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The Fab Five's Final Stand

Logically speaking, every red-blooded male born of this world between 1977 and 1982 should come down conclusively on two notable decisions, the first of which is, ?Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle do you most associate with??

At the time, I was a Michelangelo guy. He was ?the party dude? after all. As I matured into the man I someday hope to become, though, I realized I was more a ?Leonardo? fan. At some point you have to become a leader.

The second great question for men of Generation Ambiguous is, ?Which member of the Fab Five do you most associate with??

Again, over time I?ve changed course on this question. At first, I was a Jalen Rose guy. Once I watched a Michigan vs. Ohio State hoops game on CBS, and the announcer said, ?Often times, Ohio State meets Michigan with a trip to the Rose on the line. Now they?re meeting with a Rose on the line.? I thought that was tragically witty at the time. I really hope it was Verne Lundquist that said it; it would only increase my respect for the man.

As the Fab Five became sophomores, I liked Webber more. He was king of Ann Arbor for a period. He really seemed like he?d redefine the 4 position professionally, as if, within moments of his draft pick being announced, Karl Malone would run (or drive his semi-truck) to the nearest weight room and start bulking up for battle. Webber was everything that was right with college basketball: the attitude, the black high tops, black socks, the baggy shorts, the smiling towards Steve Fisher as if to say ?I got this on lock.? I loved him.

I loved them all, of course. But Webber had a special place in my heart, a place made more special when he committed his transcendent collegiate sin, the timeout against North Carolina. Some scorned him after this, and some basketball writers claim ? against their better judgment, no doubt ? that he was never the same after that happened. For me, it just made me feel sorry for him, and want to embrace him more (this attitude tempered a bit when he started sleeping with Tyra Banks).

As the Fab Five became NBA players, I stuck with Webber for a period, then I let my sympathies extend to Jimmy King. King, like Ray Jackson, eventually ended up in the CBA (the difference was, Jackson never played in the NBA). King won the 1998 CBA MVP Award, right around the time George Ackles (the one dude on those UNLV teams who never made it big) was winning the CBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest (or so I heard). I wanted King and Jackson to succeed in the CBA, and to a certain extent they did. This made me smile.

Despite how you see The Fab Five now ? and we?ll get to that in a second, because in a very circular way, it is the point here ? at one point, they dominated the pro game.

Ahmad Rashad once told us, ?Chris Webber has brought the life back to Sacramento!? Juwan Howard was once part of a trade that would make a casual fan think he was about to out-perform MJ. And Jalen Rose, despite toiling in obscurity for periods, always had numbers that made you think everyone else in your fantasy draft had forgotten about the Fab Five.

But now, long removed from the days of Arco Arena rocking to its core, Chris Webber agreed to a buyout with a Philadelphia 76ers team that theoretically never understood why it got him in the first place. He clashed with Iverson, then he loved Iverson, then he couldn?t hit the 12-foot jumper from the elbow, then Iverson fled town, and Webber looked every bit as clueless as he did calling that timeout? except nightly, and against professional-level players.

So the sad saga of Chris Webber, that I embraced 15 years ago for the first time, shall continue. Ironically, his position in the post in the City of Brotherly Love could be filled by Greg Oden, a Buckeye (how dare he!) operating in a similar system to ?The Fab Five? referred to as ?The Thad Five.? Another group of darling freshmen, from a Big 10 school, producing a No. 1 overall pick who spends most of his day banging down low? wow. Webber has been made expendable by himself. A taller, more-prone-to-roaring, can-play-with-his-less-dominant-hand version of himself.

So when Greg Oden, ensconced in Philadelphia, begins sleeping with America?s Next Top Model, cry for him a little less. And reserve those tears for Chris Webber, locked in the purgatory of Seattle or wherever his remarkable journey stops next. He needs the sympathy more.

 

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