It was my intention to ignore ESPN’s “The Fab Five” documentary.
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I assumed their “legacy” would be framed inaccurately by the doc’s executive producer Jalen Rose, the leader of the Fab Five.
Earning $125 million in the NBA and transitioning into a TV talking head produces little self-awareness and even fewer qualifications as a documentarian.
Give Rose credit. He talked a major television network and an alleged news organization into allowing him to write his own 90-minute history. We should all be so lucky.
With the help of the Worldwide Leader, Rose took baggy shorts, black socks, bald heads and trash talk and created the illusion the Fab Five were some sort of transcendent, revolutionary freedom fighters cut from the same cloth as Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali.
It’s laughably untrue.
The legacy of the Fab Five is that they were on the cutting edge of America’s unashamed embrace of style over substance.
When Rose ended the documentary waxing about how no one knows the names of the starters on North Carolina’s 1993 national championship team and everyone remembers Rose, Webber, Howard, King and Jackson, it dawned on me the Fab Five were the original Charlie Sheen.
Let me make this clear: I do not dislike the Fab Five. I made my bones as a journalist covering the Fab Five for the Ann Arbor News. I have a strong affinity for Rose, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson. I have a great deal of respect for Chris Webber, particularly the way he handled the aftermath of the “timeout” and his work as an NBA broadcaster. I never developed any kind of connection with Jimmy King.
But the celebration of this documentary annoys me.
The Fab Five are taking credit for the real accomplishments of John Thompson’s and Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas.
It was Thompson’s all-black, Ewing-led teams a decade before the Fab Five that shook the foundation of college basketball, changed the complexion of starting lineups across the country, opened coaching doors that had previously been closed to blacks and paved the way for black sportswriters at major newspapers.
It’s easy to forgive Rose for his lack of self-awareness. It’s America. In this country, self-awareness and common sense are our most rare commodities.
What’s not easy to excuse is the clueless robbery of what Thompson, Ewing, Bill Martin, Reggie Williams, Horace Broadnax and David Wingate accomplished.
They won championships — conference and national. They scared and intimidated the establishment. They were the inner-city black kids who left a legacy of jobs and playing opportunities for other impoverished minorities that exposes the lack of substance in the fads popularized by the Fab Five.
“Hoya Paranoia” is the story that deserves celebration and should serve as a teaching tool. Fab Five is a safe, harmless story celebrating black kids for choosing style over substance.
Rather than participate in the documentary, Public Enemy’s Chuck D should’ve remade “Don’t Believe the Hype” and replaced Elvis with Jalen Rose.
Five super-talented black kids enrolled at a prestigious, white university to play for an inexperienced, piss-poor-at-the-time white coach and, 20 years later, had the audacity to embark on a media tour preaching about black Duke players being Uncle Toms.
Are you kidding me?
Are we really this lost as a people?
Let’s end the facade that Rose’s words about the Duke players are being taken out of context. On Monday, Jimmy King was on ESPN spewing this nonsense.
Last week Webber published this bit of nonsense on his blog.
The Fab Five clearly believe Coach K and Duke didn’t and don’t recruit inner-city black kids, and they believe race/racism/elitism are the driving forces behind the philosophy.
Let’s go back to the Fab Five era and Duke’s philosophy then. Coach K recruited kids who had every intention of staying in school for four years. He recruited kids who had a good chance of competing academically at Duke and could meet the standardized test score qualifications for entrance.
The Fab Five stated it was their intention to win a national championship and turn pro as a group after their sophomore season. Webber, who was recruited by Duke, left Michigan after two years. Rose and Howard left as juniors. Impoverished inner-city kids have good reason to turn pro early. I’m not knocking Webber, Howard and Rose for their decisions. They didn’t fit the Duke profile at the time.
Furthermore, unlike Steve Fisher at the time, Coach K did more than roll the ball on the court. He coached.
The ideal in college basketball is to lead four-year student-athletes to conference and national championships. That’s the goal.
During the three-year run of the Fab Five (one season without Webber), Duke beat Michigan all four times the schools met while winning two ACC titles and one NCAA title. During the same span, Michigan won zero conference or national titles. In addition, Webber’s interactions with booster Ed Martin put the program on probation and caused Michigan to forfeit all its games.
I think Coach K recruited and recruits the right kids for Duke.
It’s ridiculous for Webber to insinuate that Coach K feared the Fab Five were “thugs and killers.”
Coach K probably thought the same thing I thought watching the Fab Five play: They’re immature, arrogant, interested in playing for a coach they could ignore and incapable of putting together the consistent focus and effort necessary to win a conference championship.
Two teams consistently beat the Fab Five — Duke (4-0) and Indiana (4-2).
Let me translate that for you: Structured, disciplined, well-coached teams beat Michigan.
While making money for their white university and allowing their incompetent, white coach to learn on the job, the Fab Five were not man enough to harness the courage and focus to outduel — in their minds — inferior, racist teams.
Now tell me who the sellouts were?
It wasn’t John Thompson, Patrick Ewing or Grant Hill.