, but I think you need to take a better look at what the "historical norm" is.  The '89 championship was a bit unexpected, but they were a solid 3 seed (not a 6).  There were mulbitple Big Ten titles in the 60's, 70's and 80's.  There were multiple trips to the final four.  Where we are now is not the historical norm, and to take the one year prior to the fab five's arrival and say, well, "that's where we were, aren't we better off now," is just supid.  


Webber's Pimp

March 14th, 2011 at 6:47 PM ^

Brain wasn't there and really didn't live through the whole ordeal. But he has one thing right. Chris Webber has no one to blame except himself. I love Chris Webber but he needs to step and be a man. I'm tired of making excuses for him. 

Way better off now than before Webber arrived? You need to check your history. Michigan was a powerhouse of a squad all throughout the 80's and it all came together in '89. Prior to that we had a proud history as a very good Big Ten squad allbeit not at the same level as say Indiana. We won conference tites in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. In fact we were the premier team in the state of Michigan (contrary to what the folks up in East Lansing might think). We were well on our way to establishing ourselves as a major player in the national basketball landscape and all of that came crashing down with Ed Martin.  The '89 squad was a fantastic (and underachiveing) collection of talent. Frieder had put together a monster squad that hadn't lived up to its billing until the '89 tournament.  Higgins, Mills, Rice, and Robinson were all McDonald's all americans. Vaught may have been as well - I forget. When's the last time we had one of those? 

So anyway I guess I beg to differ. Webber (and I'm one of his biggest fans mind you) had allot to do with our programs' downfall and our struggles  over the past 15 years. We were practically given the death penalty and have been trying to live down the stigma ever since. 

All of this can be forvigen but the whole "I've been wronged" card CWebb has been playing all these years is precisely how he got in trouble in the first place. So the university made money selling his jersey. Big deal. It's no reason to go out and take money or worse yet perjure yourself  (or as we saw in the documentary throw the Martin family under the bus). See that's the thing it's always somebody else's fault. What us alumni are saying is he needs to man up, apologize and admit he made a mistake. That's it. 

One of these days he's gonna wake up and look in the mirror and realize that these wounds were all self inflicted. As someone else so eloquently put it he is our greatest basketball player but also our greatest disspointmenrt.  I just hope he can redeem himself in the years to come because as it stands his story is borderline tragic. 


March 14th, 2011 at 7:39 PM ^

Michigan was successful, but not a powerhouse.  Before '89, they made the final 4 once since 1966.  Before the Fab5 arrived (and after), they'd won 2 conference titles since 1978.

Between 1967 and 1984 Michigan made the tournment only 4 times. The early 80s were bad, but starting in 85 they made it every year with the pinaccle being, obviously, 89. Lets not forget that Frieder thought Arizona State to be a better job at this time.

Yes, 91 was the low point, but but it still happened.  Without the Fab5, the direction under Steve Fisher was unclear.

So, now that it looks like Michigan will be a team that makes the tournament regularly were back to where we were in the mid 60s, mid 70s, mid 80s, and mid 90s.

So, I'll stand by my point that Michigan is back to it's historical norm, even if you look past all the down times.

MI Expat NY

March 14th, 2011 at 8:11 PM ^

I'm sorry, you just can't use regular tournament appearances and say "we're back where we were!  Making the tournament today is much easier than it was in the 60's and 70's, and frankly, so is having a winning record.  From the time Cazzie Russell stepped on the court, we were a top 10/15 basketball program (Even akcnowledging a few down years in that time).  Now, it can be argued, and quite compellingly, that the Fab Five was the high point of the program.  I'm not one of those that says the Fab Five wasn't worth it, or that they're at fault for the state of the program, but, we're not back to where we were before they stepped on campus, and that's a fact.


March 14th, 2011 at 10:44 PM ^

You act like teams make the Final Four every year. Michigan has made it the 6th amount of times with 6 appearances. 9 schools have gone more often. And of those one did it after the Fab Five, the era you point up to. And at least two others would have been only 1 up at that time. Top Ten, 1 off from the 6th most appearances. Were we elite among the NC, Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Kansas programs? No, of course not. But we were as good as any of the second tier of teams. Your standard of FF appearances is ridiculous.
<br>You cherry pick your Tourney appearance years nicely, ignoring all appearances around it- 1948, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989. But even more egregiously you ignore that the Tournament let in far less teams back during those years.
<br>1953–1974: varied between 22 and 25 teams
<br>1975–1978: 32 teams
<br>1979: 40 teams
<br>1980–1982: 48 teams
<br>1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
<br>1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
<br>1985–2000: 64 teams
<br>Then in '85, when they let the full 64 in, we made it regularly. There were few long Tourney streaks back in the day because half the teams got in. Think of all the teams that wouldn't have made it this year if they only took 32.
<br>And the Frieder comment is off base. He left for money, not for a better basketball school. The fact that he never had close to the success there that he had at Michigan showed that. No one was saying '91 wasn't bad, just that it wasn't indicative of the program like you claimed, but the aberration of having everyone left from a National Championship team 2 years before graduate.
<br>So don't stand by your point; just admit you're wrong or weren't even born at that point and let it go.


March 15th, 2011 at 10:02 AM ^

I admit I'm out of my depth talking about the 60s and 70s. It was before my time.  That said, it seems unfair to call them a powerhouse if they're routinely missing the cut of top 20-30.

I'm pretty sure I noted that michigan made the tournament in the mid 60s, 70s, etc.  I'm simply pointing out that they also missed it frequently.

Final 4 appearances aren't my standard, but its one bit of evidence in arguing if they're a powerhouse.  You can't count the Fab5's final 4 appearances when arguing about the impact of the Fab5.  THAT is what is ridiculous.  So on that front, there was 89 and before that..1 in the 70s and 2 in the 60s.  I'm not saying that's bad, I'm saying lets not pretend the program was better than it was.

Michigan had built the program up in the mid-80s, but that was the work for Frieder.  And Frieder was gone and Fisher looked like he was in over his head.  He was on the hot seat 2 years after a national title and the program direction was not looking optimistic.

What IS a historical norm for this program? Are we below that now?  I don't think so.

MI Expat NY

March 15th, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

You should have stopped after your first sentence.  

Just like today, the tournament doesn't offer the top 68 teams in the country, the tournament then didn't take the top 20-30 programs.  Up until 1975 ONLY conference champions got in.  Up until 1979, there were onlly 7 at large teams.  And finally, after 1979/1980, the field got expanded to include all the really good teams that didn't win their conference.  

So, just judging the state of the program based on tournament appearances now, when if you have a pulse, you get in, to any years before about 1985 is idiotic.  

So what was the historical norm?  In the 21 seasons before the fab five, there were 12 years where at some point in the season Michigan was ranked in the top 10, 4 Big Ten Championships, 4 Big Ten runner ups, one national championship and only three losing seasons, despite playing in potentially the deepest conference in the country.  You can't think we're anywhere close to that performance right now.


March 15th, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

Lets check some facts here:

Conference winning percentage by coach:

Dave Strack: .518

Johnny Orr: .625

Bill Frieder: .605

The are the 3 coaches that preceded Fisher but they're also the 3 most successful and longest tenured coaches in Michigan basketball history.  The Orr/Frieder era was the peak of the program.  The 40s and 50s were well below .500, like the '00s.

Bielien has us at 500 now and next year, his 4th, that .600 to .625 range (the program's pinnacle) seems like a pretty reasonable expectation. So yeah, I think we're at a historical norm for the program.  Right now.

I'm not arguing that the combination of sanctions and Ellerbe didn't knock the program back for a decade, but that time is past.  Bielien's reputation is high and now that he's going to have his program stabalized and fully installed we should see the team contend for Big10 titles again. 

MI Expat NY

March 15th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

Since we're checking facts, you might want to note that Bielien's conference winning percentage is .388 for four seasons.  You can't take Bielien's best two conference finishes, both at .500 and compare it to career marks.  It's just not a fair comparison.  Saying one year at .600-.625, which would be the pinacle of the Bielien era, and stating that it's the same as when Johnny Orr AVERAGED that over 12 seasons is lunacy.  A similar comparison is comparing next season to Strack's, Orr's or Frieder's best season (.929, .889, and .889 respectively).

Bielien, in my opinion, has us moving in the right direction, but until we're actually competing for Big Ten championships again, we're not where we were before the Fab Five's arrival.  And anyone that says that competing for Big Ten chapmionships regularly is a guarantee, is crazy.  We have a young team that should lead us close to that territory next year, but will we maintain the momentum?  Who knows.  



March 15th, 2011 at 1:52 PM ^

I'm comparing a historical norm (~.500) to where the program is at today (.500).  I'm looking at how Michigan's best coaches have done (~.600) and comparing them to how we look for next season (~.600, conservatively).

I'm aware of Bielien's record, but it seems reasonable to not count his first year against him.  Frieder and Orr didn't have the same sort of rebuild job that Amaker and Bielien were tasked with.  Comparing his .388 mark over a few years of transition is not meaningful.  Context. Let Bielien build the program up to his vision.  Next year, in his 4th year, and the year following (his 5th) would be reasonable times to do a year-to-year comparison to other coaches.  We'll see where we're at then, but consider how they started:

Frieder had a losing record in the Big10 his first 3 years, then 11-7 his 4th year.  His 5th and 6th years he won the big 10 (getting bounced in the 2nd round of the tournament).  Even without the difficulties that Bielien faced (new to the school, linger sting of sanctions) Frieder took 4-5 years to establish the program to the level that you seem to expect and consider 'normal'.

Orr, had success earlier, but still stumbled out of the gate. He went 7-7, 5-9, 12-2, 9-5, 6-8.  He won his first conference title in his 6th year when the team went to the elite 8.  He had 4 great years and then the program went back to mediocrity.

If you want to think that Michigan was always and always would have been a top 2 or 3 program in the Big10 if it weren't for the Fab5, thats fine.  But I think you're comparing to the peak of the program.


MI Expat NY

March 15th, 2011 at 2:18 PM ^

This argument has skewed off the rails.  Your original point was that we're at historical norms, right now.  You're now selectively choosing stats to make Michigan Basketball, since the time of Cazzie Russell seem worse than it is.  We weren't a top 10-15 team every year, but there were enough high points in those decades to make it a top 10-15 program over that time.  There were final four runs, a championship, multiple Big Ten titles, etc.  You can't honestly say we're back there yet.  You can hope that next year we might be in contention for a Big Ten title.  You can hope that we can continue to be competitive going forward.  But we're not there yet.  

I'm not pointing out the peak of Michigan Basketball.  I don't expect to be in the top 2 or 3 of the Big Ten every season.  I don't think that's a reasonable goal for any program.  But averaging a top 3 finish every two seasons, with the occasional truly elite team, is a realistic goal and a mark of a very good program.  And it just so happens, that that is exactly what Michigan accomplished in the 21 seasons before the the Fab Five's arrival (10 times).  That is the historical norm.  That's where we hope to be.  It's not where we are now. 

And for the record, I don't blame the Fab Five.  I don't think we necessarily maintain our pace with a poor 91-92 season and a coaching change.  My point has just been, this whole time, that we were a very good program before the Fab Five.  We were an elite program with the Fab Five.  We're an average program now.  Hopefully our momentum continues and carries us back to where we were.


March 15th, 2011 at 2:47 PM ^

I'm not sure you have any proof to declare Michigan a top 10-15 program for any, say, 10-year period.  If they reach a top 10-15 program status over multiple years it was temporary.  While there were some nice 4-5 year runs, there was also many strings of years where the team was mediocre or worse.  Michigan is not on this list of top 20 historically winning programs:

I agree that Bielien hasn't reached the pinaccle (in his 3rd year) that Frieder and Orr reached after their 5th years, but he's on par with how they started, all things considered.  This indicates normality.

There is nothing about where the program is at now that says things are not 'normal' for the Program.  Yes, the 00's were a pain for the program as it had to recover from the damage, but recover it has.  Beilein has no more hurdles to deal with.  Its Beilien's program and he's NOW completely unobstructed by anything the Fab5 did.


March 15th, 2011 at 10:22 PM ^

How can you get so many facts wrong and still be convinced you are right?
<br>So where was Michigan ranked in wins after the Fab Five had finished playing? That table takes into account all the wins by other teams while we were losing for the last 20 years. It's never been argued that we still a great program; only that you're wrong when you say that Michigan basketball was a mediocre program till the Fab Five came. Check the numbers before things tanked, and you'll find us in the group right after the elite programs. That makes you not a superstar, but a star program, which we were.
<br>We haven't been disasterous post-Five. Pushing for the Tournament, NIT appearances under Amaker and Beilein. THAT'S been some mediocre years, but not rebuilding from horrible years. I get the sense you have no understanding what is truly mediocre, and what is actually good.


March 16th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

For the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, published in 2009, Sagarin put together an all-time rankings list of college programs. The list was based on 72 seasons of data, dating back to 1937-38. Michigan was ranked 13th. See this page.

Also, the site has a school index that can be sorted by a Simple Rating System (SRS) index, which takes into account strength of schedule. This covers only the seasons since 1979-80. Michigan ranks 21st despite the mediocrity of the last decade.

These rankings would seem to be better indicators than the raw winning percentage.

My guess is that the Michigan basketball program for the two decades before the Fab Five would be ranked in the 15 to 20 range among the top programs. Beilein hasn't gotten the program back to that level yet, although I believe he has it headed in that direction.


March 15th, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

You can't compare any one season to a career. I mean, why not compare last Year's record to the career records? Because it wouldn't work for your cherry picked stats. And yes, while it looks good and we hope it'll grow, we thought that after year 2 also. (And it might be beyond his control...injury, academics, trouble, going pro). That's why the full cater matters, not just any given year, up or down.
<br>And while perception-wise you can excuse first seasons, you can't statistically. Next Year's team isn't a Big Ten'll be after year 5 in year 6 that he may have his first truly "powerhouse" team. Just like the time frame you point out for the other coaches.


March 15th, 2011 at 10:55 PM ^

It's not football. Over .600 winning percentages over the long haul are good. Better then than now because of more cupcake games, currently. You win over 76% of you games you're not doing well, you're top ten all time. That level against good competition is high achievement.
<br>Your math is way off too; you're not considering the long haul. We could go 30-0 next year and Beilein's Michigan win percentage is going anywhere near 60% from .500. How does he do that? Win a lot, over a long career, that uses some amazing high win percentage seasons to offset the down one's. Going .500 isn't really that hard. Doing better than that over a long period of time is, when you have to offset every down season with a great one.


March 15th, 2011 at 10:41 PM ^

IS excellent. You add the two more only to show that we were a "powerhouse" at the brink of elite level. Your argument was that the program was really nothing before the Fab Five; that has been shown numerous times to be wrong.
<br>Are we up to that level again? Maybe close, for this one season. Certainly not for the last four, or last 14. Programs have ups and downs. We just haven't had any ups for a long time.


March 14th, 2011 at 7:43 PM ^

Michigan was a powerhouse from the 60's during a period where you could make the argument that from top to bottom, the Big Ten was the toughest basketball conference in the land.

Played in finals games in both the 60s and the 70s, won conference championships around and playing against the nucleus of Indiana's 32-0 national championship team, losing to them in the 1976 national championship game.

Chris Webber, Ed Martin and Steve Fisher are absolutely to blame for the joke our basketball program has been this century.

If Chris Webber stays honest, no Brian Ellerbe.

He is dead to me.


March 14th, 2011 at 4:05 PM ^

Good stuff.  I don't have quite the same level of hatred toward either the Fab 5 or the Bullock/Traylor/Taylor kids as some (ncluding Brian) has because I see the hypocrisy that the NCAA/UM/"fans" display toward these kids and understand why they shouldn't care about anyone else.  As Jalen pointed out, the Fab 5 made millions for the University and the NCAA, yet everyone buried them as soon as the Ed Martin scandal hit.  Of course UM really didn't have an option, and the NCAA is as feeble today as it was years ago, but to see Jim Nantz rant against the "thug kids" while being paid with money from that team's perforance to provide color analysis on a game they are playing is the baldest example of disingenuous behavior I've seen. 

I agree that Webber needs to man up for taking money and lying to a grand jury, but he doesn't owe UM or the fans anything else.  He won and we all cheered, then we lost it all and we blamed him as a proxy for all the ills we see in college sports.  I will never forget what he did at UM, and that won't change whether or not he ever steps foot in A2 again.


March 14th, 2011 at 4:06 PM ^

Im probably a few years younger than Brian, but I remember loving C-Webb to death, my dad being an alum I grew up a huge Michigan fan and I also grew up in Northern California so I was a default Warriors fan once we got webber.  But a few years later we get sanctioned and Webber goes to the weak-ass Kings and I hated him, still do for the most part.  I just hope we get back to the swagger we had in the 90's and earn our place at the top. Also, how epic was young Jalen's acne, and Juwan was always my favorite but to hear he essentially  recruited the fab five and story about his grandma proved me right.

*Ice-Cube btw


March 14th, 2011 at 4:13 PM ^

The enigma that is Chris Webber cuts even deeper.  I graduated from undergrad right before they got here, and I always felt a connection with them.  They were beautiful to watch.  They played with fire and an intensity that kept you on the edge of your seat.  Imagine a team full of Mike Harts or of Denard Robinsons.  The Duke game their freshman year that they almost won is probably the best game I've ever seen at Crisler.  The Final four runs were full of games that were at times awesome and at times terrifying.  They never did things the easy way.  The final time out might have been as low a moment as we've ever witnessed in M basketball.  There wasn't a single M fan whose heart didn't break watching Chris Webber bend over in pain after that play.

Yet when the whole Ed Martin thing broke a few years later, C Webb burned a lot of bridges by going on Detroit radio and calling out all the Michigan fans who were questioning him.  "You're making yourself look very asisnine"  He declared that he was no longer a Michigan Wolverine, and the school was dead to him.  That hurt more than what he did to put us on probation.

He is our greatest basketball player, without a doubt.  No one else is even close.  He's also our biggest disappointment.  Therein lies the rub.


March 14th, 2011 at 5:35 PM ^

given that a) Webber didn't stay two more years and b) left of his own volition anyway, as opposed to missing a season due to injury or whatnot. Webber's peak value and career value are both less than Russell's.

Also, c) Russell wasn't allowed to play as a freshman. If you're going to pull out hypotheticals, think about Cazzie's career if he'd had a full year of NCAA play under his belt ... surrounded by what would have to be considered lesser talent than Webber's surrounding cast, he still managed to take Michigan to consecutive Final Fours and to a third regional final appearance (albeit at a time when conferences got a single team in the tournament).


March 14th, 2011 at 5:49 PM ^

We're getting into apples/oranges territory here.  Cazzie had to stay four years; the NBA didn't allow early-entries back then.  We have no way of knowing if he'd stayed if given the option to leave.  And I don't think it's fair to downgrade Webber because he went pro when he was the #1 overall pick.

Also, it's hard to compare surrounding talent given that both players' teams enjoyed similar success.  Each went to two Final Fours.  


March 14th, 2011 at 4:32 PM ^

I wouldn't say they were always beautiful to watch.  They were very inconsistent, as you would expect, their freshman year.

I went to their game in Crisler against Purdue that year.  They got beat by a mediocre Purdue team in a terribly boring game.  Crisler was half empty and felt like a morgue.  I was shocked at the lack of interest at the time.

S FL Wolverine

March 14th, 2011 at 4:31 PM ^

I'm from the same timeframe and I have similar memories.  To this day, watching the Fab 5 play was one of the most thrilling things I've ever seen as a Michigan fan.  Seeing five true freshman start by the end of the season and then go all the way to the NCAA championship game was unbelievably thrilling.  I suppose it's kind of hypocritcal to resent them for knowingly breaking the rules and still take pleasure if watching them do what they did, but there it is.

With Webber, what rubs me most the wrong way is all the hypocrisy.  Interviews with Albom about how he "couldn't afford to eat yet the U is making all this money off my jersey".  Lies to grand juries.  To this day, he's never admitted taking any money.  Yet he lectures us about the "injustices" of the system.  If it's so unjust, just say "yeah, I took the money and I would do it again and here's why".  Instead he just keeps lying when anyone with a pulse knows he took serious cash.  And regardless of what you think of the system, he agreed to abide by its rules and then blatantly broke them.  This is not honorable, no matter how you look at it, anymore than what Jim Tressel or Terrel Pryor did.  He did this for himself alone, without any thought about the consequences to Michigan or his teammates.

I do want an apology from Webber.  Admit you lied, admit you broke the rules, and show actual contrition for what you did to Michigan's reputation.  To this day, he still can't be bothered to admit he was wrong and he holds this bitterness in his heart.  Reminds me of the Micchael Jordan Hall of Fame speech.


March 14th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

I remember bedlam on campus after beating OSU. The combination of youth and brashness during that run hyped those games out of proportion. They will always be my guys, didn't always make me proud, but they are my guys. I have never been through a more insane multiple-week stretch. The next year was just work and did not have that same genuine emotion with that run.


March 14th, 2011 at 6:27 PM ^

"They were beautiful to watch.  They played with fire and an intensity that kept you on the edge of your seat. "


I have always been more of a fan of the sport, of figuring out the best way to win. So the '89 team that won was superior to the Fab Five teams that never won the Big Ten and lost in the NCAA title games. I'd rather have a Bobby Knight-style team that wins to a team that has social impact but doesn't quite get it done. (That's not to say they were losers, obviously not, just that in comparison to a boring, workmanlike team that grinds its opponents into defeat, I'll take the more successful version.)

During the last football season it seems that there were some people who were so thrilled with the early season and Illinois-game offense that they almost were willing to accept the horrible defense. I'd rather have a team that wins, with or without panache.

The Fab Five were great, but I disagree with Jalen's contention at the end of the documentary that fame is what matters, that people can't name all of the starting five of NC or Duke, and that means the Fab Five were more important.

Bullshit. First of all, lots of serious hoops fans old enough to have seen the Fab Five probably only remember three of its members. (Sorry Jimmy and Ray.) But even if Jalen is right about how many people remember their names, so what? Fame may be bankable, but it is not as lasting as winning TITLES. The banners they keep whining about don't say "champions."