While the Michigan Wolverines may have lost to the Louisville Cardinals in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game, they can take solace in the fact that the school’s Fab Five took a big step toward reconciliation by all attending the game.
Four of the five members – Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King – all sat together in the stands. The fifth and arguably most important member, Chris Webber, was also at the game, but sat in a luxury box away from his former teammates and best friends.
Before the game, there was a lot of speculation as to whether Webber would even show up, as he’s tried to distance himself from Michigan and his history with the school, according to Rose.
“I know you guys were surprised,” Rose told the media Monday night. “I am not surprised that he came. We’ve been friends since we were 12 years old.”
The Fab Five was Michigan’s highly touted freshmen class – Webber, Rose, Howard, Jackson and King – that helped change basketball over 20 years ago. The group wore long shorts (which was unique at the time), embraced hip-hop culture, played a flashy style of basketball, and oozed swagger and bravado.
More importantly, they led the Wolverines to back-to-back national championship games in 1992 and 1993, losing to Duke and North Carolina, respectively.
Despite their on-court successes, there was no fairy tale ending to the group’s tenure.
Webber, the unanimous star, began distancing himself from the university in 1993, after he called a timeout in the championship game against North Carolina when the Wolverines didn’t have any timeouts remaining.
The embarrassing late-game error resulted in a technical foul, which ended the Wolverines’ comeback and theoretically cost them the game. He’s never discussed it, and it’s widely speculated that the mistake devastated and tormented Webber mentally.
Then in 2003, the NCAA required Michigan to disassociate with Webber and three other players for 10 years, and vacate the Fab Five’s wins and accolades after an investigation found Webber and others guilty of NCAA violations.
The combination of failure on the biggest stage and disassociation proved too much for Webber, who had no choice but to separate himself from Michigan. Since then, he has all but denied any involvement in the Fab Five. ESPN recently did a 30 for 30 film about the Fab Five, and Webber was the only member who chose not to participate. These instances have been common and unfortunate, as Webber is clearly still upset about the situation.
Still, Webber was in attendance and tweeted out a photo of him in his luxury box wearing a Michigan beanie.
It seems like a small thing, but that’s significant. For one night, the Fab Five were reunited. They may not have all sat together and cheered on their team, but it was a sign that the conflict could finally be resolved in the future.
“I just wanted to let him (Webber) know and let the world know, we’re a family,” Rose said. “We’re brothers. That’s the great thing about team sports.”