Chris Webber officially retired from the NBA yesterday. Like many Michigan fans, I have conflicting emotions when it comes to Webber.
On the one hand, he was the leader of a great collection of talented freshmen at Michigan that led the Wolverines to two consecutive final four appearances. He was a strong, powerful inside presence, he had a deft touch on mid-range jumpers, and he was a great passer and ball handler for a big man. His years at Michigan were arguably the most exciting in Michigan basketball history. My wife's introduction to Michigan basketball was the fab five era. After leaving U of M, he was the first pick in the draft. He was rookie of the year. He was a five-time all-star. He averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game - only the fifth player ever to accomplish that (the other four are in the hall-of-fame). Showing he has a sense of humor about his past mistakes, Webber created "The Timeout Foundation," which provides educational opportunities for youngsters. He also has an extensive collection of African American artifacts that has been featured in several museums. By all accounts, he's a good guy.
On the other hand, he seemed to be the epitome of unfulfilled potential. With Michigan down by two at the end of the 1993 National Championship game against UNC, he took the inbounds pass and traveled. When that wasn't called, he proceeded to dribble down court and call a timeout when the team did not have one, resulting in a technical foul and sealing the game for the Tar Heels. After turning pro, he squabbled with his first head coach Don Nelson, which led to him being traded after his first season. Like he did at Michigan, he made his NBA teams very good, but was unable to lead any of them to a championship. His last few years, he has been reduced to a shell of his former self due to several knee injuries.
Of course, there is also the minor matter of "The Ed Martin Scandal." Webber eventually admitted to accepting lots of money from Martin during (and before) his years at Michigan, which resulted in the Wolverines forfeiting lots of games, the deletion of Webber's records from the record books, and removing the two final four banners from the rafters of Crisler Arena. In addition, he is banned from involvement with the Michigan program until 2012. His legacy at Michigan could have been one of greatness and brilliance. Instead, it's one of cheating, horrible decision-making, and unfulfilled promise. In Ann Arbor, it's like he never existed. It's like institutional denial: "It never happened."
The bottom line is, many Michigan fans have great memories of the "Fab Five" years. At the time, it was incredible. Exciting basketball, lots of wins, an all-freshman starting-five, and great team players. However, those same fans feel like Webber betrayed them and their memories are forever tainted by his involvement with Ed Martin. While Webber is certainly to blame for his involvement, the coaching staff allegedly was aware of Ed Martin's shenanigans and turned a blind eye to it because of Webber's talent. The blame for all this, in order, falls on Webber, Martin, and the Michigan Athletic Dept.
I was trying to think of an analogy that makes sense. Maybe it's like a great love affair. It was great for a short time, and even a few years later you look back and think about how great it was - the sex melted your face, you were excited every time you saw her, and it was one of the happiest times of your life. But then, ten years later, you found out that she was screwing four other guys at the same time (your friends knew about it at the time and didn't tell you), and you just feel dirty. Then, when you see her five years after that, you're kinda happy that she looks like a crack-whore, and is living in a trailer with a meth-dealer in east Texas.
Edited to add: Chris Webber rapping. One more reason to dislike him.
Edited again: Apparently, the video has been taken down. Double turds!