There were varied reactions to the airing of ESPN’s Fab Five documentary this past Sunday. Some people (like myself) were young impressionable college students when Michigan’s Fab Five rose to fame, and were captivated by everything they did — whether it was good or bad. Others (like a friend of mine who is a Duke fan) watched the documentary and were reminded of all the negative feelings they felt toward Michigan out of loyalty to their team. And of course, I’m sure there were some who watched with relative indifference toward the Wolverines, and simply enjoyed the stories, interviews and old clips of exciting basketball.
There are current NBA players who were much too young to watch and experience the play of Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson. They may know about the later pro careers of Rose and Webber, and they definitely know of them via ESPN, TNT and NBATV, but they have no recollection of their college days at Michigan. They probably know Howard as a contributing bench player for the Miami Heat, but they don’t remember the goatee’d one running up and down the court in maize and blue. King and Jackson probably don’t even register on their radar screens.
So in the ten minutes I had in the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room prior to their drubbing of the Wizards Monday night, I asked Kevin Durant, Daequan Cook and Cole Aldrich about the documentary and the Fab Five in general. All three players were under the age of five when the Fab Five was taking the NCAA by storm, and I was curious to hear their musings. Plus, the chemistry of the Thunder overall seems to be identical, if not very similar, to the chemistry of those 1991-1993 Michigan teams. I asked each of them three questions:
- Did you see the documentary
- What did you know about the Fab Five, and what were your impressions about them and their game, and did they influence you?
- Do you see similarities between them and this Thunder team
I did see it, I watched the whole thing, and it was just crazy how they were able to change the game and be so confident and good at such a young age. The best part about it to me was that they were family. They stuck behind each other when Webber called the timeout, when folks criticized their game and their coach through all that. That’s a lesson that can be applied on the professional level. You stand behind your team, your coach, your brothers no matter what. That’s family, that’s love, and I admired that.
I was really too young to know about their game and who they were when I was growing up initially. But as I played in middle school and high school, I knew who they were, and I started to read up on the history a little bit. Plus, we had five freshmen on Texas, and we wanted to be just like them. We did everything together, we wore the same shoes, same socks, all that type of stuff. I think they are still influential for people going to college and playing ball today.
They definitely remind me of what we got going on here [with the Thunder], because we’re all so young, we do everything together, and we call each other family. Plus most of us, except for Perk [Kendrick Perkins], have never really won anything on this level, so we’re all going through this together just like the Fab Five.
You know I have it on my itunes, and I’ll be watching it when we leave D.C. But I did catch the last 10 minutes or so last night, when they were talking about the banners coming down and all that. But I went to Ohio State so like it or not, I had to hear about the Fab Five eventually. But they were a great team, they came together at the right, and they stuck together. It wasn’t just about themselves, it was about sacrifices and the team, and all those concepts you know in college and sometimes forget in the pros.
They definitely influenced me once I got to Ohio State, because I wanted to play with guys that I knew or felt comfortable playing with. And once I got there I had the opportunity to do that. I played with [David] Lighty, [Mike] Conley and [Greg] Oden, and we were comfortable with each other, we joked around, played in high school and AAU and all that, so college was a smooth transition.
This OKC team is just like Ohio State and just like the Fab Five. We’ve known each other all the way back to AAU, we know what we’re capable of doing, we’ve all improved and worked on our game, and we know we’re in it to win it as a family. You can’t fake that, that’s real.
I definitely watched the documentary, I was looking forward it, and it was really cool, really informative. To be honest, going into it I didn’t quite know all the extremes of the story in terms of all that had to overcome and endure, so that was eye-opening. I thought it was cool how they changed the culture of basketball, I mean seriously how many youngsters can say that? I know I can’t. They had the long shorts, the swagger, the hype, the excitement, and the game to back it up. I mean two NCAA finals in a row for underclassmen? That’s crazy man. I never realized until last night how much confidence they had, given how young they were. I mean, I’m a young guy and I get my confidence shaken nightly, and I struggle with that. That wasn’t a problem for them.
I would compare those Michigan teams to us, just based on the excitement you know? We haven’t won anything just yet, but we hear the buzz around the league in terms of our young guys and what they can accomplish, and we know the expectations that come with that. We added some older guys at the trade deadline to help us with that so we can get to the next level, and we’re excited about that, but it’s all about winning. Those guys won up to a point, and we have to keep winning to justify all that hype.
[The author of this post: Rashad Mobley is from the Washington, D.C. area and has been covering the Washington Wizards with credentials for three years. To learn more about him click here. To follow him on Twitter: @Rashad20.]