It’s almost 20 years to the day since Chris Webber’s infamous timeout call cost Michigan a chance to win the 1993 NCAA basketball national championship.
Up to that point, Webber had provided Michigan fans with an almost endless supply of fond memories.
It started with Webber choosing U-M over a number of suitors in one of the fiercest recruiting battles in memory. It continued as he and four fellow freshmen took the college basketball world by storm.
There were the rim-rattling slam dunks, the behind-the-back passes, the dancing, the trash talking, the bald heads, the baggy shorts, the black socks, the lopsided grin that said, “I’m better than anyone else out here, and I know it.”
Oh, there were some low points for Webber during his U-M days, most notably his profanity-laced tirade after the ’92 championship game loss to Duke.
But for the most part, Michigan fans will remember Webber’s days in the Michigan maize and blue with fondness.
That all came to a crashing end with the timeout call.
After that, Webber began to disassociate himself with the school. He left Michigan and declared for the NBA draft, where he was chosen by the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 pick, only to be dealt to the Golden State Warriors, where he immediately began to clash with coach Don Nelson.
A few years later, more information began to come out about the role Webber played in the whole Ed Martin debacle. Webber wasn’t the only Michigan basketball player to take money from Martin, but he was the most famous, and to this day, he remains banned from any association with Michigan because of that scandal.
Because of Webber’s indiscretions, Michigan basketball sank to the lowest of lows. The program missed out on the NCAA Tournament every year 1999 through 2008. Three of the schools NCAA Tourney appearances, including the two Final Four appearances with Webber, have been wiped from the record books because of NCAA sanctions.
Now Michigan is back. The resurrection started under Tommy Amaker and has continued under John Beilein. The Wolverines are once again attracting top-notch talent to Ann Arbor. They’re once again contending for Big Ten titles and making runs into the NCAA tournament.
And now, with the Wolverines on the verge of their first national championship since 1989, I’m hearing pleas for Chris Webber to show up to show up at tonight’s title game.
I understand that Webber was a polarizing figure during his days at U-M. Heck, I was in high school when Webber was at Michigan, and he was my favorite player. How could he not be?
But I’ve gotten over it. I don’t need Chris Webber at tonight’s game, and I don’t think the current team needs him there, either. They’ve done just fine without him.
I’m thrilled that the other members of the Fab Five — the most iconic team in college basketball history — will be there. Give me Jaen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
But Chris Webber? The man who’s never been man enough to admit what he did was wrong and apologize for the actions he took that led to the downfall of the Michigan basketball program?
He can stay away, for all I care.