After playing 15 years in the NBA, Chris Webber is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021. Webber was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, and his most notable NBA seasons came in the early 2000s as a member of the Sacramento Kings. But Webber will always be best known for his days in college at the University of Michigan as part of the Fab Five. The Detroit native and the university had a serious falling out in 2003, but now Michigan’s current athletic director, Warde Manuel, told C-Webb he wishes he could apologize to the 18-year-old version of Webber for failing to “protect him” when he starred for the Wolverines.
As the 48-year-old heads into the Hall of Fame alongside Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, and Ben Wallace, Webber is finally publicly addressing his controversial college career.
The University of Michigan disassociated itself from Webber for 10 years
One of the most talented basketball players in Wolverines’ history was scratched from the school’s record books for a decade after pleading guilty to a criminal contempt charge. Webber admitted he repaid a former Michigan booster, Ed Martin, more than $38,000 after initially denying so to a grand jury. Martin was close with the Fab Five, including Webber, and he previously testified that he had given the forward and three other Michigan athletes more than $600,000 combined during their college careers.
Because of the guilty plea, the university disassociated itself from Webber, according to ESPN. Michigan essentially erased him from its existence, and he wasn’t allowed any contact with the university for a decade.
Webber said it was easier for everyone to come after him as opposed to his Fab Five teammates in an interview with ESPN:
“I was the lowest-hanging fruit. I had the biggest name. I knew that then.”Chris Webber on his role in the Ed Martin case
Webber was finally allowed back into the Michigan family but chose to keep his distance from the program
C-Webb’s other Fab Five teammates — Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson — were invited to the national championship game in 2013 when the Wolverines faced Louisville, but Webber remained sidelined, unable to attend.
He remained distant from the program for the next few years, even when he was no longer technically disassociated from the university.
Things have slowly begun to change, though, for the better. Webber showed up to a Michigan football game at the invitation of Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh. Webber and Rose went years without speaking, but the two finally caught up — publicly — when it was announced Webber was voted into the Hall of Fame.
The now-Hall of Famer and university have continued to mend ties. The latest development is a straightforward apology from Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel, who was at Michigan at the same time as the Fab Five. As Webber explained during that same ESPN interview:
“I was told by the athletic director at the University of Michigan that he was sorry. And he wasn’t even there at the time. He told me that he did his research and that he needs to apologize. His exact words, he needs ‘to apologize to the 18-year-old Chris Webber because we didn’t protect him.'”Chris Webber explains what Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel told him prior to his Hall of Fame induction
Even Howard, now the Wolverines head basketball coach, said the Fab Five will eventually reunite, someday. “It’s gonna come,” he said. “I can’t tell you when.”
Chris Webber can now add a spot in the Hall of Fame to his basketball resume
It’s been a long, slow process for both sides, but it appears Webber is softening to the university, and those in charge are doing what they can to help expedite the process. C-Webb hasn’t played for the Wolverines in almost 30 years and has been allowed back in the fold for more than eight.
Webber is one of the most important pieces in the history of Michigan basketball. He was the most famous member of one of the most popular and influential basketball teams of all time. Whatever went down between him and the university is slowly being fixed.
As he now enters the Hall of Fame, that part of his basketball career — the most significant part — is more important than ever.