Fab 5: Time for New Ending

It wasn’t supposed to end that way.

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Once a long time ago, the Fab 5 ruled the world. As a University of Michigan during their reign, basketball made for a welcome diversion.

Their swagger, their style, and most of the all their play made them the talk of the country.

Wherever you went people were wearing Michigan gear.

Some older alums shunned their brazen style but most of the country embraced them as budding superstars.

As freshman they came up short in the national championship game but they returned to claim what was surely their pre-ordained  championship the following season.

Of course, we know what happened. Michigan didn’t win, falling to North Carolina 77-71 in the 1993 final. It was painful to watch.

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Chris Webber declared for the NBA draft and the Fab 5 were no more.

And in a perfect world the story would have ended there. A great team comes up short on the court but makes a huge cultural impact before eventually going  pro for NBA riches.

Of course, that wasn’t to be.

Mistakes made during their high school careers would come back to haunt some members of the Fab 5.

Webber, Rose, and Howard would go on to have successful NBA careers but the fallout from the booster scandal that began during their time in Ann Arbor and continued after their departure would result in many of their records being erased by the NCAA.

The scandal would also have grave implications for Michigan basketball program which struggled for years to dig out from the resulting sanctions.

Many Wolverine fans are bitter towards Chris Webber for his role in the scandal.

His comments about Michigan over the years haven’t done much to win over his detractors.

I should know, as I’ve carried around a lot of bitterness towards Webber since his role in the booster scandal became evident. But there is a lot of blame to go around from that era  starting with the coaches, parents, and administrators who all should have made better choices themselves. Not to mention a media (here’s looking at you Mitch Albom) who were eager to profit from the hoopla surrounding the Fab 5.

Webber’s mistakes now are over 20 years in past. It’s time to let it go. I doubt he’s the same person who made the wrong decisions back then.

And while I can’t imagine myself ever actively cheering for him, I’m done rooting against him. There’s too much positive happening with Michigan basketball under John Beilein to keep harping on 20 year old mistakes.

Tomorrow the Michigan Wolverine Basketball team will play for the National Championship in Atlanta. Many players on the team grew up idolizing the Fab 5.

At this point according to Jalen Rose, 4 of the Fab 5 will be present at the game. Only Chris Webber, who lives in Atlanta, has not confirmed his attendance.

Let’s be clear- this will be  a story whether Chris shows up or not. Right now the story depends on what choice Webber makes tomorrow. Hopefully Jalen will convince him to attend.

It would be a great boost for the team and maybe, just maybe, it would provide the groundwork for continued healing between Webber and the University of Michigan.

Webber can’t change the past but he does have an opportunity to inspire this current team by reuniting with his Fab 5 teammates in Atlanta.

It would be a great way to start writing a new ending for the Fab 5.

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Not so Fab 5- Sorry Jalen, the Banners Need to Stay Buried

Jalen Rose recently took to twitter to voice his displeasure with UM President Mary Sue Coleman’s position that the banners “won” by the Fab 5 won’t be returning to Crisler Center anytime soon.

 “I saw that U of Michigan has no plans to put back up our hoops banners. Should I do like most of its former BBallers & never return?” he tweeted. “Or should I ask for the 250k I donated for my Endowed Scholarship back & move it to another school? Stay Tuned.”

Athletic Director David Brandon followed up with the obvious explanation on why the banners won’t be returning:

“We’re not even sure that we could put those banners up,” Brandon said. “If you vacated wins and forfeited wins and basically cleared the record books of any activity, it’s hard to believe we could put back up the banners. We’ve never even gauged with the NCAA to see if that were possible.
“And, truthfully, if we had to forfeit the wins, it doesn’t seem appropriate.”

Members of the Fab 5 believe that their achievements are being unfairly ignored. You especially have to feel for Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, who never achieved success at the pro level like their college teammates Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose.

The Chris Webber/Ed Martin scandal wreaked havoc on the Michigan Basketball record book and forever tainted the Fab5 legacy. Many Wolverines fans would be happy to leave the scandal in the past and move on. Jalen clearly agrees with them.

The problem is that Chris Webber is guilty as sin and Jalen is wrong to blame Michigan for the banishment of the Fab 5. That blame rests solely on the shoulders of Webber. To blame Michigan would be like Jalen blaming the police for his recent DUI. In that incident Jalen rightly accepted blame for his actions:

“I have no one to blame but myself for endangering the community,” he told the judge.

But Jalen doesn’t use the same criteria when he chooses to look the other way with scandal brought Michigan by former teammate Chris Webber and bookie Ed Martin.

Chris Webber is a thief. His blatant disregard for the rules robbed the rest of the Fab 5 of their legacy and destroyed the memories of those seasons in the minds of Wolverine fans. He also stole from his opponents, it wasn’t enough that he had more talent in his pinky finger than many of them. He also didn’t need to burden himself with the same rules as the common players.

Webber’s post-Michigan career was also marked by a failure to follow the rules. When Chris was caught with drugs he denied responsibility. When he got a speeding ticket, the community didn’t appreciate him. When called to testify against bookie Ed Martin he lied through his teeth. Eventually his lies caught up with him and he was suspended for violating the NBA anti-drug policy and being forced to plead guilty to one charge of criminal contempt for lying to a federal grand jury.

Webber has never never expressed any regret for the dishonor he brought to Michigan. Perhaps if he had I might have some sympathy for him.

So the main reason for the banners not returning to Crisler Center from the dim archives of the Bentley Library are practical. The games have been erased so the banners are null and void. You can thank Chris Webber for that.

But there’s another more philosophical reason for the banners to stay buried.

To borrow a popular phrase these days- “THIS IS MICHIGAN…”

The Fab 5 never won a Big Ten title. The regular season was a mere inconvenience for them. And as far was being National Champion runner-ups, I can tell you as someone who attended Michigan during their reign, nobody was throwing them a parade for coming in second two years in a row. If you’re excited about losing in the Final Four you need to head up to East Lansing- they got that covered up there.

But I do offer a compromise. Disregarding his DUI Jalen has been an outstanding example of a Michigan Man since leaving the University of Michigan. He has contributed his time and money to many worthy charities and endowed a scholarship at Michigan. For these reasons, I propose that Michigan raise an unnamed #5 jersey to the rafters of Crisler Center.

For those willing to ignore the misdeeds of Chris Webber it can represent the Fab 5.

For the rest of us it can serve as a reminder to always question things that are simply too good to be true.