The Michigan Fab Five (sometimes simply written as Fab 5) is the name given to the University of Michigan basketball team that started five-star freshmen players during the 1991-1992 college basketball season and then the same five players in their sophomore seasons. All five members played in the 1991 McDonald’s High School All-American game together and were all ranked as top 100 high school basketball prospects with four of the five members being top ten basketball recruits. The five members were:
- Chris Webber (#1 ranked basketball prospect)
- Juwan Howard (#3 ranked basketball prospect)
- Jalen Rose (#6 ranked basketball prospect)
- Jimmy King (#9 ranked basketball prospect)
- Ray Jackson (#84 ranked basketball prospect)
The Fab 5 roster never won an NCAA Tournament national championship but did play in two finals games suffering losses to Duke in March of 1992 and North Carolina in March of 1993. The final game the Fab Five played together is best known for the moment when Chris Webber calls the timeout in the final moments but because his team is already out of timeouts when the request is made a technical foul is assessed against the University of Michigan. The now infamous Chris Webber Michigan timeout incident directly contributed to UNC defeating the Fab Five in the championship game.
Much has been written about the legacy of the Fab Five including a best-selling book by sports journalist Mitch Albom simply titled The Fab Five: Basketball Trash Talk the American Dream. While at the University of Michigan the focus revolved around the talent of the players and the attitude they brought to the court in terms of their swagger, baggy shorts, and arrogant antics. In many respects, this group of five players that were assembled in Ann Arbor, Michigan played a substantial role in ushering in a youthful hip-hop culture into the game of basketball.
With regards to the collective legacy of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson the five players will eternally be linked together with particular attention given to their NBA success (or lack thereof) and the Fab Five scandal that tarnished their images.
Fab Five Scandal
The fab five scandals is also referred to in University of Michigan circles as the Ed Martin scandal because the circumstances primarily revolved around an affluent booster by the name of Ed Martin. The six-year investigation was a collaboration involving the United States Department of Justice, IRS, FBI, and NCAA amongst others. The investigation concluded that Ed Martin began giving cash and gifts to prospects as far back as the 1980s and that among the notable players he influenced was a top prospect and Fab 5 member Chris Webber whom Martin began illegally courting when Webber was in middle school. After initial attempts at denying any wrongdoing, Webber eventually found himself painted into a corner where his only option was to confess. Ultimately the entire process was vetted and penalties were enforced against Ed Martin, former players involved, coaches, and the University of Michigan which was sanctioned by the NCAA in such a manner that previous victories and future postseason eligibility were forfeited.
Fab Five in the NBA
Ray Jackson was the only Fab 5 member not to make it to the NBA. Each of the other four members played at least some NBA basketball. Interestingly the degree of professional basketball success these once highly touted prospects enjoyed was well predicted by the order in which they were initially ranked as college prospects during their senior seasons of high school.
- Ray Jackson – #84 high school recruit: never played an NBA game
- Jimmy King – #9 high school recruit: played two seasons in the NBA
- Jalen Rose – #6 high school recruit: 13 year NBA career with no all-star game selections
- Juwan Howard – #3 high school recruit: 16 years NBA career (still active as of 2/10) with one all-star game selection
- Chris Webber – #1 high school recruit: 15 years NBA career with five all-star game selections
None of the Fab Five players ever won an NBA Championship.
With Juwan Howard, the final active player, in the twilight of his career, the sun is very close to setting a captivating story that has been roughly 20 years in the making. After diving into the first few layers of information curious onlookers are often left asking themselves whatever happened to Ray Jackson who is the least known member of the Fab Five.
As it turns out despite a lengthy government investigation Ray Jackson was found to have never received any illegal compensation from University of Michigan boosters like Ed Martin. After being cut by the Knicks and later the Pistons in the mid-1990s Jackson later reminisced in a 2007 interview with Yahoo Sports that it took him a long time to become comfortable with the fact that he was the only member of the Fab Five unable to make it to the NBA. Now living in Austin, Texas Jackson is involved with a not-for-profit that helps children, manages a moving company, and says he is happy with his life.
To look at the full spectrum that is the Fab Five is to analyze the lives of men that have been under intense scrutiny for decades. The stories of the Fab Five involving successes, failures, potential, scandal, and moving on are aspects that all readers can relate to as being part of their own lives.
Featured Image: Tribble Agency