So let’s talk about this…

There’s tons of anticipation for ESPN’s Fab 5 documentary on Sunday night, airing right after ESPN’s March Madness selection special.  And rightfully so – perfectly timed, great concept, unforgettable team, and supremely relevant to a particular cultural subset.  And I’m talking hoop heads, not just black men now aged 30-54.

People are going crazy over this show.  They can’t wait, it’s their favorite team ever, great NBA talent, changed the culture of basketball, something for them to identify with, all that.  And I get that, I really do.  That Michigan team was the coolest, dripping with swag before swag was in fashion, from the long shorts to the black socks and shoes to the shaved heads.  But my friends lose me when they say that the Fab 5 team was great, because that’s bullshit.

So this must be said clearly – that Michigan Fab 5 team is one of the most overrated College Basketball teams of ALL-TIME. Truth.

Consider the following…

They never won a title, and they never even won a CONFERENCE TITLE.  Are you kidding me?  How can they be an all-time great team without winning their own damn league?

Let’s start with Year 1, the 1991-1992 season.  They were a good young team, a bunch of young kids that didn’t know any better, even took defending champ Duke to OT early in the season.  They played well in Conference, finishing tied for third, but certainly not the mark of a great team.  In the tournament, they went on a nice run to the Championship Game, beat some good teams along the way…not the first time that’s ever happened.  In the championship, they were ultimately routed by a TRULY GREAT team, that same back-to-back Duke team led by Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley.  Good team, nice run, memorable season, all that…but extremely far from a great team.

Let’s move on to Year 2, the 1992-1993 season.  Great regular season, 31-5, but again didn’t win their conference.  I’m sorry folks, all-time great teams win their conference, that’s the sign of greatness.  But they were still a 1 seed, clearly a good regular season…but let’s not crown their ass just yet.  In the tourney, they beat some shitty teams to make the Final 4 (16, 9, 12, 7).  In the Final Four, they manned up and came back to beat Kentucky (without a fouled-out Jamal Mashburn)….but a great win nonetheless.  From there, we know they lost to UNC in a close one.

Let’s dive into that UNC loss for a second.  Everyone points to the Chris Webber timeout call when they were down two points, but let’s remember, HE TRAVELED BEFORE HE EVER CALLED TIMEOUT.  The game should’ve been iced right there, the timeout doesn’t really matter.  Additionally, Michigan was up 4 with 4 minutes to go.  Now wait a second – you’re telling me that an all-time great team couldn’t close out that game, and then made a mental mistake in their last attempt to tie things up?  Please folks, that’s not a great team…great teams win close games.

Culturally relevant – YES – without a doubt.

Great team?  Come on son.

And I’m not even diving into the fact that, as far as the record books go, this team never existed.  Webber took money, so they were ineligible.  I would’ve done the same thing as Webber, so I’m not going high brow on you here, but facts are facts.  From here, I’m moving on, as you have to agree with me at this point.

But let me leave you with this – who actually deserves the documentary?  The never-existed team that was more sizzle than steak?  Or the back-to-back Duke team that beat the two most “culturally relevant” teams of the era – the Michigan Fab 5 and the previously “unbeatable” UNLV Runnin’ Rebels?

I’m all for cool stories, and I’m fired up to watch the Fab 5 story, it looks great.  But I’m anxious to see if ESPN lets the facts get in the way of a good story.  And it’s an indisputable FACT that the Fab 5 wasn’t that good.

  • even tho the fab 5 never won a title… christian laetner is a date-raping aryan shit eater

    eff duke forever. and ever. and ever.

  • UCONNHuskies

    Ok seriously I hear that conference title argument all the time.. Its dumb.. Just for the mere fact that I can name a plethora of conference champs who have never even played in the National Title game. Let alone back to back years.. The reason why they are considered a great team is due to the fact that they were a team(starting five) of true freshmen who made it all the way to the national title game and then did it again as sophomores.. That never happened before them and really has not happened since them.. Yes they did not win the title but what they did is still something to acknowledge.. Also, there is a UNLV documentary coming on HBO March 12th.. The day before the Fab 5 doc. That Duke team has always received the recognition it deserved and continues to be talked about today.. However, truly great reporting is telling the story of both teams not just who deserves it more.. Also, this documentary is produced by a member of the Fab Five and it gives them a chance to voice their side of everything that has been associated with that team..

  • UCONNHuskies

    Also, next time when you make the conference title comment.. Remember they beat the conference champs (Ohio State) to get to their first final four…

    • Cade

      Yeah, after OSU routed them twice in regular season…its hard to beat a team 3 times in a year.

      • dwright

        But the difference is that those first two regular season games don’t mean anything once the regular season is over, the 3rd game does. Your argument makes NO sense.

    • BruinsFan

      I also agree that the Michigan Fab Five was very overrated. Yes, they beat Ohio State in the Elite 8 in 1992, but they did not win the big game, the championship game. In fact, Chris Webber has never won the big game in his entire career including the NBA. Also, don’t forget, the Fab Five lost 3 out of 4 matches with the Indiana Hoosiers. I would actually say that the 1989 Michigan Wolverines team with Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught, Shaun Higgins, and Terry Mills was a better team.

      Being a UCLA Bruins fan, I happen to remember UCLA pushing the Fab Five to the limit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1993. By the way, I do like Jalen Rose, and he is my favorite member of the Fab Five. I just think that the team was overrated.

  • Justin

    Exactly has FRESHMAN they beat Ohio st has FRESHMAN they changed college hoops forever they went back to back n lost to 2 of the most historic college bball teams ever as FRESHMAN N SOPHOMORES. U r jus a hater

  • DH

    I’m sorry. But you’re just stupid. They were a great team. They may have not won their conference, but who gives a shit? If you’re a lock for the tournament, why even try in the Conference tournament, you’re just wasting energy. They won 10 Tournament games those 2 years and lost 2, to Duke and UNC, great, experienced teams. And the Documentary should be about them. It’s only part about the basketball. It’s also the scandal an the cultural movement. Get this shit right. The Fab Five were a very good, captivating team for those two years.

  • iminurbase

    I think you’ve confused the words overrated and over-hyped. Michigan was a GREAT team, nobody is saying they were one of the best of all-time. The point was that as freshman and sophomores they were one of the best in the country. Who knows how good they good have been as seniors, like your beloved Dukies? The fact that you even bring up the scandal as part of an argument about the quality of the team is sad. Is John Lawrence a pen name for Bobby Hurley?

  • Marc

    They were vastly overrated. Duke beat them three times and demolished them in the National title game. North Carolina was AHEAD when Webber travelled and then called the phantom time-out. He panicked because the Tar Heels MADE him panic. They then showed what quitters they were when, instead of coming back and trying to win the championship as Juniors, gave up and headed to the NBA (well, some of them, anyway) where they had what were mediocre careers for the most part.

    The way they describe their feelings for the Duke players shows them to be a bunch of classless, bitter punks who cannot come to grips with the fact that they had their collective asses handed to them by a far superior group of players. To describe some of the Blue Devils as “bitches” makes them appear as a bunch of prison thugs with a new inmate to prey upon. What a bunch of LOSERS!

    Another thing. Those who say that Duke and North Carolina are nothing programs have only to look at who the last two National Champions are. Last I looked, UNC had 6 National Championships to their credit and Duke had 4. How many does U of M have?

    One final bit of salt for the open wound that is Michigan basketball. As a state, North Carolina has more NCAA men’s basketball championships than any other, save one. UNC has 5 (thier sixth was won before the NCAA existed), Duke has 4 and North Carolina State has 2. Thats 11 National Championships. Only one state, California, has more.

    And, yes, I am indeed from the Tar Heel state. We know basketball here. We rule the college basketball world. North Carolina Tar Heels: 2009 National Champions. Duke Blue Devils: 2010 National Champions. It never gets old.

    • iminurbase

      Leaving college to the be the number one pick in the draft and have a HoF career… must be a quitter. Let’s not talk about Duke and mediocre NBA careers in the same sentence. Grant Hill is the one exception.

      In the doc Jalen said he had a lot of respect for that Duke team, even though he hated them as individuals at the time. Maybe you should have the same kind of respect for the Fab Five?

      • Marc

        I have no respect for grown men who refer to members of the Duke team as “bitches”. None of them apologized for what they said. And two of them had those sickening grins on their faces when they said it. These are not the college age “Fab Five” of many years ago. These are the grown men of 2011 who said that Laettner was a “bitch”. It is chilling to see the looks on their faces when they say it. I urge you to go back and watch that footage again. Take a good look at them when they say it. I think a behavior specialist or a psychiatrist would have a field day analyzing their facial expressions as they talk about a couple of the Duke players.
        As far as any of these guys from the “Fab Five” having a HOF career, which one would you be speaking of? None of them seemed to stand out to me.
        However, it is important to recall that the documentary was about their COLLEGIATE careers, not their years spent in the NBA. Street & Smith in December of 2003 released a magazine in which they rated the 100 Greatest College Basketball Players of all time. Christian Laettner finished no. 17 on the list. In addition to Laettner, Duke teammates Grant Hill (no. 70) and Bobby Hurley (no. 61) also made the list. People from Duke teams of other eras also made the list but I will exclude them since they were not members of the Duke teams that played the “Fab Five”. The only player from the “Fab Five” who made the list was Chris Webber and he came in at no. 76. So, if you go by their COLLEGE careers, as the documentary does, it seems clear as to which team produced the better players. Laettner won 2 National Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal. Not bad for a “bitch”.
        When you or anyone else can get the thugs from that Michigan team to apologize for what they said about the Duke players, perhaps I will be able to muster some respect for them. And even if Rose did back down from some of his comments, the others did not.
        I still think it boils down to the fact that they hate Duke and to a lesser extent, UNC because those two teams defeated U of M in those title games. Plus, Duke beat them two other times as well. Michigan WANTED to be the rock stars of men’s collegiate basketball but it was Duke that rightfully had the claim to that title.
        And to those who say, well if thats so, why didn’t ESPN do a documentary about the Blue Devils of that era? My answer to that is simple and to the point. Did the documentary paint Michigan in a flattering light? Or did it point out how bratty they were and how thuggish they were (and still are)? And how they broke the rules and left the Michigan program in a state of disgrace from which it is still recovering? It says a lot that Chris Webber wouldn’t even be interviewed for the program. If it was hailing how great they were, wouldn’t he have wanted to take part? Food for thought.
        One more thing comes to mind. Remember how Chris Webber was yelling at the camera crews as they followed him to the lockerroom after the championship defeat at the hands of Duke? I would bet you that no such footage of any Duke player exists after they got their heads handed to them by a great UNLV team from just two years prior. Thats because none of the guys from that team would have behaved that way. And even if they had wanted to, Coach K wouldn’t have allowed it. Duke took the humiliation and pain of that beating at the hands of UNLV and they learned from it. The next year, it was Duke that dethroned the Runnin’ Rebels on the way towards their first National Championship in a decisive win over Kansas. And as we all know, Duke repeated as champs the following year with the win over U of M. Three straight National Championship game appearances for a bunch of “bitches” and “Uncle Toms”! Not bad!

  • jgknicks

    I agree with the write up to a point. The Fab Five changed college basketball PERIOD. They brought excitement to an already deep NCAA D-1 league.

    I went to school with Alaa Abdelnaby, you figured I’d be a Duke fan, BUT I HATE DUKE. and at that time Latener was a arrogant, bully, prick.

    Now, I’m not stupid, that 92-93 Duke team was one of the Best ever and UNLV as well. They should both make a documentary.

    The Fab Five was a great story and like most, turned into a bad one. I’m just glad I was able to enjoy it at the time

  • Cade

    They were media hype over substance. They didnt even start the fashion statement they try to take credit for. The 1989 ILLINI wore the baggy shorts first and UNLV wore the black shoes 3 years before Michigan did. They were all hype and never won anything. Just punks and thugs still to this day.

  • michigan

    Well haters gonna hate like i always say, no one can see past the fact that they never won the championship but it was bigger then that. they changed the college game and revolutionized it, sure they were cocky but they could back it up. They didn’t win but never gave up making it to the finals two seasons in a row as freshmen and sophomores. Also for Marc above i don’t think anyone cares who was the top 100 in college just look as far as the nba and see the fab 5 or duke and tell me who had the better careers cause it sure wasn’t Hill, Hurley or Lanette .. It was Rose, Webber and Howard

    MICHIGAN ALL DAY..

  • Jammer

    I think its funny how they always panned for the camera acting all cocky and then when they get beat like a drum by Duke…Webber says get that camera out of my face and starts cursing up a storm….Its like whats the matter guys…dont want the camera now? LOSERS!

  • Mike

    Great post! Thanks for this. I love thinking about the old teams. There’s no way these current teams could hang with some of those older teams. I found a pretty extensive 64-team bracket on a site. Good stuff. I found your article searching for more opinions on the best team. Nice!

    If you want to check out the 64-team bracket. It’s enjoyable if nothing else: http://www.tchuddle.com/2011/04/the-greatest-ncaa-division-i-men%e2%80%99s-basketball-tournament-teams-ever-champion/

  • A

    Agreed. The Fab 5:

    – NEVER won anything!!!
    – NEVER won their conference, and
    – FOLDED under the pressure when they were under the stress of a Finals appearance!

    Culturally, they were significant…like Britney Spears, the Macarena, or Tupac. But the phrases ‘Fab 5’ and ‘great team’ should NEVER be used in the same sentence.