One day in 1992, Michigan Wolverines Team Head Coach Steve Fisher decided to use his 5 freshmen as a starting unit against Notre Dame. Fisher did this because Michael Talley, a junior, missed Friday’s practice, and Fisher chose to start Ray Jackson in Talley’s place. It worked.
The all-freshman unit carried Michigan’s 15th-ranked Wolverines to victory over Notre Dame, 74-65. Jalen Rose led with 20 points. Chris Webber contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds. Juwan Howard added 14 points and 13 rebounds. Ray Jackson scored 4 points.
“It was the best first half we’ve played in a decade or at least the last three or four games,” Fisher had said. This opened to the all-freshman unit the gates of stardom and controversy. They eventually became known as the Michigan “Fabulous Fab Five.”
THE FABULOUS FIVE (FAB 5)
The FAB Five is the collective moniker stuck to five awesome members of the 1991 University of Michigan men’s basketball team recruiting class. The class “is considered by many to be one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time in the 1990s“.
The class consisted of:
Chris Webber-Power Forward (Detroit/#4)
Jalen Rose- Point Guard (Detroit/#5),
Juwan Howard- Center (Chicago/#3)
Jimmy King- Shooting Guard (Texas/#9)
Ray Jackson-Small Forward (Texas/#24).
The unit was later featured in a 2011 ESPN Film that chronicles the recruitment, glory years, notorious time-out fiasco, cultural impact, and the scandal that followed them. The film, originally aired on March 13, 2011, drew 2.7 million viewers, the highest-rated ESPN documentary ever.
Here’s a brief description of the iconic Fab 5 members:
Webber graduated from Detroit Country Day School. Led his team to three MHSAA basketball titles.
Won state and national high school Gatorade Player of the Year awards and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP.
Webber attended the University of Michigan for two years. He had drawn attention because of his dunks in 7th grade AAU basketball. Webber is remembered for infamously calling a time-out with 11 seconds left in the game when his team, down 73-71, didn’t have any time remaining; this got a technical foul that delivered the game to North Carolina.
That season, Webber was in a first-team All-American selection, a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, and Naismith College Player of the Year. These awards and honors had been vacated due to sanctions related to the University of Michigan basketball scandal.
The Orlando Magic drafted him in the 1993 NBA draft, but he was traded on draft night to the Golden State Warriors for Anfernee Hardaway. He played for five teams over his 15-year career and had his #4 retired by the Sacramento Kings.
Webber registered NBA career averages of 20.7 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, 4.2 assists per game, and 1.4 blocks per game. He was selected to the NBA All-Star game 5 times during his fifteen-year NBA career.
Jalen Rose was a star at the Southwestern High School in Detroit. In the documentary Hoop Dreams, you can view him at a high school All-American camp. Rose was part of the University of Michigan Wolverines team that finished as the national runner-up in the 1991 and 1992 NCAA GAMES. He led the Fab Five in scoring during his freshman year, averaging 17.6 points per game, and set the school freshman scoring record with 597 total points.
Rose was the Fab Five’s point guard and leader. During his career, he scored over 1700 points and had 400 rebounds, 400 assists, and 100 steals. He left Michigan after his junior year.
The Denver Nuggets picked rose in the 1994 NBA draft. He developed his NBA career mainly with the Indiana Pacers. He ended his career in 2007 with the Phoenix Suns.
Howard was successful at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. You can view him playing in the high school basketball documentary ‘Hoop Dreams.
Howard was drafted fifth overall in the 1994 NBA draft by the Washington Bullets, for which he played until 2001.
He was the only Fab Five member who had played in the NBA through the 2011-12 season.
In 16 seasons, Howard had played for eight different NBA franchises, including the Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats, and Portland Trail Blazers, and Miami Heat. He holds NBA career averages of 13.8 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and 2.3 assists per game.
King was a high school All-American basketball player at Plano East Senior High School in Plano, a city north of Dallas. King and Ray Jackson were the only two members of the Fab Five that did not leave school early for the draft, staying with Michigan for their entire four years of eligibility.
King was selected 35th in the second round of the 1995 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors. King developed his career playing mainly for the Quad City Thunder (a CBA team). He played 64 games in 2 seasons for the Raptors and Denver Nuggets. King retired after the 1996-97 season and chalked a career average of 4.5 points.
King worked as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street. King served as a radio color commentator during the 2008-09 Michigan Wolverines season.
In the University of Michigan basketball scandal, Ray Jackson wasn’t among the players called before the grand jury (Robert Traylor, Webber, Rose, Maurice Taylor, and Louis Bullock). He was not found to have received large amounts of money.
Jackson is the least known among the Fab Five. He was neither drafted nor played in the NBA. He was drafted into the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) by the Grand Rapids Hoops as the 35th pick in the 3rd round in 1995. He received here the 1995-96 CBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Jackson was quoted on February 10, 2007, article on Yahoo! Sports: “It took me a long time to get over the fact that I was the only one that didn’t make it to the NBA from the Fab Five, but I’m over it because I’m back home and I’m happy with what I’m doing with my life.”
The Fab Five were the starting unit for the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team representing the University of Michigan in intercollegiate college basketball during the 1991-92 season.
THE FAV 5'S MOTHER UNIT: MICHIGAN WOLVERINES MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM
The Michigan Wolverines team played its home games in the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was a member of the Big Ten Conference.
The team’s Head coach Steve Fisher was aided by Assistant coaches Brian Dutcher, Jay Smith, and Perry Watson. The team tied for third place in the Big Ten Conference finals. The team earned an invitation to the 1992 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, where it was national runner-up.
The leading scorers were:
Jalen Rose (597 points)
Chris Webber (528 points)
and Juwan Howard (377 points)
The leading rebounders were:
and Rose (146).
The team rotates captains game-by-game, and Chris Webber garnered the team MVP.
During the season, the team won the Big Ten Conference statistical championships in rebounding (38.2 average) and rebounding margin (5.8 average )in conference games, respectively.
Chris Webber became the first freshman in the Big Ten to rebound with a 9.8 average in 18 conference games and a 10.0 average in 34 games. However, his 340 rebounds in 34 games were below the 352 rebounds set as the school record as of 2010.
Jalen Rose set the season’s school record for points scored by a freshman at 597. Rose’s 1132 minutes of playing time set the school single-season record for minutes played.
The team surpassed the 1986 team’s total of 146 in 33 games for single-season team blocks with 182 in 34 games. The following season the team broke the record.
The Wolverines’ 25-9 W-L season record was an improvement on the previous year’s record of 14-15. Following the success of the Fab Five, athletic royalties increased from 2 million dollars in 1990 ($3.9 million today) to 4.4 million dollars ($8 million) in 1992.
The 1991-92 Michigan Wolverines Roster and Stats show that Michigan accumulated a 25-9 Win-Loss record during the season. However, the National Collegiate Athletic Association had adjusted the team’s record to 24-8 due to the University of Michigan basketball scandal.
The team landed as the fifteenth for the entire eighteen weeks of the Associated Press Top Twenty-Five Poll. It ended the season ranked seventeenth in the final USA Today/CNN Poll.
THE MICHIGAN'S FAB 5 LEGACY TO THE NBA
The Fab Five had never won an NCAA championship. But the team has influenced the personality of today’s NBA stars.
This new version of hoops star presented a culture shift. The team’s trademark baggy shorts and black socks had driven home a new tradition of doing things the players’ way. “What was viewed from the outside as ego, disrespect or ‘too street’ was neighborhood personality breaking through” into the game.
David Hinckley had described the controversy that surrounded Michigan’s freshman:
“I think people saw us that way,” says Rose. “We were the bad guys.” Rose admits that came from their style: “trash-talking, baggy shorts, black socks, a lot of playground swagger.”
“We weren’t polished,” Rose says. “So that’s how people perceived us. But remember, we were college kids. College kids say and do dumb things.”
The teammates found nothing wrong mouthing off in good fun with one another or freely jabbing at opponents. The young Wolverines instinctively acted true to their animated nature. Much of the Fab Five’s style and attitude, mixed with the increasingly popular hip-hop culture, seeped into the game.
“The vibe of the early 90s-the Spike Lee style and Naughty by Nature sound-became a part of the game. To this day, the sounds of hip-hop intertwine with the NBA clubhouse.”
“LeBron James is a product of the Fab Five era. James not only picked up the hip-hop pulse of the Fab Five, but he has also become the face of the superteam trend started at Michigan. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are seen today as the headliners for superstars joining forces the way the Fab Five did.”
The problems for the Fab Five’s head coach Steve Fisher and today’s superteam coach are similar. He had to figure out how to handle all these major issues:
- Who would start
- How could he keep the others happy
- What about rap music
- How about outfits
Fisher never compromised the on-court product but allowed his young talents to create their own identity.
Fisher allowed the superteam to set its standard. It became the player’s game. It worked in Michigan and works even today.
WHERE ARE THE FAB 5 NOW?
On and off the court, Jalen Rose is known as the most well-off among the Fab Five. He has been an ESPN game analyst on multiple NBA shows for the last decade. He’s a co-founder of the Detroit, Michigan-based Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.
Chris Webber is notably the most accomplished among the Fab Five. He’s currently a Turner Sports Television (TNT) and NBA TV commentator and analyst.
Juwan Howard is the only Fab Five member to win twice an NBA Championship. While with the Miami Heat, the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder (2012) and the San Antonio Spurs (2013) in the consecutive Finals. He was a Miami Heat assistant coach from 2014 to 2019. On May 22, 2019, Juwan Howard became the head coach for the University of Michigan.
Jimmy King, along with Ray Jackson, wasn’t among the Fab Five members that were called in front of a grand jury during the University of Michigan’s basketball scandal. King began coaching in 2016 as the Ecorse Community High School, men’s basketball team head coach in Ecorse, Michigan.
Ray Jackson is the sole member of the Fab Five who was neither recruited nor played for the NBA. Jackson now lives in Austin, Texas. He runs here a moving company and Rise, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that assists children socially, educationally, and on the basketball court.