Few teams in any sport have made such a lasting impact as the "Fab Five" Michigan teams did on basketball. Comprised of some of the top recruits in the U.S., the group came together in the 1991-92 season and turned college basketball upside down with their athleticism.
Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King were just a group of talented freshmen who got along very well and won many of the games. How does a team get an iconic status? Usually by winning championships, preferably several. Jordan's Bulls, Magic’s "Showtime" Lakers, Russell's Celtics come to mind, or even the Lakers of the early '00s with Shaq and Kobe.
Very rarely, however, a team achieves this status without winning titles. The 1991 freshman year of Michigan University, better known as Fab Five, is unquestionably in this category.
Webber, Howard, Rose, King, and Jackson broke boundaries at the college level and were treated like rock stars. Loved by one side, despised by another. They were trendsetters - and just wanted to play basketball. 26 years have passed since they stood together on the court, and the friendship of the Five has since cracked. Webber and Rose both come from Detroit and met for the first time at the age of twelve - a friendship was born. Howard grew up on the Chicago Southside, King and Jackson each come from poor areas in Texas.
Common to all of them was that they were among the 100 biggest high school talents in the US in 1991 - Webber (1), Howard (4), and Rose (9), even in the top 10. Howard decided first for Michigan - then played a big role in recruiting the others. He later described this as a chain reaction: "Jimmy and I were the first to go in. I called Chris because we became good friends during All-Star Games and after a while convinced him and convinced Jalen what exactly my plan was."
The Fab 5 roster never won an NCAA Tournament national championship but did play in two finals games suffering losses to Duke in March of 1992 and North Carolina in March of 1993. The final game the Fab Five played together is best known for the moment when Chris Webber calls the timeout in the final moments but because his team is already out of timeouts when the request is made a technical foul is assessed against the University of Michigan. The now infamous Chris Webber Michigan timeout incident directly contributed to UNC defeating the Fab Five in the championship game.
Fab Five in the NBA
Ray Jackson was the only Fab 5 member not to make it to the NBA. Each of the other four members played at least some NBA basketball. In Golden State, Webber became the rookie of the year, but internally it did not work out. The Warriors were not his boys from the university. Webber missed the harmony with Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King.
The Fab Five are one of the most famous teams in college basketball history, Webber and Co. forever changed the image and style of the sport with their baggy shorts, oversized jerseys, streetball moves, constant trash talk and their impact on hip-hop culture.
Soberly, the Fab Five were just five extremely talented teens who got along wonderfully and reached twice the final of the NCAA. Exemplary for this is the conclusion of "ESPN" reporter Dick Vitale: "Something like the Fab Five only exists once in a lifetime! What they have achieved will never, never happen again." Icons are unique.