Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Who are the Fab Five?

The most well-known Michigan basketball team is known as the “Fab Five”. The Fab Five consists of four All-American recruits from the 1991 recruiting class, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, and Jimmy King, and a top 85 recruit, Ray Jackson. While none of the players ever won a championship, their legacy remains enshrined in Michigan basketball history. They compiled two NCAA tournament championship appearances as a full team and made two more NCAA tournaments after Chris Webber’s departure for the NBA draft. Their greatness on the court was enough for ESPN to make a film on them which has become ESPN’s top-rated documentary of all-time. They are one of the only college teams to leave such a mark in history as they challenged the look of basketball by wearing baggy shorts, black socks, and shaving their heads. I will be going through each individual player and where they are now as well as an overview of the seasons in which they played. Here is the history of the Fab Five.

Chris Webber

Chris Webber attended high school at Detroit Country Day in Michigan and won the MVP in McDonald’s All-Star game as well as the high school player of the year award. He was the #1 recruit in the class of 1991 and picked Michigan among many other options.

In his freshman year, he instantly started for Michigan as a forward. Webber dominated the backboard throughout the season and accumulated a Big Ten-leading 340 rebounds and a Big Ten-leading 54 steals. He averaged a double-double per game with 15.5 PPG and 10.0 RPG which helped lead the Wolverines to the National Championship. Webber won the Big Ten Rookie of the Year award as well as the USBWA Freshman of the Year. For his efforts in the NCAA tournament, he was voted to the 1992 NCAA All-Tournament and All-Region teams.

His sophomore year would go down as his final year at Michigan as well as his best. Again, Webber showed how dominant he was at his position by the glass as well as putting the ball into the basket. Again, Webber led the Big Ten in rebounds (362) while leading the Big Ten in blocks (91) as well. The Wolverines made it to the National Championship again. Webber led the team in points for three of the six games and in rebounds for four games. It was in this championship game where Webber dribbled the ball up the court into a trap where he called timeout. Since Michigan was out of timeouts, a technical foul was called which solidified the win for North Carolina as they were already up by 2 with only a few seconds remaining. This play still continues to tarnish what he was able to do at Michigan as it has become the most memorable moment of his Michigan career. Regardless of his decision, he was able to get on the 1st-Team All-Big Ten team and the 1st-Team Consensus All-American team. He was voted to the 1993 NCAA All-Tournament and All-Region teams for the second consecutive season.

Chris Webber entered the NBA draft after two years at Michigan and went first overall to the Orlando Magic but was traded to the Golden State Warriors almost immediately. He played one season for them and averaged 17.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG. His fantastic rookie year awarded him the 1993-94 Rookie of the Year and Sports News Rookie of the Year. He was unsatisfied with his position on the Warriors and ended up being traded again to the Washington Bullets. He linked back up with his former Fab Five teammate Juwan Howard in Washington. He spent three seasons there, improving upon his rookie season. In 1997 he was voted to the NBA All-Star game as he averaged a touch over 20 PPG and over 10 RPG.

Webber’s next destination was in Sacramento with the Kings who were the lowlight of the NBA at the time. In his first season with the Kings, he won the rebounding crown with 13.0 RPG while being voted to the 2nd-Team All-NBA squad. In the following 4 seasons, he continued to average a double-double per game, being voted to the NBA All-Star team all four seasons. On top of that, he was voted to All-NBA teams each year as well. In the 2000-01 season, he averaged his career-high 27.1 PPG along with 11.1 RPG which gave him a 4th place finish in the MVP voting. After suffering an ankle and knee injury in the 2002-03 season, one taking him out of the All-Star Game and the other out of the Western Conference Finals, the Kings made it back to the Western Conference Finals in the 2003-04 season which the Kings ended up losing on a missed final shot in Game 7. This would end Webber’s time with the Kings resulting in no championships.

Philadelphia would be Webber’s next home in which he still showed his offensive ability as he averaged 20.2 PPG and 9.9 RPG in the 2005-06 season. The 76ers never made it to the playoffs with Webber who ended up sitting out the season with an injury and later waived by the team. His hometown team, the Detroit Pistons, picked Webber up and got to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year there, but again, Webber failed to make it to the finals. Webber’s final destination was back in Golden State where his injured knee would continue to play problems resulting in his retirement after the year. Webber’s very impressive 15-year career would finally be solidified.

Webber continued working in basketball as an NBA analyst on TNT. He also has produced a few movies through the years and played the role of Preacher in the movie Uncle Drew. The NBA still feels the impact of Webber as he still keeps his voice around the analyst side of the NBA.

The largest hindrance in Webber’s career happened in 2002 as a scandal came out at the University of Michigan involving him receiving booster money. Webber pleaded guilty to the charges against him and the effect at Michigan still continues to this day. Michigan removed its final four win against Cincinnati and the full 1992-93 season. On top of that, Webber has had his name removed from any records he once held at Michigan and has been disassociated from Michigan. Webber has since made a revisit to Michigan Stadium for a football game in 2018 in which he was received with a joyous response from the crowd.

Jalen Rose

Jalen Rose played his high school days at Southwestern High School. He was recruited to Michigan as the #6 recruit in the nation.

Jalen led the Fab Five in scoring in his freshman season with 597 points which set a school record for total points by a freshman. For his efforts in the 1992 NCAA tournament in which Michigan made the finals, he was voted on to the NCAA All-Tournament and All-Region teams.
In the following season, he led the team in assists and again, helped Michigan go to the National Championship game. He was awarded on to the NCAA Tournament All-Region team again. In his third and final season before entering the NBA, Jalen took back his leading scorer role and led Michigan to a regional final in the NCAA tournament. His efforts awarded him a spot on the 1st-Team All-Big Ten and 2nd-Team All-American teams.

The Denver Nuggets picked Jalen with their 13th overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft. After two decent years with the Nuggets, Rose would be traded to the Indiana Pacers where he built the majority of his career. After a slow start on the team due to problems between him and the coach, Pete Rose would take over the coaching position and begin to utilize Rose to his potential. The Pacers saw four straight playoff appearances including three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances and one NBA finals appearance in 2000. During the 2001-02 season, the Pacers traded Rose to the Bulls where he averaged over 20 PPG for the remainder of the season and in the following season. After the Bulls, Jalen bounced around teams including the Toronto Raptors, the New York Knicks, and finished his career with the Phoenix Suns. He finished with a 13-year career in which he averaged 14.3 PPG and 3.8 APG throughout his career, reaching a career-high of 23.8 PPG with the Bulls in the 2001-02 season.

Jalen Rose became an NBA analyst on ESPN and now co-hosts two talk shows on ESPN, Get Up! and Jalen & Jacoby. He produced the film Fab Five which became ESPN’s top-rated documentary and has written a New York Times bestselling book called Got to Give the People What They Want. Although Rose was called to the grand jury in the 2003 scandal, Rose was found to not have been involved in receiving any money. Michigan remains a big part of Jalen Rose’s life as he actively supports the football and basketball teams at games.

Juwan Howard

Juwan Howard attended Chicago Vocational Career Academy for high school and came out as a #3 recruit in the nation despite not going to one of the top high school basketball schools.

Juwan started the majority of his freshman year games for Michigan as the Wolverines made their march to the National Championship. He was a phenomenal player on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and can be considered the backbone of the Fab Five. Howard was a very physical player and tended to foul out a lot, but Michigan would take that for the amount of good it did on defense as he completely shut down opposing team’s best players. Michigan began the next season as ranked #1 and again, it was Juwan Howard that remained steady throughout the season. In the losses, Howard would be the consistent one out of the group. As mentioned before, the Wolverines would make it back to the National Championship which ended in heartbreak with a technical foul. Howard sat out much of the game due to fouls. It would be his third and final year that Howard would break out with the absence of Chris Webber. In the NCAA tournament, Howard scored 28 points and 9 rebounds in round one, 34 points and 18 rebounds in round two, 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Sweet Sixteen, and 30 points and 13 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to Arkansas. He would take home an NCAA Tournament All-Region selection for his spectacular performances. Before entering the NBA draft the following season, Juwan Howard set out to get his BA in Communications from Michigan and achieved it at the end of his rookie season in the NBA becoming the first NBA player to leave school early but still finish his degree which became an inspiration to many following in his footsteps. In 2019, Juwan would return to Michigan as the head coach of the current men’s basketball program.

The Washington Bullets selected Howard with the 5th overall draft pick. He paired back up with Chris Webber who was traded in the year Howard was drafted. Howard would go on to start later in the season and get on the 2nd-Team All-Rookie squad. In the following season, he would make his one and only All-Star Game and get selected to the 3rd-Team All-NBA team. Howard finished the season as the NBA’s 6th top scorer and posted a stat line of 22.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 4.4 APG which was the best statistical year of his career. Howard would help the newly named Washington Wizards reach their first playoffs in almost 10 years in the 1996-97 season as he averaged just under 20 PPG and 8 RPG. An ankle injury would hinder Howard’s success in the few years to follow with the Wizards but he still produced high-quality numbers despite the Wizards not producing as a team.

During the 2000-01 season, Howard was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in which his short stints with teams would begin. The Mavs made the playoffs in the 2001 season but lost in the second round to the San Antonio Spurs. The following year, Howard would be utilized less and less and eventually lead to a trade resulting in his departure for the Denver Nuggets. The team struggled as they had just gotten rid of many of the team’s veterans, leaving Howard with not much to work with. Regardless, Howard averaged 17.8 PPG with the Nuggets and 7.5 RPG.

After his contract with the Nuggets ran out, Howard was signed by the Orlando Magic as a free agent. Again, Howard found success on a poor playing team which was carried by Tracy McGrady who eventually injured his knee, leaving Howard as the main scorer in the offense. McGrady and Howard, along with others, would be traded to the Houston Rockets in the following season. Howard was not on the starting lineup for the beginning of the season but would soon reclaim his duties. An MCL injury would forever hinder his statistical performance. During his recovery, it was found that he had heart complications as well which would make his physical therapy difficult. In his last season with the Rockets in the 2006-07 season, Howard would play off the bench mainly, but the Rockets would go on to make the playoffs. They lost in the first round which would end Howard’s time in Houston.

Juwan later signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves which he regretted not doing as a free agent earlier. After the Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett away, Howard made it clear that he did not want to play for a rebuilding team to which the Timberwolves respected and bought out his contract. Howard went on to go back to Dallas for a season and back to Denver the following year eventually leaving both teams. Juwan saw another season in Charlotte with the Bobcats before signing the next season with the Portland Trailblazers. He made it to the playoffs with the Trailblazers but again lost in the first round.

Finally, Howard would make his last stop in his career at Miami. He was a reserve for the monster team that included Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. In his first season with the Heat, they lost in the NBA finals in the 2010-11 season. It was in the following season that a Fab Five member finally won an NBA championship when Juwan Howard did it in the 2012 NBA Finals on the Heat.

In 2013, the Heat announced that they would keep Juwan Howard in the organization but as an assistant coach. He would go on to stay in their coaching system until 2019 when he returned to Michigan as the men’s basketball head coach. Immediately, the Wolverines saw success after beating highly ranked North Carolina and Gonzaga in the Battle for Atlantis tournament winning the tournament. Michigan made the largest jump in the AP rankings from unranked to #4. After losing to #1 ranked Louisville, the Wolverines would continue to fall apart and ended the season at 19-12 after winning their first seven games. During the 2020 offseason, there have been rumors of Juwan receiving NBA coaching offers, but he has responded by saying he will not be leaving his alma mater anytime soon.

Jimmy King

Jimmy King played his high school basketball for Plano East in Texas. King was the 9th rated overall recruit in the nation and chose Michigan to link up with other top prospects that are now dubbed the Fab Five.

King, along with Ray Jackson, are the only two Fab Five members to stick around for four full seasons at Michigan. It took a bit of time before King began to start for the Wolverines but when he did, Michigan began to take over. They made it to their back to back championships in the 1992 and 1993 NCAA tournaments with King in the starting five. While King’s numbers stand behind many of the other Fab Five members, his role in the team can not be overlooked. Along with Jalen Rose, he was the shooter in the offense. In the championship run seasons, he shot over 40% from 3-point range and continually built on his success in the scoring sheet each year as the Fab Five members left. He reached his career-high in points in his senior year with 14.7 PPG, posting almost identical numbers as Ray Jackson who barely outpaced him.

King was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 35th overall pick of the NBA draft after his four years at Michigan were up. He did not receive much playing time and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks after his rookie season. He was waived by them and played mainly in the CBA for the season with the Quad City Thunder. After being signed by the Denver Nuggets and not playing much, he returned to Europe in the CBA and took home a CBA championship and MVP award with the Thunder. He finished his basketball career overseas with a variety of different teams.

King now coaches the Ecorse Community High School men’s basketball team and has a talk show called King and Foster.

Ray Jackson

Ray Jackson is probably the least well-known of the fab five. He came out of high school from Lyndon B. Johnson Early College High School as the 84th ranked recruit in the nation. His freshman numbers are not very impressive as he was not a starter to begin the season. He began to pick up the pace in his sophomore year and reached his highest peak in his senior year where he led the Wolverines in scoring at 15.8 PPG and in assists at 3.0 APG. He helped Michigan reach four consecutive NCAA tournaments during the Fab Five’s reign but is the only Fab Five member to have never played a game in the NBA.

After being cut from the NBA, Ray Jackson decided to pursue the CBA as he was drafted by the Grand Rapids Hoops in the 3rd round. Jackson played out of his mind in his rookie season, taking home the 1995-96 CBA Rookie of the Year award. He would go back and forth between playing for the Hoops and playing overseas in places like France and Argentina before ending his career in Venezuela. Jackson pays back to his community by supporting a non-profit that promotes education in his Texas area by using basketball called Rise Up Inc.

The 1991-92 Season

Michigan was coming off a disappointing 14-15 season but had an immense amount of hype coming into the 1991-92 season with Michigan’s best offseason in history. Michigan’s 1991 recruiting class has a good argument for being the best recruiting class for any team in history. Only the 2013 Kentucky Wildcats stand close. Only Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard started initially for the Wolverines who got out to a hot start. Their only early loss came to the defending champion Blue Devils from Duke who was ranked #1 overall. The Wolverines went on to split with a ranked Michigan State and even took down an Indiana team that was ranked #2 at the time. Since being named the five starters in February, they took over all of Michigan’s statistics and helped Michigan end the season as the Big Ten’s leader in rebounding. The team also set a single-season school record for blocks which has since been broken twice, once being in the following season.

Going into the NCAA tournament as a 6-seed, not many eyes were locked in on the Fab Five. After beating 11th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Sweet Sixteen, the Wolverines were set to face their rival, Ohio State, for the third time this season. During the regular season, Michigan lost to them twice, both by double digits. The Fab Five took the Buckeyes, led by star player Jimmy Jackson, to overtime and ended up winning to move on to the Final Four. There they beat the Cincinnati Bearcats who had only been defeated just three times that season. In a rematch, the Fab Five was forced to take on the Duke Blue Devils again but fell short, ending their spectacular run. Nevertheless, the Fab Five showed the world that they were here to play. They were the first team of all freshmen starters to play in a National Championship and started the 1992-93 season as the #1 ranked team.

Statistical Leaders
Points: Jalen Rose (597) (17.5 PPG)
Rebounds: Chris Webber (340) (10.0 RPG)
Assists: Jalen Rose (135) (4.0 APG)
Blocks: Chris Webber (84) (2.5 BPG)
Steals: Chris Webber (54) (1.6 SPG)

The 1992-93 Season

After just coming up short in the Fab Five’s freshman season, all five came back for their sophomore year. The Wolverines started the season as the #1 ranked team and had its National Championship rematch against the #4 ranked Duke Blue Devils in their second game of the season. Yet again, the Fab Five could not come up with a way to conquer the Blue Devils and lost their top seed. They did, however, go on to beat #5 ranked North Carolina and #2 ranked Kansas in back to back games at the Rainbow Classic before losing to Indiana who swept them in both their games as a top 6 ranked team. Michigan again held the most rebounds in the Big Ten and broke their previous school record for single-season blocks.

They moved on to the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed. After having a rather easy path through their region after beating UCLA in overtime in the round of 32, they went on to face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four. The Fab Five took them to overtime and pulled away in the end, advancing to their second consecutive National Championship, but this time facing the North Carolina Tar Heels. It was in this game that Chris Webber called for a timeout in the ending seconds when Michigan was out of timeouts, resulting in a technical foul and sealing the deal for the Tar Heels to take home the trophy. This left the Fab Five with two championship runs but failing to come away with any hardware. The Wolverines ended with their most single-season wins in school history with 31 which beat the 1988-89 National Championship team’s record of 30 wins.

Statistical Leaders
Points: Chris Webber (690) (19.2 PPG)
Rebounds: Chris Webber (362) (10.1 RPG)
Assists: Jalen Rose (140) (3.9 APG)
Blocks: Chris Webber (91) (2.5 BPG)
Steals: Chris Webber (49) (1.4 SPG)

The 1993-94 Season

Chris Webber chose to forgo his final two years of eligibility to go to the NBA draft which left Michigan with four out of the five Fab Five members. Michigan entered the season as the 5th ranked team in the nation. In their sixth game, they faced off with Duke and failed to beat them again, resulting in their fourth loss to Duke in three seasons. In fact, after beating 13th ranked Georgia Tech in their opening game, the Wolverines lost to four straight ranked opponents. The Fab “Four” went on to have a very successful conference play, tied for first place going into their final game after losing two of their last three games. They only had to beat a struggling Northwestern team to take home at least a share of the title but failed to do so, leaving the Fab Five with zero championships.

Michigan was the 3rd seed entering the NCAA tournament and was carried by Juwan Howard’s double-doubles all the way to the Elite Eight where they reached their end to the tournament champs, Arkansas Razorbacks.

Statistical Leaders
Points: Jalen Rose (636) (19.9 PPG)
Rebounds: Juwan Howard (266) (8.9 RPG)
Assists: Jalen Rose (126) (3.9 APG)
Blocks: Juwan Howard (21) (0.7 BPG)
Steals: Dugan Fife (52) (1.6 SPG)

https://twitter.com/timelesssports_/status/1131268607906856961

The 1994-95 Season

After their junior season, both Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard made the decision to enter the NBA draft, leaving just Jimmy King and Ray Jackson left to finish out their fourth and final season. This left Michigan at the 16th seed to start the season. The Wolverines got out to a shaky start and never brought back the fuel that was filled at the beginning of the 1991-92 season. Michigan fell out of the top 25 ranked teams for the first time since the beginning of the Fab Five, finishing with a 17-14 record which was the first time below 20 wins since before the Fab Five. Michigan again lost to Duke in their rivalry game as well as being swept by Michigan State.

Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were able to squeeze the Wolverines into the NCAA tournament for its fourth consecutive year. As the #9 seed, they faced off against the #8 seed and #21 ranked Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The game was forced into overtime but was eventually conquered by the Hilltoppers, defeating the final Fab Five members at Michigan. That loss brought an end to the Fab Five’s presence at the University of Michigan.

Statistical Leaders
Points: Ray Jackson (491) (15.8 PPG)
Rebounds: Maceo Baston (165) (5.5 RPG)
Assists: Ray Jackson (93) (3.0 APG)
Blocks: Maurice Taylor (34) (1.1 BPG)
Steals: Jimmy King (58) (1.9 SPG)

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1200512207286652930

  
I am a student at the University of Michigan studying Sport Management. I have been involved in sports as long as I can remember, playing football, baseball, and basketball. I also love learning how to play songs on the piano and ukulele.

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