Michigan is playing for the national championship tonight. It’s been an incredible run through the tournament for the Wolverines, and every step of the way they’ve played in the shadow of the 1993 “Fab Five” team, which at the time was best known for two things: being a team of super-freshman that changed the culture of college sports, and losing the title game to North Carolina after Chris Webber tried calling a timeout that the team didn’t have. It’s an iconic sports moment that has been replayed ad nauseum ever since.
There’s a second act to the Fab Five story, however: the booster scandal that led to Webber’s 10-year ban from attending Michigan games, as well as the the university erasing all records and vacating all wins during Webber’s Michigan career. Webber became a scapegoat for the school, which even sought $695,000 in restitution after Webber admitted to lying to investigators.
Basically, it’s one big ugly story that happened a long time ago and is overshadowing the current success of the program.
Despite living in Atlanta, Webber will reportedly not be in attendance for tonight’s game. During an “emergency” Bill Simmons podcast, former teammate Jalen Rose discussed Webber’s motives for avoiding a Fab Five reunion. He cites the missed free throw, not the booster scandal, as the biggest reason for Webber’s absence:
Could Webber really still be haunted by one mistake — albeit one that cost him a title? The “I’m still mad at Michigan for throwing me under the bus” excuse doesn’t hold much water, as even Webber himself said that it was “time for reconciliation” and “enough is enough.” So that leaves Rose’s theory — the one where, despite having the (apparent) love and support of his former teammates, he just doesn’t want to relive the heartache in person. In fact, he might resent the current Wolverines if they win tonight — they’ll be accomplishing something that he could not.
If Rose is right, and Webber wants to “disassociate” himself from his Michigan days, this inability to move on might be the saddest consequence of all.