When clicking on a link to this site and navigating the pages making up TSF, one page in particular defines the site’s origin…The Starting Five is.
The picture that heads this interview was and still is the pic posted on that particular page. The image in my mind speaks unity without saying a word. When the 5X’s rocked the college basketball scene they were everything me that represented my passion for sports. My Muhammad Ali, my Reggie Jackson, my Albert Belle and definitely my Randall Cunningham. Look at those names. What do they have in common? None were universally loved initially. They were seen as misunderstood malcontents unwilling to fall in lockstep with traditional American values. Values that embody paying homage to the team. The mainstream. The dream. The American dream. An American dream set on rising and living and coexisting with one another through hard work, dedication and humility but moving slow as Los Angeles traffic. Insert Vincent Price’s laugh here because ever so often a lightening bolt is shot out of a galvanized black cannon.
The boom is louder. The sound is more crisp and when it goes off, the hair on necks from Buckhead to Bangkok raise and scream hell yeah! Fantasies of those willing to appreciate what is before them and morph reminiscent of times when life was a lot more happier. If you are miserable, don’t push it on the rest of the world, because the Fab Five, as they have become to be known, were kids. They were American kids raised in American cities nestled in Michigan, Illinois and Texas. They were like any kids who have ever graced our soil…they just wanted to have fun. Didn’t you have fun or at least try to at 18 and 19? Why or why not? America has to understand and be willing to appreciate there are other paths to happiness and also success. Hip Hop was the inner city freedom cry. A voice of culture changing magnitude needed to smack normalcy off its complacent, stagnant and nothing all inclusive axis. It was heard on radios becoming facets of every blacktop near and far like the computer you now read these words before you. Know that Hip Hop culture isn’t set on destroying the fabric of America. That’s ridiculous. It’s simply a matter of breathing in a world bound by what some see as anal retentive convention. In every sports arena, there will be those superior athletically, mentally and competitively chocked full of talent that amazes and quickens the evolution of the athlete…man and woman. This was the Fab Five and to be honest, that team is the reason why I write. I’ve kept this in for 20 years and now the team that could be seen as similar to the Ghetto Fighters because their flair was so far ahead of the mainstream is locked forever in the lore of everything the American dream. Somehow everything has to be explained numerous times to those unchallenged to become more conscious of the people they share the world with. The mainstream is not everything America. It is not the best means of achievement. It is not the voice and soul of everyone living and hardworking on this earth. The Fab Five were our choice in a list of choices that had our faces and minds none. It escapes me (not really) why the narrative of the Fab Five documentary became Uncle Tom gate (this is so much deeper) rather than investigating and communicating further of teenagers receiving death threats by the bunches. Who do you think sent those letters and what really are we telling our kids by dismissing hateful facts? Change the narrative.
This is Part 1 and in Part 2 Jalen and I talk of what you don’t see here…including the stuff with Grant Hill more definitively.
Three members of the original TSF crew have chimed in: Dax Devlon-Ross, Jonathan Weiler and Vinnie Goodwill as well as TSF cousin Temple3. All are great reads and get across everything needed to be said.
*Adendum 4/1/11* The remaining original TSF writer, D.K. Wilson, better known as dwil around these parts, penned a very articulate offering as well. Trust, it’s not a coincidence we all have written something substantive. Judge yourselves accordingly. -Mizzo
The conversation begins with a story of my coming very close to naming my 2nd son Gaston, Jalen. We crack up after I explain it obviously didn’t happen because my former father in law was unfortunately a Notre Dame fan…
Hey I tried to keep the peace…
Michael Tillery: Clear up the ambiguity of your Uncle Tom comment made in the ESPN documentary on the Fab Five. When Skip asked you to clarify folks are still saying you weren’t clear in your response.
Jalen Rose: I clearly stated in the documentary I was jealous of how Grant Hill was raised...how I felt he had a quality family, went to a fantastic school and he represented what Dick Vitale said we didn’t in the documentary. People that represented…in his words…the clean cut all American kind of guy. Also we were his opponent. We weren’t his teammates. He wasn’t somebody I was standing next to in the restaurant and chose to knock a chip of his shoulder. We were two dogs going for the same bone.
At the time, I knew society gave him a leg up.
At the time, how do you respond? Do you use it as fuel to the fire to put me in the position where I am today?
Or do you go by the early 90’s mentality where at the time we were still going back to the dorm room to listen to the answering machine to see where the party was that night and we were still talking about if there would be a Black president ever. Times have changed.
Do I feel that way now? Of course not!
The way he (Grant Hill) was raised? That’s what I’m trying to provide for my kids. The way he was raised? That’s the polish. That’s the substance that I want the students of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy to have when they graduate from high school.
I want them to be fueled like he was, not like I was.
JR: Well the bottom line is education is key. I read something in the USA Today even. Detroit’s population plunges 25%. That was on the front of USA Today.
I’m a Detroit native. I went to public school in Detroit. I feel like that city…that area…has done so much for me…done so much for my family…that it’s only right that I do whatever I can to motivate those behind me and put myself in a position for success and kick down the door and help as many people in as possible. That’s really what it’s all about. I started my foundation 10 years ago with an emphasis on sports and education serving under served youth. I felt the influence of 40 kids getting scholarships already. I have an endowment at the University of Michigan. Having a charter school just graduates the mention from influencing five or six kids per year to now it’s gonna be influencing 120 every year until the school has 480 kids. What I really want to take advantage of is that I’m old enough to be retired from the NBA but young enough to still be hip. To understand what the kids are thinking, what they are feeling, what they’re dealing with…good, bad or indifferent…to try to do what I can to put them in a position of success.
To these kids? If they don’ t have a diploma, a degree and a career? Then what do they become? Especially urban youth…you don’t have those three you can’t be an astronaut. Unfortunately those are the people who end up being at-risk kids who will probably stick a gun in your face and try to rob you.
We’re trying to eliminate that. We’re trying to eliminate that behavior. We’re trying to eliminate that stigma. We’re trying to educate as many people as possible.
MT: Jalen that’s what’s up. I really appreciate you doing that.
I’m definitely a Fab Five purist…Five X’s purist (Jalen chuckles). Obviously I was a little upset Chris Webber wasn’t involved. Could you talk about going through this without having Chris…who has obviously been a pillar of the community as well?
JR: The second part…people did ask questions why (Chris wasn’t involved) besides the Uncle Tom comment…
By the way, this has reinforced to me, while they’re responsible media members…while there are some that do an excellent job by being objective…I really don’t care whether you love the Fab Five or hate the Fab Five.
The documentary was all about creating reality dialogue for college kids.
The reason I said the revolution would be televised because I know in my head and my heart a lot of people really weren’t ready for the truth. That’s why instead of five years off, ten years off, fifteen years off we were afforded an Emmy Award winning platform…a critically acclaimed platform that is the ESPN 30 for 30 and the ESPN film series that became an opportunity. We were all enthusiastic about it including all the players, all the coaches, family, friends, media…Steve Fisher.
It was everybody putting their head in like it was us walking down the stairs screaming hell yeah.
In doing this piece, there were so many layers…every layer pulling in the same direction. That’s what made us pitch the story to ESPN but acknowledge the fact the story hadn’t been told.
Mitch Albom wrote a book while we were in college…it was a best selling book.
MT: Yes it was. I have it.
JR: There was a Beyond the Glory on us but it really only covered ten or fifteen minutes…it didn’t go in depth. So I know this story…without any of us writing a book…without a film ever being done…this documentary is what I consider the bible for the Fab Five story for those two years.
So it would have been great to have Chris do an interview in 2011 based on whatever he decided to talk about. He could have talked about being recruited, being one of the guys, the games, the timeout, the Ed Martin scenario…he had open autonomy to discuss whatever he wanted to discuss (Jalen’s words were very passionate here).
Then he changed his mind and for whatever reason he didn’t want to participate.
Then a lot of people felt does he have beef with the other four guys, is it because he works for TNT, is it because of the sanctions, is it because of the NCAA…the bottom line is that he felt at this time for whatever reason he did not want to discuss the two years he did not want to have at Michigan. We respect it, we salute, we move on…but the story is a story that represents from ’91-’93…not 2011.
So I know…we know…it wouldn’t affect the integrity of the story because the integrity of the story is still intact.
It would have been better of course to have our other brother participate.
Since he didn’t…it also leaves a little bit of intrigue because if you watch the documentary he’s a character in a story at the end of the Duke game he was upset and distraught.
MT: Yes, obviously.
JR: Then he felt like…you know what?
If I lose the next championship because if I do, this might break my back.
Not knowing what was in store with the whole timeout scenario. Then you take from ’93-’97 there was a total disconnect between us and the university anyway.
There wasn’t any Fab Five celebrations. There weren’t any jerseys being retired. There were a lot of people wiping their foreheads like whew…we’re glad they’re gone…
Then the sanctions came in ’97 and then he (Webber) wasn’t implicated until ’03! So, that was a ten year period since he went to college. At that point, he was a successful man in his career, a five time NBA all star. Now he’s doing his thing on TV.
I really feel that as somebody who has know him since we were thirteen years old, that’s a chapter in his head and heart that he just feels he number one, he doesn’t want to discuss or acknowledge…like forgetting a negative past.
Also, there’s the second part of me that feels like he wants to personally tell his story…not the Fab Five’s story. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does that.
That’s all good as well.
MT: I’ve been asked to write something definitive on this Jalen. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. I’m glad we are talking some days after the documentary so I can add something to the narrative before it becomes something of white noise. I wanted to ask you about a few specific games.
In the Duke game…you went into the half up. After the half Christian Laettner went on a little tear. As I watched the game, there was one definitive moment. Where you looked at Billy Packer and said “Check the replay” on a specific call…I forget exactly what call that was. Do you remember that moment?
JR: Absolutely. Being freshmen…playing an upper class Duke led team, we felt the competition then and ironically how the whole Grant Hill reply was played out in the New York Times, it revisited those feelings now of people acknowledge us and me then.
It was good vs. evil. It was sophisticated vs. hood. It was responsible vs. irresponsible. It was everything that was right about the game vs. everything that was wrong about the game. Almost like democrats vs. republicans. Almost like MSNBC vs. FOX.
It was that then…and now.
I’d be able to appreciate…good, bad and ugly…what happens now but as college kids, when you are getting the letters (hate mail from Michigan alumni and others) that you saw we got. We were getting (negative) feedback from the majority of the media…before social media…that wanted to dictate a culture of how people feels about us. We already played the underdog role. Of course we would have loved to beat Duke… and as I said in the documentary…
They were a better team.They played like champions and they slapped us.
That is what it was. There were times during the game we felt we weren’t getting the benefit of the doubt at the whistle or with the media but that is what made them what they are and that is what made us who we are.
MT: I don’t know if you’ve heard the Billy Packer interview (Packer calls the Fab Five doc “a disgusting piece of journalism” and the Fab Five “average”) he did with a radio station out of Detroit (Stoney and Bill show).
JR: I physically didn’t hear it and I didn’t want to hear it technically. I know about it and the reason why I didn’t hear it and don’t want to hear it is because that’s exactly how he felt 20 years ago. Those are the (sound bytes) that we would have used for the doc now except it was a little tricky getting them cleared.
He knows that.
MT: What I have a problem with…and this is something evident in the Black community…but there is a certain individuality (personality) that we have to add to a team. You want to add the best of your talents to add to the team to become a winner. What is being lost in the reaction to the documentary is that you guys were so much of a close knit team and everyone was so unselfish to get the win. I don’t think it mattered who was the leading scorer, rebounder, assist maker or anything else. You all took turns bringing the ball up and doing whatever you had to do to get the win. Could you talk about the team dynamic of the Fab Five?
JR: The team dynamic is that we were brothers. Our haters would note:
They never won a championship. Well is that the only thing that matters?
Why are you filling out a bracket?
Why are you watching (the games) right now? You might as well wait until April 5th and there’s your March Madness. These people are also hypocrites. As a college athlete, it does mean something to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. It does mean something to make it to an Elite 8. It does mean something to make it to the Final Four. Coaches get paid millions of dollars. Shoe companies, universities…everyone across the board gets paid millions of dollars for a team that makes the Final Four.
Same with the championship. Everybody wants that and of course we wanted that too. I like to compare that to a humble beginning…being from an urban background. A lot of times we look at victory and success different than others.
A lot of people are jealous even that they weren’t in that situation.
This is what a lot of people do. They’ll tell you…
You’re a loser! You’re a failure! You ain’t never done nothin’!
You can’t do anything! So, that is what makes people insecure. That is what destroys people’s self esteem. That is what sends people into a tailspin. That’s what makes women insecure…wanting to get surgeries to repair yourself. They try to fit a mold of this perfect elegant person that society tries to make you be when that person isn’t realistic. Everybody wants to be Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. Everybody wants to be Christian Laettner playing in four straight Final Fours. These are exceptions to the rule because these players are considered the best of the best to do it at their times.
That’s why we wanted to be called 5x’s instead of Fab Five. No man was bigger than the group.
One for all, all for one. We did everything together. Video games…went to parties. Piled in cars to go to practices, workouts, training tables, study hall…everything we did was as a group.
That’s what college sports is about or should be about and I’m glad a lot of people took that from the documentary…but the same is with pro except pro is more corporate.
MT: I think that is what separated you (in the minds of purists) from the college game. What I saw were eighteen year old kids who were “NBA ready” playing against college kids even though you were teenagers. So a lot of people were seeing the NBA being brought to the college hardwood and had a huge problem with that. You guys were so good. The stuff you would do was incredible. I remember this stat (sophomore year) where you were 30-0 when leading at the 5:00 mark (only loss was to UNC in National Final). That was a credit to your talent and ambition to get the win.
JR: That’s what it was all about to me. It was also head scratching but typically irresponsible of media credentialed or not credentialed. People don’t realize there are a lot of non-credentialed media members that don’t have the type of resume you just described to me when we first got on the phone (building TSF into a professional league credentialed site). There are those who say the Fab Five weren’t the first to do it.
Last time I checked I’m a player.
Of course I looked up to and appreciated those who came before me.
(Jalen reads my mind here and answers my next question before it’s asked)
I understand about Phi Slamma Jamma.
Of course I understand about Big John (Thompson) and the Georgetown teams.
People don’t know we were in contact with Big John during that season as he was walking off the court with the towel on his shoulder and if he was going to continue to do that…talk about revolution…we were also planning on doing that. That was something that was discussed.
A lot of the criticism is obviously saying you all weren’t the first to do it. Could you comment on some of the teams that came before you. I know you know of these teams but just for the record, how about Todd Day’s Razorbacks? Did you guys follow that Nolan Richardson team? The one who got in a fight with UNLV.
JR: 40 minutes of hell. I love the game and I just so happened to play college basketball.
We were All Americans in high school. We respect the game. We knew about every team.
I know about teams that 98% of the world don’t know. This is what we do. So of course I know about Mayberry (Lee) when they balled and played in the 40 minutes of hell. Of course I do. Big Oliver Miller dropping dimes.
Of course I know about the Vegas teams where Anderson Hunt was the 1990 MVP. He went to my high school!
Of course I know about the DC (Derrick Coleman) led Syracuse teams with Stevie Thompson and Sherman Douglas.
I’m a fan of the game. Of course I know. One of my favorite games growing up…I used to watch it on VHS all the time…was Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State in the Elite 8. That was one of my favorite games…Lethal Weapon III vs. Steve Smith.
How many people know who Brian Oliver is?
JR: Crazy how people want to run and say that. I hate to tell you but Michael Jackson wasn’t the first to do the Moon Walk. He was the first that brought it mainstream and at our time, that’s what we were able to do. The thing that makes us special that people forget…
We were five freshman! That’s what makes it special. That’s the story! That’s…the story!
MT: There’s also a lot said about the team within a team. Was their any dissension between the 5x’s and the rest of the University of Michigan basketball team?
JR: On every level there is competitive sport. There’s always competition. Appreciate your position on the team. Appreciate your position at your job…high school, college, pro…but also plan and plot your promotion! That’s what life is!
If you become content with where you are, how do you expect to take the next step and improve where you are?
So in that…if I’m a junior…that was heavily recruited by Michigan…or by any major university…and they bring in other people to play my spot? That’s taking my job. Of course there’s gonna be some head scratching, some animosity, some competitive spirit to try to hold on to your spot. The upperclassmen of course felt like that. How the heck are you gonna play college basketball and not have a competitive spirit?
At the end of the day, when they realized we were legitimate…that we were great teammates…we were good for the team…they appreciated what we brought to the table…accepted us and were willing to allow us to do what we had to do to help the team win.