“The Fab Five”: Why Duke Will Always Trump Michigan
This week marked the premiere of an ESPN documentary on the very high-profile recruiting class of NCAA basketball phenoms collectively known as “The Fab Five.” Aptly titled The Fab Five, the documentary focuses on the on- and off-court experiences of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson—all of whom made names for themselves on the basketball court as the Michigan Wolverines‘ starting lineup. Specifically, the film focuses on the way these five teammates shocked the nation with their swagger, a mixture of hip-hop culture and basketball which seemed to change the face of the game forever. That being said, the film was produced by Jalen Rose himself (so there are bound to be a few biases, right?).
One such bias, pointed out by sportswriter Jason Whitlock, is that the group has given itself too much credit for influence and greatness without ever winning a championship together. Despite such criticism, The Fab Five aired to rave reviews and has quickly become ESPN’s highest-rated documentary.
We can’t imagine hip-hop and basketball ever being separate in the public eye, even on the college level. These guys helped to usher in such an era and a change to the culture. However, for all of the positivity of hip-hop—swagger, confidence, presence, boldness—it also has it pitfalls, such as glorification of negative lifestyles and a constant need to “keep it real.” These detractions reared their ugly heads again when Rose and the other teammates (except for a quite noticeably absent Chris Webber) began to talk about players at other universities, most noticeably Duke University players such as Grant Hill.
Jalen Rose admits in the documentary that he was jealous of Hill’s solid upbringing, steeped in self-respect and education. Jimmy King, however, throws the gauntlet with his quote—seemingly indicative of the attitudes of the entire quintet.
“I thought Christian Laettner was soft—a bitch. And I thought Grant Hill was a bitch.”
We all know about the phenomenon within the Black community where we hold grudges against those who don’t come from the ‘hood and who instead have both parents, a good upbringing and are in any way privileged or educated. We despise these people even though this is what we should all want for ourselves and for our children. Hill wasn’t having any of it this time. He wrote a response of his own, which included the following excerpt.
“In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only ‘black players that were “Uncle Toms,”‘ Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.”
Uncle Tom, of course, is a term derived from slavery and the Jim Crow South which was used to refer to Blacks who were eagerly subservient to Whites. Considering that it was illegal to read during slavery or to vote or be educated (at White schools, at least) during Jim Crow, there could be nothing less subservient than a person who chose to do all of those things and to do them at the highest level. That’s what Hill and his family (and many others who are considered “Uncle Toms” today) represent. We also tend to forget that no one chooses the strength or socioeconomic status of the family they are born into, thus it is pointless to hold these types of things against each other.
Grant Hill got the last laugh on the Fab Five with his closing remark.
“I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.”
Jalen Rose is starting a charter school to reach out to kids without opportunity. What will he do when one day a bitter rival calls one of his students an Uncle Tom because he never got the opportunity to learn in such a school?
It’s time to rid ourselves and our communities of this very destructive mentality once and for all. Rapper Andre 3000 may have said it best :
“Unfortunate that if you come up fortunate
The street considers you lame
I thought the name of the game
Was to have a better life
I guess it ain’t, what a shame…”