I became a writer because of athletes like Chris Webber and the rest of his forever brothers. It seems there isn’t any middle ground regarding the Fab Five. Rock stars to some and thug passion to others. Guess what folks? What were you doing when you were 18 and 19? Think back, what type of responsibility did you have? If you had children by that tender age, then you get my respect and I would never diminish such a responsibility by comparing your life to the exploits of a hybrid next flex generational basketball dream that shot on the scene like a Jupiter blazed comet and bounced off it just as quickly…but did you see the impact it left? The impact so known, you can almost dunk it. Some might not remember the all the Michigan Wolverine names those two seasons, but they know the five: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
The five who rocked, shocked, hopped over, around and through you. It didn’t matter if you were 8th year seniors about to collect a pension…cane in tow. You were men about to be dominated by boys. Freshman then sophomore 6’5″ and up all over the place. A 6’9″ future red pinstriped, Denver bound, left handed pg whose Father was picked over Pearl and cipher peered into the eyes of a shook of his God school Mother and a beat yo ass Father athletic wunderkind with a smile so Magic. Passed right to a hi/lo fundamental foul line extended 4/5 who cabbage patched on Kentucky Mashburn Final Four tables and was a conscious compliment to whatever mind Chris was that day. Ultimately gifted to two defensive Texas gems who were streaky shooters who took turns getting out on a Doc like break to bang on your center and hang as the world gasped to watch them rim rocka…let ’em hang. Right Jimmy?
Ray what was up with your toe on the line bruh? How many threes could you have had? Yes, that enigmatic but also that magnificent. But we relished…I mean the true basketball fan relished everything this team was about. They had their middle finger on the pulse of the status quo and we watched them grow but only so. Again, in a light year movement, they were gone but their impact will forever be known all through Tobacco Road, in Pauley Pavillion, you can smell it in the Kentucky bluegrass and fire it up in Cincinnati. The most talented incoming freshman class arguably ever never won a championship. Lost to Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers four times by one point but captured our minds like only a few teams have. After the pro thoughts of a NBA dream is spoken, Chris and I Go Blue.
Part II of IV
Michael Tillery: What went through your mind when Robert Horry made that shot?
Chris Webber: Everything slowed down. Slow motion. We were killing them in that game. Foul trouble and we lose the lead and all that stuff…That and the Detroit (When LeBron went off in the ECF) loss were the biggest and most affecting as a pro.
MT: What happened on the timeout? Before we get into that…in the Philly/Detroit playoff series…I think it was the game where you had 32, I remember walking down the stairs. I had to talk to some cat who was messing with my sister but as I’m getting back to my seat, I give you the head nod…I was wearing your blue Michigan 4 and you gave me one back. Simultaneously, I look over and a Detroit coach is staring straight in my face. Then it clicked. It was Pat Sullivan. The cat who hit one out of two free throws before the timeout. I thought for sure he was going to brick both of them. Anyway, I knew at that moment I was going to become a writer. At that point it was inevitable because I think we all were thinking the same thing at the same time.
CW: Wow. If you didn’t get confirmation from that, it wasn’t happening. Damn.
MT: Yeah, it was a weird vibe man. I hated that cat…well after that…what happened?
CW: You know what Mike T? I don’t know. All I know is that I wanted to win. I felt no one on that team could check me and if I got the ball to Jalen, no one could check him. We were down and my instincts said to call a timeout. I made the decision a long time ago that it was my fault. Regardless of what people say happened on the tape of people doing this or doing that. It was my fault. I really don’t remember what happened. Because I don’t wanna justify…I don’t want it to be any body’s fault but mine. Besides that, I don’t remember. If they would have called the travel it would have been big..We were down two…I don’t know bruh. I really don’t know what happened. I just remember thinking “God no, not right now. I can’t believe this is happening right now”.
We had beaten them by one point at the buzzer a year before without Ray.
It (timeout) definitely prepared me for life afterward.
MT: That earlier game you alluded to, was that the 1992 Rainbow Classic and was it Jalen who hit the shot?
CW: Yep Jalen tipped it in off Jim’s miss.
MT: Are you comfortable always being mentioned in history because of the timeout?
CW: One, that’s the way it’s gonna be so I better be comfortable and two, I put in work man. At the end of the day, that’s cool. I’ll take that. In the NBA, pound for pound I put in work. I’ve done some pretty big things in the Big Ten. When you set records and things like that, it is what it is. I gotta accept it.
Does it hurt and do I wish I never did it? Yeah, but if you love the game you are part of it. If you are a pitcher and gave up the game winning home run, you are a part of the game. The agony of defeat. I got to feel it at an early age and it just prepared me to work hard, be ready for the good times and prepare for the bad.
You have to take responsibility and move on. I’m just glad that afterward, you have to talk about the rest of my career. If it was somebody else, that’s all they would have been remembered by.
MT: In terms of the Hall of Fame, what would you say to members of the media who potentially would use the timeout as the sole reason for keeping you out of the Hall of Fame?
If I don’t make the Hall of Fame it definitely is gonna be disappointing, but it is what it is. I would just say compare my stats. Obviously everywhere I’ve gone, we’ve won. Every team I’ve played on made the playoffs. I’ve been one of the most consistent players of my era. The last couple of seasons I had to play a different role like I did my rookie year. My passing was very unique. It was because I grew up watching Magic and other great passers. I wanted to become a great passer. You have a lot of guys that don’t want to give up the ball. I played with Hall of Fame caliber players and we did some things together. This is uncomfortable talking about myself Mike T., but I hope I’m answering your question. I’ve always played on a high level and didn’t win a championship but there have been many others who haven’t as well. We as a team did some great things in college and I shouldn’t just be defined by the timeout. We won a lot of games together and got to two championship games in two seasons when we all played together. Out of all the great players to come out of the Big Ten and be the only freshman to lead the conference in rebounding is something. I just hope that people take an unbiased look.
If my name wasn’t my name and my face wasn’t my face and you put my stats in front of someone, I think they would realize I did enough, but who knows.
I loved the game and I was happy to be around it. I’m really happy to have been apart of it. Maybe I can’t win until I become a GM. My basketball career is not over. My playing days are over, but not my basketball career.
MT: Does it stop there?
CW: I want to become a GM and hopefully an owner.
MT: Wow. That’s good to hear. Get it!
Taking it back to Michigan for a bit…what was it like when the team began to get on a roll? I was a Michigan fan since Anthony Carter…later with Antoine Joubert and then into the ’89 National Champion year with Rumeal Robinson and Glen Rice.
Then a couple of years later, I can remember seeing crazy lines like 6-8, 4 steals, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, a couple of blocks and 18 points. The entire Fab Five would have a line like that. So my boys and I checked the paper after every game and soon enough, I had them all rockin’ maize and blue. You all were just 18. How did you handle all that attention? Must have been incredible.
CW: One good thing about all of us is that we are basically the same person. Subtle differences of course but our whole thing was don’t like us now. Don’t trick us. We are not falling for the okey doke. They called us thugs when we went with bald heads, they said we didn’t play hard or dunked too much. You have to remember, we are still from the hood at this point. Drug straight out the projects! Before every game, we were like, “Our Moms are watching”. We would say that and get hype! We wanted to kill you in the game because we are on TV and our parents are watching. We wanted to dominate everything.
We felt it more from fans. I felt it was like us and the fans against the media. Whenever we did interviews, I zoned out. It was business and then whatever. We didn’t care. We didn’t have TV’s in the dorms. It was really big, but comparing it today. Was it bigger than O.J. Mayo? Maybe you can answer that. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, They had him doing this and doing that. So…
MT: Yes, definitely bigger.
CW: Maybe it’s what they thought we did. There was a lot of media present, but we thought it was local. We hadn’t seen the world bruh. We are were all kinda the man in high school so we just thought there was a couple more cameras because of college. I noticed the people more than the media. I really didn’t know we were getting treated that way until the summer when people would tell us how it was. On campus, everyone knew who we were so it wasn’t anything special. It was surreal. The fans were what we thought the media should be like. We were way more excited about the fans than the media.
MT: Desmond Howard won the Heisman…
CW: See, that’s what was great. We were the Fab Five, but on Michigan’s campus, football was still number one. There was Desmond, Ricky Powers, Elvis Grbac…
Jalen and I wanted to play football in the NFL. So we’re at Michigan at every football game. We were studying football. We loved the game. We knew who was coming in, we knew who was going to get drafted. So for us, it was great. We were eating with the football players. Down to the swimmers. We used to study the swimmers and found out how to swim and how to train with the swimmers.
We were everything Michigan.
It was like what an Olympic Village must have felt like. Being on that campus as definitely one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Desmond was my man. I know him till this day. I was happy to see him doing his thing on ESPN. Even the Super Bowl. I wasn’t there, but I called him after the game. He was in DC when I played there. I definitely consider him a friend.
MT: If you were to right the Fab Five story, what would be the synopsis?
CW: Life is hard and hard work pays off. Thank God for everything. Right before we signed, Juwan’s grandmother died. There was a lot of different things that happened in our families during that time. We got to do a lot of things all over the place. Kids don’t understand that sacrifice and hard work pays off, but have fun when you get there.
Nobody can make any negative connotations with the Fab Five.
I’m always gonna be at Michigan. No one will ever take that from me. If I die, I might get buried in a Michigan casket. You can’t stop me. I am there. I went to school there. Ohio State people know. So many people have sent me cases of beer when Michigan plays Ohio State it’s incredible.
It’s something that is in my blood. Those days at Michigan is what really helped us become men. Regardless of what anybody says…the media or what have you…
We were 18.
We were going through something that most kids would never go through. We were learning right on the job. The advice I got from Juwan. The advice I got from coach Fisher. I’m glad Barack won because it’s time for change, but we were talking a few years ago when coaches would get death threats for starting an all Black team.
So when people say to me you shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame or you are known for the timeout, it’s funny to me. Just because I could play basketball and I was good at it. I put it (the timeout) to the equivalent of missing a shot…it’s my fault and I take full responsibility…but the things we went through, the way we played, how much fun we had, what we did for the game of basketball alone…the excitement?
AND1 should give us a check every time they see us and please let them know I said it. Even how we grew with Hip Hop. It was just a great time. You look back on certain eras and you see how timing was everything, well that’s how it was for us at Michigan. We thank God for the timing.
My future children, my family and everyone will know that Michigan was a special place for me.
MT: Man that’s all my son talks about. QB and pg. Had him in my arms when you called the timeout. That’s how much that team affected the sports world. He was what six months old? We were laying on the floor and I dropped him when you called the timeout bruh (it wasn’t six inches people relax). Now that’s all he talks about is winning the Heisman there, so we’ll see what happens.
In terms of a Michigan reconciliation…what’s gotta go down to make that happen in your mind?
CW: That’s something that I’ve really not thought about and not out of a lack of wanting that to happen, but because I feel I am Michigan. When I go places I’m part of the largest most recognizable college entity. To not be allowed to talk about how much you love the place, it hurts.
So in saying that, I’m in the midst of writing a book and try to fight those thoughts. You don’t wanna get your expectations up high, but I will say that regardless. I bleed maize and blue. I do. I helped build it. I love it. I try to focus on that and anything after that will be awesome. For me to sit here and think about not standing up at a football game and cheer? That would make me emotional right there. I don’t focus on those thoughts because I belong to a brotherhood. I’m a Michigan Wolverine and try to go from there.