The years 1991-94 were revolutionary years for college basketball, thanks to five freshman players, who came from different walks of life to play as starters on the Michigan Wolverines basketball team and taking the privilege and the controversy of their actions with gratitude and bravery. ESPN's The Fab Five documentary, one of the many documentaries existing in the network's line of films for their 30 for 30 series, detailing unsung accounts of sports players success or stories surrounding the broad field, invites us to examine these men as people, and what occurred during those four years in college in shocking depth and detail.
"The Fab Five" were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson, recruited from all across the United States to attend the University of Michigan. All the men, who had no previous relationship with one another, joined the Michigan Wolverines basketball team for the 1991-92 season and quickly became a phenomenon, we're told, when coach Steve Fisher made the bold move of starting all five freshman at once - unheard of at the time.
The risk paid off; the men blew the opposing team, Notre Dame, out of the water, scoring all the points in the game and completely stunning the crowd and college basketball fans all together. Today, it isn't uncommon for coaches to start freshman, but Fisher's move was completely new at the time. The thought of starting five teenagers, new to the court and the school was completely out of left field.
The five lead their team to the championship the same season, but unfortunately lost to Duke after a merciless battle. The remainder of their careers continued shockingly, but ended sourly, and "The Fab Five" never won their title. Aside from getting much acclaim and respect from their school and many NCAA fans, they were not immune to criticism. In fact, it would appear that they magnetized it. We are told that the five pioneered baggy shorts in basketball. Prior to them were very tight, short shorts that looked more fitting for cross country or volleyball than basketball. They also brought black socks on the court in style, which apparently would've gotten you laughed off it prior to the five's open entrance of the clothing. Their boastful trash talk, outspoken fondness for vulgar rap music, and exposed tattoos were also immediate controversies the media and sports industry continued to embellish.
These clothing ideas spawned endless possibilities and endless revenue for sports apparel companies such as Nike, who continued to produce what appeared to be plain black socks and traditional baggy shorts. The only difference was the name; "Fab Five" printed right on the label in bright, vibrant colors letting you know they were official and serious. It is widely known that college athletes are not compensated for their work on the field, regardless of which sport they play, so we can only imagine how hurt and cheated the men felt when they saw clothing with their name on it and they were not making any money off it. One of the members even states how despite some person pocketing money from the shirt with the "Fab Five" name on it in the store window, he still must ask a close friend for gas money.
"The Fab Five's" legacy was a legendary one, but the final act of the documentary shows the sour side of it. It was brought to the attention of the University of Michigan staff that players Jalen Rose and Chris Webber (the only "Fab Five" member not to appear in this documentary) were accepting money from a local booster named Ed Martin, and it was also reported that Webber was involved in a number of illegal gambling acts. Friends of Webber swore that if he wound up accepting the money, he was using it for necessities and not frivolously spending the cash or even "flaunting it around." Webber declines to discuss the surrounding controversy and Martin died in 2003, so it is assumed we will never get a straight story about the boosting or what truly went on in the relationship between both men.
The Fab Five is an immensely successful documentary on a topic that I emerged into with complete blindness. The story is told with clarity and insights, and the consistent interviews with the members of the Michigan team and the coach give the film an incredibly earnest persona, fulfilling and personal from the first frame. And the basketball sequences showcasing Michigan's talent are expertly compiled, skillfully edited, and quite riveting. The film that ties them all together is nothing short of a memorable riot.
Starring: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and Ice Cube. Directed by: Jason Hehir.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?