The Fab 5

The Fab 5 the latest installment of ESPN films premiered tonight. It proved to be another brilliant  presentation.  The documentary started by detailing the recruitment of  Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and  Ray Jackson.  Michigan  then spent all the rest of the year recruiting Jalen Rose and Chris Webber.

Jalen Rose’s is the son of Jimmy Walker, former Detroit Pistons star, who played for the Pistons in the 60’s.  However Jimmy Walker had no relationship with his son, Jalen Rose.  Jalen Rose and Chris Webber were hot on this list of Steve Fisher, then the coach at Michigan.  Rose attended Detroit Southwestern High School where nine to ten players went on  to receive Division I scholarships.

Chris Webber wanted to be an inner city guy, but he wasn’t.   Webber attended Country Day High School.  Juwan Howard recruited Webber by calling him  two to three times per weeks.  They wanted to win.  They were looking  to recruit  the best college team in the country.   Michigan recruited five of the top high school players at the same time.

Jalen Rose says this revolution was televised,  contrary to Gill Scott-Heron’s seventy recital,  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.   Fisher was elated that he had this core of outstanding players,three freshman, Rose,  Howard,  and Webber in the starting line-up.

Jalen Rose said Duke only recruited black players who were Uncle Toms.  Jalen Rose was upset with players like Grant Hill, but Rose resented everything that he was not,  the product of an absent father, who did not accept him.

The match up with Duke was bitter, the game went into overtime. Duke won the game. Although the Fab 5 did not respect Duke, they thought Grant Hill and Christian Laettner  and the rest of the Blue Devils were soft. They soon learned that they were not.  They were excellent hard nosed basketball players.

So the stage was set, the country learned that Duke  was king and the defending national champion and the Fab 5  proved  they could hang with the defending national champions.

Ray Jackson struggled his first year at Michigan.  He was a high school star in Texas, but Ray Jackson was not starting.  He was out of his element, he had never seen snow and he was miserable and he was not starting.  Steve Fisher finally relented and started Ray Jackson. They had a chance to finally see what they were made of.  They were an electric team, they were now playing together.

Mitch Albom, well known  Sports writer, said that Fisher  created a hard thing to overcome by deciding to start the Fab Five as freshman.  Michigan’s Eric Riley felt resentment, he lost his position and it was not taken lightly.  Despite this the slighted upper class men were able to contribute and blend with the Fab 5.  When the Fab 5 traveled  like rock stars.   They had to employ 24 hour security for a college basketball game.

Alumni became alarmed. Five inner city black kids represented Michigan and alumni resented them sending hate mail, calling them ‘the “N” word, so Steve Fisher took the heat for bringing them  in.  They were brash and did not take a  back seat, even some of the majority white alumni could not stand this, so they did the unthinkable, sent out death threats.

But these were not Jackie Robinson clones, they were brash and out spoken and there in rubbed nearly everyone the wrong way.  One can see the resentment that the Michigan alumni felt, because the Fab 5 talked trash to no end, but no one deserves to receive a death threat.

Most people thought that Steve Fisher let his players run over him.  They accused Steve Fisher  of coaching a playground team, typical of how inner city black kids are perceived. Undisciplined, and unable to play together.

Michigan lost the 1992 National Championship to a highly superior Duke team.  The Fab 5 was not equipped to be national  champions. They were immature and  not ready for the spotlight.  This would be illuminated in the next few years of the Fab Five era.

The next season, The Fab 5 knew they had to dominate every single game. Their goal was to win the national championship.  As freshman they felt excited and as sophomores they felt exploited. Nike sold  shirts and  called everything Fab 5.  Michigan made $10.5 million dollars on merchandising.   However the Fab Five, like other college players received no revenue.

Jalen Rose was accused of being at a crack house and being on drugs.  He was not of course, but it  tainted his image. Rose said he was embarrassed and hurt.

Everything came crashing down when Chris Webber called the time out in the NCAA finals against North Carolina in 1993.  It was something that no member of the Fab 5 can forget, Chris Webber declined to be interviewed for the documentary; that’s  how devastating that moment was for the Fab 5.  Webber has not put to rest the allegations that he took money from  a  friend.

Jalen Rose,  Juwan Howard and Chris Webber went on to solid careers in the NBA. Juwan Howard plays for the star studded Miami  Heat, with new stars like LaBron James, D-Wade and Chris Bosh, but none of the Fab  5 will forget the experience.

Chris Webb lied about getting money  from a friend who some said gave money to many Detroit area basketball stars. Which is an NCAA violation. It is said Chris Webber received a significant amount of money. The legacy of the Fab 5 was tainted.  Everyone was not involved in the  this, but everyone suffered for this mistake.

Steve Fisher, today, says there are still times when he will  get a call from one of the Fab 5 congratulating him for a win.  They still stay in touch.  Juwan Howard says the legacy still lives on and  the Miami Heat players identify Howard by saying , “That’s  Juwan Howard from the Michigan  Fab 5”.