It was two decades ago this March that Michigan’s Fab Five recruiting class — consisting of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — reached its second consecutive NCAA title game. That team’s impact on college basketball went beyond wins and losses. It shaped a new culture, style of play and set of aesthetics still seen on the court today.
It’s not just the upcoming 20th anniversary of that ’93 Final Four team that’s recently brought memories of the Fab Five to the forefront of college basketball’s collective consciousness.
This year’s Wolverines team, currently ranked No. 4 with a 23–4 record, is widely regarded as the school’s best since the Fab Five Era and has predictably drawn comparisons between the two. And in May, an NCAA-imposed dissociation between the program and Webber — one of the sanctions stemming from the Michigan basketball booster scandal — will be lifted after 10 years.
With all of this in mind, Lost Lettermen managing editor Chris Mahr spoke with King — now the Vice President of Business Development for Schechter Wealth Strategies in Birmingham, MI — about his relationship with his Fab Five brothers, their plans in the event that Michigan makes a Final Four run and what their alma mater has in store to honor them.
Lost Lettermen: How often do you speak with the other Fab Five members?
Jimmy King: Often. We’ve been having even more conversations in advance of May 7 [when Webber’s ban is lifted]. And the relevancy of Michigan basketball again, being a Top 5 program, is obviously more reason for everyone to rehash and talk about the last time this program was in this position.
LL: When did you last spend time with Chris Webber?
JK: I spent a little time with him down at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston this year. [Webber is an NBA analyst for TNT.]
LL: Do your conversations ever turn to the fallout from the Ed Martin scandal and the ensuing sanctions?
JK: Personally for Chris and me over these years, we’ve never even really discussed any of that. When we come together, he asks about my kids and family and I do the same thing with him. When May 7 comes [the ban] will be more in the discussion, but at this point there hasn’t been much.
LL: What do you expect Webber to say or do in advance of or on May 7 [Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has said Webber must apologize before the university will reconnect with him]?
JK: When the ban is lifted I think Chris will address it the way he feels that he needs to. He has always said he loves Michigan and bleeds blue.
LL: Much has been made of a supposed tiff between Webber and Jalen Rose. What’s the current state of their relationship?
JK: Even with Chris and Jalen, we’re all brothers. Whether or not there’s a tiff between them now, I don’t expect that to last forever or worsen. Love conquers all, and I know that we all love each other. That will override any issues that may be between us.
LL: Do you have anything special in mind if the Wolverines make a run deep into March?
JK: I do. One of the managing directors for my firm and I are planning on going to the Big Ten Tournament. We definitely have the flexibility to go out and travel if we need to.
LL: What are the chances that your Fab Five brothers would join you to cheer on Michigan in person?
JK: Just to get us all there, with all the commitments we have personally … If they line up, that’d be great. We just have to see how our schedules match up because Chris and Jalen are in the media. Even if it was just two or three of us, it’d still be great.
LL: It seems too good to be true that this year’s Final Four is in Atlanta, where Webber lives and works. Would you expect to see him at the Georgia Dome if Michigan makes it?
JK: It does seem like the stars are aligning. But I can’t speak for him in that regard. That’s a question he’d have to answer himself.
LL: Are there any plans in the works for Michigan to bring the Fab Five in its entirety back to campus and honor its accomplishments?
JK: I’ve discussed the possibility with [Dave] Brandon before. We’re both excited about the future, and I don’t know what we’ll do but I know that something will be done.
LL: How long has Brandon had it in his mind to honor the Fab Five?
JK: Since the day he walked through the door. [Brandon was hired in January 2010.] He’s been gracious enough to meet with me multiple times over the years at various venues and events. He’s a former student athlete himself [Brandon was a QB/DL for the Wolverines in the early 1970s], so he knows the dynamic of the relationship between student athletes and the university. He knows better than anyone how much we love the university and definitely gets it.
I’m looking forward to the day where we really sit down and hash out a way to roll this out and become a formal part of the tradition and the celebration of greatness that Michigan prides itself on.
LL: For you and the other members of the Fab Five, what would represent the ideal in terms of how Michigan would pay tribute to you?
JK: I can think of a number of ways for that to go down. If I can have it my way, it would be the day the [Final Four] banners go back up — whether they’re the originals or something with a different look to them — with all five of us standing there underneath them.
And not just the five of us but the whole ’92–‘93 team as well, similar to the celebration for the ’89 team [in January 2009]. That would be something I would love to see and be a part of.