The fall of 2007 marked the 15 year anniversary of The Fab Five's arrival on University of Michigan's campus. So Jalen Rose bought a billboard an hour away from Ann Arbor in Detroit, at 7 Mile and South Lodge near the childhood homes of himself and UM teammate Chris Webber. And this caused a stir.
For those of you who lived in a cave during the early 90s, I think it's very safe to say that The Fab Five (aka Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson- yes I can name them all) brought college basketball into the era in which we currently reside. Not only was Michigan the first team to start five freshman (who also happened to be African American), but these guys were the ones that (thank god) rejected Daisy Dukes on athletes and originated the baggy shorts we've all come to know and love, they rocked black socks and black basketball shoes, they warmed up to rap music, (if this is sounding familiar it's because almost every college basketball team now does this).
As chronicled in one of my favorite books, Mitch Albom's Fab Five, the team ruffled feathers (upperclassmen teammates, alumni donors, the press, etc.) - but they brought game, which generally shuts critics up. In their freshman and sophomore season (before Chris Webber went pro), the team made it to the NCAA Tournment Championship game. Ok, ok they lost I know - but it was truly an electric time to be a Michigan basketball fan and/or live in Ann Arbor. You really couldn't take your eyes off these guys and their attitudes, their street-style of play, their trash talk, and again their shorts - which it's worth nothing UM made a small fortune selling to a nationwide fan base.
Of course the final chapter in this saga is the booster scandal that followed in which it was revealed that as a player at UM, Chris Webber received money and gifts from a Detroit area man who was loosely affiliated with the program. The Championship banners came down, Steve Fisher was effectively fired, UM was penalized, the Fab Five was literally erased from the books of the Michigan basketball program, and Chris Webber is persona non grata in Chrysler Arena.
But, to be horribly melodramatic, I would argue that the Fab Five were not erased from the hearts and minds of fans (especially with the embarassing 10 years the program has had since.) While some die hards might still have their panties in a bunch over the Fab Five booster scandal, Jalen Rose points out, "I see what (former Ohio State running back) Maurice Clarett was going through, and they didn't take their (championship) banner down. I see (former USC running back) Reggie Bush and what he's going through. And I see what (former UCLA basketball coach) Jim Harrick goes through, and I notice it's original and unique how our situation is handled." Right on.
These guys deserve to have a place in Michigan history, and I think it's sad that all that can be is a billboard in Detroit.