Watched The Fab Five documentary last night, more excellent stuff from ESPN Films. Simply put, that was 2 hours of good sports television. Such a great trip down memory lane.
You might have read my original post covering the opinion that The Fab Five was actually one of the more overrated teams of memory, and I’m sticking with that opinion. It is truth, just read the facts. But that’s not why I’m writing today.
The doc mentioned that Chris Webber was actually considering Duke for his college career, which was sort of glossed over. Then as the film played out, I couldn’t help but think that Webber’s NCAA and NBA career would’ve turned out better for him had he actually gone to Duke instead of Michigan.
So many questions…
Would Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Coach K, and company have taught Webber what “Championship Toughness” was all about? I say yes, as you know damn well that Duke team was as well-coached and as champ tough as any team in the country. Always prepared, always in the right mindset, killer instinct. It’s crazy to think that CWebb never had this, as he grew up watching Detroit Bad Boy basketball…but the evidence against CWebb’s clutch gene is overwhelming. Perhaps could’ve been different in Durham.
Would playing behind Laettner allowed CWebb to grow at his own pace? Yes, probably so, although clearly he was ready to play right away. But learning from Laettner would certainly have been better than learning from Eric Riley, that’s not up for debate. Laettner had the best overall college bball career of the past 20 or so years, so I’m sure Webber could’ve learned a little something from him.
Would Duke have won 3 or more in a row with CWebb? I say probably, as the combo of Hill, Tony Lang, Webber, Chris Collins, Thomas Hill, etc would’ve certainly been top flight in 92-93, when they lost to Cal and Jason Kidd. Webber would’ve beasted them to the Final 4 without a doubt, and been their best player even over Grant Hill.
Would Webber’s NBA career have been better? Again, I say yes. While Duke’s College-to-NBA ratio has never been stellar, Webber’s time at Duke and overall experience would have potentially served him better long-term. The dude had all-time great talent, he was going pro either way, but it’s the little things that separate All-Star from Champion…and I believe he would’ve got that at Duke. I’m not an NBA analyst, so I defer to Jalen Rose here, who agreed that if Webber’s NBA’s career is re-played out 10 times, what actually happened is the likely worst case scenario (via Simmons BS Report). The dude was just that good, and is still a disappointment as a 5 time All-Star and 1st Team NBA. But something never quite clicked beyond those 4-5 Kings years…so much untapped greatness. Perhaps things would have been different after Duke.
And this is the most important question – would Webber have been able to live with himself had he attended what is widely considered a “white school”? Sadly, I don’t think so. It’s noted in the doc, and notably seen on TV from 1991 to 2005 or so, CWebb was never quite comfortable in his own skin. He wanted to be street, and despite growing up in Detroit, he really wasn’t. He was a private school kid, and that always bothered him in ways I can’t ever know (widely documented over the years). Just watch the doc – it’s clear that he was immature and wasn’t always comfortable in his situation. Really interesting dynamic that I can’t solve without a psych degree, but even a layman knows that dude was never quite comfortable. And that really bums me out, because he always was one of more eloquent athletes around. Would he have been even more uncomfortable at Duke? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Now had CWebb gone to Duke, would America have hated Duke quite as much? I seriously doubt it. It would’ve been a completely different look for the school moving forward. Grant Hill and Chris Webber on the same squad? Wow…there’s very little to hate there…even for Jalen Rose. After that, most College BBall fans would’ve forgiven Duke for the Ferry and Laettner years and would’ve hated a host of either teams instead…at least until Battier got there.
Either way, a really interesting conversation. CWebb is an all-time great PF, but still didn’t reach anywhere near his ceiling. What could’ve been?
I really can’t answer the ceiling question, but I’m pretty sure Chris Webber’s basketball career would’ve been better had he gone to Duke. The private school kid could’ve stayed a private school kid and been the best damn private school kid ever. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Even if you’re from Detroit. Truth.