29 Years Ago: Michigan’s Fab Five Comes To A Sad End
The Fab Five took Michigan basketball to a new level. And then in one instant, their dream of a title went down the drain.
The Fab Five May Have Been The Best Recruiting Class Ever
Led by local hero Chris Webber out of Detroit, Michigan coach Steve Fisher landed five of the best high school recruits available in 1991. Webber was joined by another Detroit all-star, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, out of the south side of Chicago, and two Texans, Jimmy King from Plano, and Ray Jackson from Austin.
Many experts called them the best recruiting class of not only the year, but perhaps the decade, and the expectations were high.
The group did not disappoint. From the moment they stepped on the floor, they garnered attention, not only for their basketball skills, but the way they dressed with black socks and baggy shorts.
Despite Never Winning The Big Ten, The Fab Five Went To Two Title Games
In 1991-92, the quintet tied for third in the Big Ten with Michigan State behind champion Ohio State. They then shocked the doubters by going in a roll in the NCAA tournament form the 6 seed in the Southeast, winning the regional with a revenge win over Jim Jackson and OSU.
In the title game, they were rolled over by one of Mike Krysezewski's better Duke teams, 71-51.
The following season, 1992-93, the now sophomores finished second in the conference behind Indiana, the nation's number one team. The Wolverines were ranked number three heading into the NCAA tournament, landing the top seed in the West regional.
The Wolverines won a tight contest 86-84, over 9th seeded UCLA, eventually winning the West regional title with a 77-72 win over Temple.
The Stage Was Set For The Famous 'Phantom Time Out'
At the Final Four in New Orleans, the Fab Five barely escaped Kentucky 81-78 in the semi-final, earning a title game showdown with North Carolina, the top seed in the East.
The title game went back and forth before UNC gained the upper hand late,72-67 with 50 seconds left. The Wolverines got two quick buckets to pull within one, 72-71, but Michigan was now forced to foul to try and get the ball back.
When Pat Sullivan of the Tar Heels missed the back end of a one and one, Chris Webber seized the rebound with 19 seconds and no time outs, trailing by two.
At first he clearly traveled with the ball, but no call was made. As he crossed mid-court, trying to get the ball to Jalen Rose, Webber made a move to the far corner. Instead of seeing Rob Pelinka wide open near the three point line, Webber, brought his hands up, and inexplicably called a time out they did not have.
That resulted in a technical foul on the Wolverines. UNC's Donald Williams sank both technical foul shots, and then the Tar Heels hit another shot before the buzzer to win, 77-71.
After the game, a distraught Webber told the media:
"I don't remember what happened. That probably cost us the game. If I knew we didn't have any timeouts left, I wouldn't have called one. Truthfully I don't think I saw anybody open. If I had, I would have passed it."
And he's never talked about it again since.
Webber Survived And Got Over It, But That Was The End Of The Fab Five
Webber left school following the 1993 season, effectively bringing an end to the Fab Five. Rose and Howard stuck around for one more season, while King and Jackson stayed all four years.
Four of the five played in the NBA, with only Jackson not making it in the pros. All five earned All-Big Ten honors at some level.
Rose and Howard became solid NBA players, with Rose making it it to the NBA Finals with Indiana in 2000, and Howard winning two NBA titles with the Miami Heat. Howard is currently the Michigan basketball coach.
As for Webber, he went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, making millions of dollars. He currently works as a color commentator for TV broadcasts. He got back up off that mat, and went on with a successful life.
That's my ultimate take away. You can survive awful things happening to you. You can get on with your life. Sure, I'm sure it still sticks in his craw, but it didn't stop him from a great career and life.
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