In 1991, the University of Michigan men’s basketball program brought in one of the best college recruiting classes in recent memory.
Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and Chris Webber were dubbed the “Fab Five,” and together they propelled the college hoops game into the new millennium.
Their clothing and playing styles captured the imagination of the country as the group led Michigan to back-to-back NCAA championship game appearances.
Your Favorite Sacramento Kings Player of the last 20 years is Chris Webber!
Thank you all for voting and retweeting! pic.twitter.com/7KC3CoWIsu
— A Royal Pain (@ARoyalPain) April 5, 2020
After leaving college early, Webber was a first-round draft pick who eventually took a mediocre Sacramento Kings team to the top of the Pacific Conference.
“C-Webb” was a talented pro but could never deliver a title to any of his NBA teams.
He was later embroiled in a scandal that dated back to his Michigan days and resulted in the NCAA vacating the Wolverines’ 1992 and 1993 title runs along with Webber’s college stats.
He eventually reconciled with the school and made his living as a television analyst for NBA games before becoming a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
This is the story of Chris Webber.
Accidental Hoops Phenom
Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III was born on March 1, 1973, in Detroit, Michigan.
Chris Webber was born March 1, 1973 in Detroit. At Detroit Country Day, he won three state titles and Michigan Mr. Basketball in 1991. Webber was the centerpiece of the University of Michigan’s Fab Five teams in the early 90s. He was the No.1 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. pic.twitter.com/pN2mWmW9Wf
— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) March 1, 2020
Webber was one of five children of a father who worked at the local GM plant and a mother who was a special needs teacher.
Webber didn’t aspire to much as a young man and had to be coaxed into playing basketball by his father when he was in elementary school.
By then, he was growing past six feet and his coordination was clumsy at best.
Webber was teased by his new teammates because of his inability to run and play hoops at the same time.
Thankfully, a local coach saw potential in the young man and tutored him on the finer points of the game.
After a few years, Webber had taken to the game very well and was one of the bright stars of the Detroit school system.
As he was about to begin his freshman year, Webber’s parents enrolled him at Detroit Country Day High School, located in northern Detroit.
He initially protested but found himself part of a talented team.
On March 1, 1973 Chris Webber was born in Detroit, Michigan. Webber attended Detroit Country Day School and at the time was the most recruited Michigan high school basketball player since Magic Johnson. Webber led Detroit Country Day School to three MHSA… https://t.co/xI07WeOzlE pic.twitter.com/F5We44X2Xd
— Davenport Sports (@Davenport_SN) March 1, 2018
Webber’s coach, Kurt Keener, knew who his new player was and was extremely excited to watch him blossom.
“I still remember seeing him for the first time: They’re showing clips on this highlight show, and on the screen you see this 6-foot-5, gangly eighth-grader at a small Christian school. He had 19 dunks in that game. He’d just grab a board, dribble down the floor and dunk,” said Keener. “Usually, kids that size at his age are uncoordinated. But not Chris. He was at least a generation ahead in terms of the things he was able to do.”
3 Time Champs
During his time in high school, Webber became one of the best prep players in the nation.
The Country Day coaches challenged him repeatedly in practice by putting him with less talented players.
That encouraged Webber to improve his game by making those around him better.
His leadership and ball handling skills helped him lead the Yellowjackets to three state hoops titles.
Chris Webber was the No.1 player in the nation in 1991 out of Detroit Country Day, having led the Yellowjackets to three consecutive state titles, averaging 29 & 13 as a senior, was Mr. Basketball, a McDonald’s All-American & Michigan just couldn’t let him leave their backyard. pic.twitter.com/YKW9WUBo7a
— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) April 2, 2018
During Webber’s senior year, he averaged nearly 30 points per game along with 13 rebounds.
He was named the National High School Player of the Year as well as Michigan’s Mr. Basketball.
Webber was then invited to several showcase events and was named the MVP for the Dapper Dan and McDonald’s All-Star competitions.
Sorting through a mountain of college offers, Webber decided to stay close to home and play with a group of guys that promised to be world-beaters.
The Fab Five
In 1989, Michigan head coach Bill Frieder unexpectedly left the Wolverines program before the season ended to become the new coach at Arizona State.
That left assistant Steve Fisher to lead the team through the NCAA tournament.
Michigan rode the talent of Rumeal Robinson and Glen Rice through each round, ending in a tight 80-79 overtime win over Seton Hall in the National Championship game.
Two years later, the 1990-91 Wolverines were coming off a disappointing 14-15 regular season, and Fisher needed an influx of talent.
His first order of business was to get Juwan Howard, a fantastic player from nearby Chicago.
After he landed Howard, the dominoes fell into place.
Jimmy King of Plano, Texas saw that Michigan had signed Howard, and he couldn’t sign his own letter of intent to play for the Wolverines fast enough.
“Juwan made the first move,” King said. “When he signed, I said to myself, ”Let’s do this. This is pretty good!”
King’s signing prompted Ray Jackson of Austin, Texas to become the next member of Michigan’s team.
Jalen Rose also grew up in Detroit and met Webber while both were in middle school.
They had dreamed of playing together in college, and the Wolverines gave them that opportunity.
It helped that both Rose and Webber knew King and Howard and the thought of them all together was intoxicating.
(1991) Michigan: Fab Five. 🗣 pic.twitter.com/Yy8TLU59AF
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) May 22, 2019
After vacillating back and forth, both Webber and Rose signed with Michigan, making their incoming freshman class the toast of college basketball.
“Without Rose and Webber, Steve Fisher still has a good recruiting year,” said Mick McCabe, of the Detroit Free Press. “But if Webber had gone to Michigan State, people would have said Fisher had lost control of the state.”
Opposing basketball coaches from all over the country were in awe of Michigan’s talent, but even they did not realize just how good the newly dubbed “Fab Five” would be.
“Michigan’s freshman class alone has more good athletes than any team in the Big Ten,” said Minnesota’s Clem Haskins. “They’re not better players yet, because they’re freshmen. But they’re better athletes.”
However, basketball fans got their first glimpse of how ready the group was when they narrowly lost to top-ranked Duke in overtime in the fifth game of the 1991-92 season.
The Fab Five were viewed as the antithesis of Duke in the early 90’s.
In 'The Fab Five' 30-for-30, Jalen Rose said schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like him.
Rose on how Coach K’s recruiting philosophy has changed with today’s Duke teams.
— Andscape (@andscape) March 11, 2019
After the contest, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski shared his thoughts about Webber.
“Chris gives them a presence,” said Krzyzewski afterward. “Forget about asking if he’s one of the best freshmen [in the country]. He’s one of the best players. He’s beyond his years.”
Initially, the Fab Five didn’t play together at the same time in the first few games of the year.
That changed when Fischer realized he was wasting their talent.
“At a certain point, I looked at our players and all the ability they had and asked, ‘What am I waiting for here?’” recalled Fisher. “They just wanted to go out and win, and they were willing to put their egos aside to do it. And the same was true of Chris.”
Fischer distributed leadership duties consistently by rotating captains each game.
Michigan hit a rough patch from January through early March when the team dropped seven games.
The Wolverines then won their final three games to end the regular season ranked 15th in the country.
In 1991-92, Webber was second on the team in scoring with 528 points and averages of 15.5 points, 10 total rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and two assists.
He was also named team MVP for the year along with Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Without a doubt, the Fab Five could play ball, but they also had a flair for game-day fashion, sporting black socks and long, knee-length baggy shorts.
— Erkki Corpuz (@ewcorpuz) May 31, 2022
This was a change from the usual hip-hugging shorts players typically wore.
The fashion instantly changed the look of basketball players from the elementary level through the pros as more and more hoops players adopted the look.
During the 1992 NCAA tournament, the Wolverines marched through Temple, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Cincinnati before getting blown out by Duke 71-51 in the National Championship Game.
There were some in the media who didn’t believe the Fab Five could contend for a title again in 1992-93.
'Froback Friday! Michigan's Fab Five (Ray Jackson, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King). You know, back before "One and Done" and before there was money in the game. Back when it was pure. pic.twitter.com/zDloNiett7
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) April 27, 2018
After all, now that they were sophomores, teams would know how to prepare for them.
Michigan was foiled again by Duke in the season’s second game then only lost three more times before the NCAA tournament.
Webber was once again named team MVP while leading the program with 690 points and taking home consensus first-team All-American honors.
He averaged 19.2 points, 2.5 blocks, 2.5 assists, and 10 boards per game (those stats led the Big Ten Conference).
At the time, Michigan’s 31 wins were the most in team history.
Entering the tourney as the third-ranked team in the nation, Michigan reached the title game for the second year in a row where they faced the North Carolina Tar Heels.
This time, the Wolverines played up to the challenge. They had possession and were only down by two with time running out.
After a missed free throw attempt by UNC, Webber rebounded the attempt.
He then briefly paused to consider passing to Rose. He decided not to but still took a step without dribbling.
The travel was missed by the referees, but not by the Tar Heels’ bench who rose as one and jumped up and down in protest.
Webber then dribbled furiously to the corner of the floor nearest the Michigan bench before getting trapped by the North Carolina defense.
In a panic, he heard several of the Michigan bench players yell at him to call a timeout, and Webber did so.
The only problem was, the team had no timeouts left, resulting in a technical foul.
28 years ago today, Chris Webber called a timeout Michigan didn't have.
The Fab Five ended up losing the NCAA title to UNC.
— ESPN (@espn) April 5, 2021
That gave the ball back to the Tar Heels and effectively ended the game for Michigan.
“I started to dribble the ball,” Webber said. “I got to our end of the court, I picked up the dribble and called timeout. … If I’d known we didn’t have any timeouts … obviously, I didn’t know. Whether I heard voices doesn’t matter. I called timeout and that probably cost us the game.”
Rose later shared that Fischer had told the team that they had no timeouts remaining with 46 seconds left.
For the second year in a row, the Fab Five and Michigan lost in the championship game, 77-71 to UNC.
“It takes 40 minutes to lose a ball game, not one play,” Rose said later. “Without Chris, we wouldn’t be here. He’s a great player and great players do things by instinct. He could have made the shot to win it.”
Webber Jumps to the Pros
Webber still had two more years of collegiate eligibility, and he planned to return in 1993.
“After I called the timeout, I definitely was coming back for one more year and I was encouraged by my boys not to. Like, ‘What are you doing? Get out of your head. You’re cool. We’ve accomplished that,’” reminisced Webber in 2021.
Ultimately, Webber decided that he had proved himself and announced that he was entering the 1993 NBA Draft.
The Orlando Magic then selected him first overall, making Webber the first sophomore selected at the top spot since Magic Johnson in 1979.
Chris Webber Orlando Magic pic.twitter.com/PHyAAUfpiK
— Sports Sightings (@SportsSightings) November 28, 2022
Webber was excited at the prospect of playing with Shaquille O’Neal who had been drafted by the Magic the previous year.
“All I wanted to do is play my position,” Webber said in 2022. “I told him [Shaq] back then that I’m gonna average a triple-double. I said, they gonna give it to me at the free-throw line, I’m gonna drive and throw that b***h up each time.”
Little did Webber know that Shaq had already angled for another player to be drafted by the organization.
During the 1993 filming of the movie Blue Chips, in which O’Neal had a major role, he played alongside college phenom Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, another actor in the film.
O’Neal enjoyed his time with Hardaway so much that he begged Orlando management to draft him in ‘93.
The Golden State Warriors selected Hardaway and then made a deal with the Magic to swap Webber and Penny.
Top NBA Draft moments: In 1993, the Magic made Chris Webber the No. 1 overall pick. Minutes later, he was traded to Golden State for the Warriors No. 3 overall selection, Penny Hardaway. pic.twitter.com/yhtXblL92I
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 21, 2018
Just like that, Webber was headed to California to play for coach Don Nelson and Golden State.
Rookie of the Year
Nelson had always been a coach who marched to the beat of his own drum.
During his career, “Nellie” preferred small and fast lineups and tinkered with players at different positions.
When Webber arrived, Nelson moved him to center even though Webber was a very good power forward.
During his rookie year, Webber averaged 17.5 points, two blocks, nine rebounds, and nearly five assists per game.
He was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and selected for the NBA All-Rookie First-Team.
Did you know:
May 3, 1994
Golden State's Chris Webber, who became the first rookie in NBA history to total over 1,000 points (1,333), 500 rebounds (694), 250 assists (272), 150 blocks (164) and 75 steals (93), was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. pic.twitter.com/IV7ynEgAGO
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 3, 2020
The Warriors improved from 34 wins to 50 wins and had a First Round loss to Phoenix in three games.
Unfortunately, by the end of the season, there was a noticeable rift between Nellie and Webber.
Webber hated playing center and wanted to be moved back to his forward position.
Golden State brought in former Miami Heat center Rony Seikaly so that Webber could play his preferred position, but the damage had already been done.
Webber had a one-year escape clause in his contract and used it as a threat.
Finally, the Warriors relented and traded Webber to the Washington Bullets in exchange for Tom Gugliotta.
“This is not a happy day for us,” said Nelson. “This is not the way we anticipated the Chris Webber situation. We were building a championship team and Chris Webber was a part of that, but circumstances didn’t turn out that way.”
Reunited with Howard
Webber couldn’t believe his good fortune.
In the 1994 NBA Draft, the Bullets selected Juwan Howard, reuniting the former Wolverines.
Howard and Webber joined a roster that included Rex Chapman, Calbert Cheaney, Kevin Duckworth, Don McLean, Gheorghe Muresan, and Scott Skiles.
For the next four years, Webber averaged more than 20 points per game as Washington slowly improved.
— FOX Sports Radio1340 (@1340AMFOXSports) February 18, 2017
The franchise won 21, 39, and 44 games between 1994-95 and the 1996-97 seasons.
During ‘96-’97, Webber averaged 20 points and 10 boards per game and was selected for his first All-Star game.
Washington’s 44 wins were enough to get the team to the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade, although they were swept by the Chicago Bulls in three games during the First Round.
In 1997-98, the newly renamed Wizards won 42 games but failed to make the playoffs.
Webber had become one of the game’s best forwards and averaged 21 points and seven boards that year.
Trade to Sacramento
Before the NBA adjourned for summer break in 1998, Washington traded Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Otis Thorpe and Mitch Richmond.
The thought of playing for the lowly Kings upset Webber, and he let Kings coach Rick Adelman know his feelings.
“When I got there, one of the first conversations that I had was with [then-Kings coach] Rick Adelman and it was before a practice — he understood that I didn’t want to be there,” Webber said in 2022. “I made it very clear because I thought that a trade could happen in between, and I thought that it was going to be to the Lakers.”
The Lakers never called, and Webber began to realize that he might be stuck at a place that had seen the postseason only once in the previous decade.
“So, it didn’t happen and I remember coach just bringing me into his office and he disarmed me. I mean, I was a King after our first practice because he said to me, ‘I understand, I don’t care about what happens before or after. You’ve got a clean slate here, and we really, really want you,’” continued Webber.
It was at that first practice that Webber realized Sacramento might not be as bad as he thought.
A young team with veteran experience, the Kings consisted of Chris Webber, Jason Williams, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojaković, Nick Anderson and Corliss Williamson. They would try to shock the world in the first round. pic.twitter.com/Jbyi2d7IMK
— Tupac (@TupacAG) March 17, 2022
In addition to bringing in Webber, the Kings also traded for Vlade Divac, drafted guard Jason Williams, and brought in forward Peja Stojakovic from overseas.
The team would also sign vets Vernon Maxwell, Corliss Williamson, Jon Barry, and Scot Pollard during the year.
Adelman worked diligently to assemble the right lineup for his team, and the results were positive.
“One practice,” Webber said. “I looked around and said this is going to be nice. Because we’re playing like nobody else was playing. You could see it that first practice what (we) wanted to do. And it felt like home, man.”
C-Webb and the Kings Start Winning
Almost immediately, the Kings began to jell.
The team won 27 games during the lockout-shortened 1998 season and lost to the Utah Jazz in five games during the First Round.
C-Webb pulled in a league-best 13 rebounds per game along with 20 points and four assists per contest.
He was named to the All-NBA Second Team after the year.
Then, for the next three seasons, Webber was an All-Star as the Kings continued to appear in the postseason.
In 2001-2002, the franchise won 61 games for the first time in team history and defeated the Jazz and Mavericks in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Chris Webber's stint in Sacramento will never be forgotten by the whole Kings Nation 👏👑 pic.twitter.com/ZaoHyfbTSE
— Kings Nation (@KingsNationCP) September 9, 2021
Webber averaged 24 points and 10 boards, and the city of Sacramento was filled with Kings fever.
“The purity of the game came back for him in Sacramento,” former teammate Doug Christie said. “He was around players he respected and liked. We were brothers, had fun, played hard. It was basketball nirvana.”
In the Conference Finals, the Kings took the mighty LA Lakers to seven games before losing.
The deciding seventh game went into overtime as Webber poured in 20 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists.
It wouldn’t be enough as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant helped LA advance 112-106.
Scandal Tarnishes Webber’s Legacy
At the same time that Webber and Sacramento were experiencing a resurgence, Webber’s legacy took a huge blow.
In 2002, he was linked to Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin.
Martin was being investigated for a gambling operation that extended to the Wolverines basketball program.
During the grand jury trial into Martin’s financial dealings, it was revealed that Martin had been giving money to Webber since he was in middle school.
Webber tried to cover up and deny his involvement with Martin, but the facts couldn’t be hidden.
Eventually, Webber pled guilty to one count of criminal contempt for lying about his involvement with Martin.
The repercussions affected the Michigan program as it was forced to remove the banners in Crisler arena for the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours.
Even worse, the NCAA vacated the Wolverines’ 1992-93 season completely, and Webber’s records with the team were expunged.
— Steve Anderson (@dfpSteve) May 10, 2013
Furthermore, the NCAA forced Michigan not to have any contact with Webber until 2013.
He also lost contact with Rose, who was upset with Webber for his role in the Wolverines’ vacated season.
After the ruling, the NBA suspended Webber for eight games that included three for lying to the grand jury, although the penalty wasn’t enforced until the 2003-04 season.
Back to Reality
In 2002-03, Webber averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds and was voted to his fifth All-Star team as Sacramento won 59 games but lost to Dallas in the Conference Semifinals.
During the Mavericks series, Webber sustained a serious knee injury that was initially believed to be career-ending.
After missing most of the 2003-04 season because of the injury, Webber returned just in time to help the Kings reach the playoffs.
Just like the year before, Sacramento was eliminated in the Conference Semifinals, this time by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Trade to Philly
Webber was still with Sacramento in 2004-05 before getting packaged with a number of players and being sent to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline.
Leaving Sacramento was difficult as Webber had come to love the town he once loathed.
“By the end of his time there, I don’t think anyone loved [Sacramento] more than Chris,” former teammate Jon Barry said in 2021.
The intent in Philly’s trade for Webber was to pair him with their talented guard, Allen Iverson, and get the team to a championship.
“They’re going to probably win the Atlantic now,” said then Cleveland star LeBron James of the Sixers adding that the Webber trade is “going to make them one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. I know Iverson is very happy about it. I’m going to call him and tell him he got an early Christmas present.”
After getting acclimated to his new surroundings, Webber averaged 15 points and eight rebounds to help Iverson and the 76ers reach the First Round of the playoffs where they lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games.
— Best in the 🌎 (@BITWsports) May 17, 2021
The following year, C-Webb played well, averaging 20 points and 10 boards.
However, the 76ers won only 38 games and missed the postseason.
Webber Returns to Detroit
After playing in Philly for 18 games in 2006-07, the Sixers waived Webber, and he was signed by his hometown Detroit Pistons.
Just a few years before, the Pistons had played in back-to-back NBA Finals, winning it all in 2004.
The team was still talented as evidenced by their 2006 run to the Conference Finals.
With Webber now a Piston, Detroit ended the regular season with 53 wins and a trip back to the Conference Finals to face James and his Cavaliers.
people are making a big deal about Ben Wallace getting inducted to the HoF—and rightfully so—but let’s give it up for Pistons legend Chris Webber, too! pic.twitter.com/iN7zjBdrkW
— Ryan Mathews (@Ryan_POD) May 16, 2021
During the postseason, Webber played limited minutes but still did well enough to average 20 points and seven rebounds.
Ultimately, the Pistons lost to Cleveland in six games, and after the series, Detroit chose not to re-sign Webber for 2007.
Back to Where It All Began
Webber remained unsigned for the first part of the 2007-08 season.
Then, in late January of 2008, Golden State reached out and brought him in for the rest of the year.
Not only was Webber reunited with the team he first played for, but he also reunited with Don Nelson, who had returned to the franchise in 2006.
Chris Webber did play with Golden State for a year… pic.twitter.com/c9VEGFeEIT
— JS3 (@JuniousSmithIII) June 14, 2019
With his skills diminishing due to his old knee injury, C-Webb played in only a handful of games with the Warriors.
When the season ended, he retired.
During his career, Webber averaged 20.7 points, 4.2 assists, and 9.8 rebounds.
He was a five-time All-Star and All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Second-Team three times, All-NBA Third Team once, NBA rebounding leader once, and Rookie of the Year.
His number 4 jersey has since been retired by Sacramento.
Not long after leaving the game as a player, Webber joined NBA TV and TNT Network as an analyst for NBA games.
Webber has also been busy in the charity and business worlds since his retirement, dabbling as a restaurant owner and music producer.
After his falling out with the University of Michigan, Webber has since reconciled with the school and repaired his strained relationship with Rose.
In 2021, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Webber at long last.
Webber married his girlfriend, Erika Dates, in 2009, and the couple gave birth to twins in 2017.
Chris Webber’s Social Equity Impact Ventures has been chosen to manage New York’s $200M Social Equity Investment Fund.
Last year, the Hall of Famer broke ground on a 180,000-sq-ft, $50M cannabis compound in Detroit, which includes a cultivation facility and dispensary. pic.twitter.com/3YsdfpNWnd
— Boardroom (@boardroom) June 24, 2022
He now tends to his farm near Atlanta and his Players Only cannabis brand that he founded in 2015 in Detroit.
“…Staying at home with the family, getting on a tractor, cutting some grass and catching some fish, that’s what I do right now,” said Webber in 2022.