First off, I absolutely love ESPN’s 30 for 30 and thoroughly enjoyed their story on “The Fab Five”. 30 for 30 has given us some of the best journalism we’ve ever seen. But at this point, I hope we’ve seen the last of the glorification of the so-called Fab Five. Their accomplishments are admirable – playing in back-to-back National Championships – in a bygone and better era of college hoops when the best program’s starting line-ups were still dominated by upper classmen. The ‘Fab Five’, however, were a lot of bling with no rings.
Playing in back-to-back title games is wonderful; but they never won, rendering their story certainly less impressive than the 1989 Michigan squad that won the title with then-interim coach Steve Fischer after Bill Frieder was fired just before the tournament. Even more so, their story pales in comparison to the back-to-back titles won by the Christian Laettner-Bobby Hurley-Grant Hill Duke teams (more on Duke in a minute). No one, not one player on ‘Fab Five’ squad ever won a title beyond the high school level. Their most talented player Chris Webber failed to ever play in an NBA Finals with some pretty good teams (see 2001-02 Sacramento Kings). Count me amongst those that believe his infamous and panicked timeout call as time ran down on the ’93 Final was symptomatic of his lacking that genetic trait that defines champions.
Another point that’s necessary to address to the documentary, which was produced by Rose, is the need for college athletes, of any economic background, to understand the concept of delayed gratification (a lost notion in today’s instant everything world). Yes, the university and those connected to it, are making millions off your name. But someone, somewhere, needs to help these kids understand that if they just bide their time by trying to focus on an opportunity to get a free degree from a top university (an opportunity most from their communities will never have), if they would just focus on making lifelong influential business contacts through the boosters that their ticket will be written and a bright future laid out for them. I think Rose and Webber have done pretty well in life thanks in large part to a collegiate system they disdained.
Back to Duke – there’s been quite the stir on Jalen Rose’s “Uncle Tom” comment about the type of athlete Duke recruits. I would like someone to point out to Rose that there’s a reason that Coach K has run a program for 30 years without a hint of allegation, while Michigan’s Final Four banners from 1992 and 1993 are rolled up and locked up in a storage basement.