From what I could tell, ESPN’s documentary on the Fab Five was well-received. The Detroit Free Press called it “brutally honest,” and, according to my Twitter timeline (which represents an extremely tiny cross-section of writers, bloggers, fans, and randos), a lot of people enjoyed it.
Jason Whitlock was not one of those people. According to the FOX Sports columnist, the legacy of the Fab Five is that they were on “the cutting edge of America’s unashamed embrace of style over substance,” and because of this, they’re the “original Charlie Sheen.”
And although he has a “strong affinity” for Fab Five members Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, and Ray Jackson, and a “great respect” for Chris Webber, the celebration of the ESPN documentary bothered him. According to Whitlock, the Fab Five are stealing some of the game-changing thunder from the John Thomspon/Patrick Ewing era 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.
Then there’s the Duke stuff. Rose (who is now an ESPN analyst) raised some eyebrows last week when he said that, as a seventeen-year-old, he believed black players for Duke were “Uncle Toms,” and that the Blue Devils recruited a certain type of player (the insinuation being that the Blue Devils only recruit “clean-cut” white players or black players from prominent families).
Whitlock disagreed, and thinks that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t recruit 4 out of the 5 famous Wolverine freshman (he did try to recruit Chris Webber) because they lacked maturity.
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.
If nothing else, Rose’s comments about Duke started a conversation. Many people have long felt that Duke recruits along certain lines of race and class – that perception may not be fair, but that perception exists nonetheless. But like any good conversation, there will be dissenting opinions. Jason Whitlock’s is one. Grant Hill’s will (likely) be another.
[Fab Five film fantasy, not documentary] Jason Whitlock