Heading into the NCAA Tournament, I decided I’d ride with the Big East until the wheels fell off. Since this is the final opportunity for the Big East to enter the record books, I thought it would be awesome to go out with a bang. That was up until Michigan, my first true college basketball love, made a run all the way to tonight’s championship game against Louisville.
The strained relationship between Chris Webber and the other Fab Five members (Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, and Ray Jackson) has been well documented. Webber, who violated NCAA rules and accepted over $250, 000 in donations from a college booster, has refused to acknowledge his college career and has distanced himself from his former teammates. Whenever Rose, King, Howard, and Jackson are together, Webber is noticeably absent. Yet, that hasn’t stopped Rose from publicly asking or pleading with Webber to finally put the past behind them and reunite for tonight’s big game. The other four members of the Fab Five hope to be in attendance tonight and would also like Webber to join them.
While it’s a reasonable request and something I’d love to see, why Rose feels it’s necessary to constantly call Webber out is beyond me. Two years ago, during promotional rounds for the Fab Five documentary, Rose was quick to let people know that Webber opted not to participate. Now, Rose is drawing more attention to Webber. Although I’m sure Rose genuinely would like to reunite the Fab Five for the right reasons, it comes off as a bit self-serving. If mending the relationship is his top priority, Rose should talk to Webber privately and respect his personal decision to do whatever he feels is best for him. It’s unnecessary to report every attempt he’s made at reaching out to Webber, back to the media. Although social media and blogs have created a society that believes every little detail of our lives should be played out in front of the cameras, it’s not true. Privacy and discretion are still alive and well; and above all, valued.
Personally, I don’t blame Webber for the stance he’s taken. Before the NCAA handed out its punishment, Michigan self-imposed sanctions upon the basketball program, which resulted in erasing Webber’s name from the books, removing the Fab Five’s Final Four banners from the rafters, vacating team wins, and more. Webber was also banned from the university for 10 years. The ban expires next month, but since the national championship game is on neutral ground in Atlanta, Webber is allowed to attend as a fan. Michigan also asked Webber to pay the school $695,000 in restitution. Meanwhile, Michigan didn’t return the millions of dollars it earned off of him and the rest of the Fab Five. It’s one thing for Michigan to rule with a stern hand and send the message that they won’t tolerate such indiscretions, but also hypocritical to keep the money they earned off of someone they wanted absolutely nothing to do with anymore..or at least the past 10 years.
Although Webber was in the wrong, he felt betrayed, and not just by Michigan, but possibly by his former teammates as well. While Webber was forced to stay away from the school, Rose, Howard, King, and Jackson maintained a relationship with the university. Perhaps Webber feels their ties to the school in the face of his admonishment showed a lack of loyalty on their part? I don’t know. And because Webber refuses to discuss it, all I can do is speculate.
Had Webber participated in the Fab Five documentary and shared his side of the story then, today everyone would be discussing the accomplishments of the current team, not dredging up twenty years of bad blood. Here’s video of Jalen Rose putting the full court press on Webber, pleading for him to attend tonight’s game…
As a die hard Fab Five fan, I’d love to see them all in attendance at tonight’s game. But if Webber chooses not to attend, that’s his right. He doesn’t owe anything to anyone, most of all the University of Michigan. Sitting in the stands, yelling “Go Blue!”, and pretending to have school pride doesn’t sound like an enjoyable night given his history with the school. I respect his decision, and as a so-called friend and brother, it would be nice to know Jalen Rose supported Webber and did the same.