Michigan takes a step toward recognizing Fab Five by bringing back Jimmy King, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Jalen Rose heard the welcome back cheers at Crisler Arena when he showed up for a game in January.
This time, he brought friends.
As part of the Legends Classic promotion, Michigan honored former Fab Five members Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson as part of a halftime ceremony on Sunday. The ceremony was short and symbolic. But the gesture might lead to lasting change.
Reaching out to as much of the Fab Five as much as the NCAA allows the Michigan basketball program is a first since the Ed Martin scandal and resulting sanctions earlier this decade.
“This was the first step in trying to make that happen,” Jackson said. “I had talked to (Michigan coach John) Beilein a couple times over the summer, and we had a good conversation and everybody is trying to move forward.
“I like to say we’re trying to bridge the gap and get everybody on the same field again.”
Michigan distanced itself from the Fab Five members in 2003 at the conclusion of the NCAA investigation into former booster Ed Martin. A federal investigation of Martin led to revelations that he gave more than $600,000 in money and benefits to Fab Five leader Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock.
Among the self-imposed and NCAA sanctions, Michigan took down the Final Four banners from 1992 and 1993, forfeited its 1997 National Invitation Tournament and 1998 Big Ten titles and emptied its record book of any accomplishments from the players involved in the scandal. The NCAA ruled that Michigan must distance itself and not recognize any of the players until 2012.
That leaves Webber out of any on-campus reunion for a while. For the rest of the Fab Five, which includes current NBA forward Juwan Howard, there’s been little to no recognition of their time at Michigan.
On Sunday, there were subtle reminders of an era long gone all around Crisler Arena.
Fans in the Michigan student section, most of whom were toddlers when the Fab Five changed college basketball culture, chanted “Fab Five.”
Michigan’s current players wore maize jerseys with black socks and shoes - the Fab Five staple - in a 80-58 win over Gardner-Webb. While seen as an homage to the greatest teams in school history to most, junior guard Zack Novak said the black socks/shoes combination is standard fare whenever Michigan wears maize.
It was of course, started by the Fab Five.
“It’s awesome (to have them back),” Novak said. “That’s a big group right there. It’s good to get them back for a game.
“Just to see them and know what they’ve accomplished it kind of gives you something to work for.”
Not that all of them could be back.
“It’s a process and we’re enjoying the process,” Rose said. “We appreciate the process. Michigan has done a lot for us and vice versa. And I think it’s only a matter of time until we take a couple small steps here or there and before you know it, hopefully all five of us will be standing on the floor talking about the opportunity to really be embraced by Michigan basketball and this community.
“Hopefully the banners will be back up in the rafters one day.”
The banners - and Chris Webber - were hot topics at the ceremony.
“Chris is here with us in spirit at all times because he understands the big picture,” Jackson said. “We have to take these baby steps in order to get it done the right way.”
This summer, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said the school couldn’t do anything with the Fab Five as a group until 2013.
Brandon said then he's open to restoring the memory of the Fab Five on campus, but the impetus would be on the players to reach out when the time is right.
Rose and King have.
"It would seem to me that for any of those things to happen, there would have to be a relationship that was rebuilt, and two of them really seem to be interested in that, and I'm very impressed and appreciative, and it's great," Brandon said. "... It would have to be as a result of a relationship, communication, understanding. Kind of an ability to move ahead."
Sunday was a step in that. It brought Rose and King back again. It added Jackson, who returned for just his second game since leaving Michigan in 1995.
It also might set into motion a rare Fab Five reunion. Since King and Jackson left Michigan, the group has been together once, according to King - a 2003 charity event in Chicago to support Rose’s foundation.
Otherwise, with schedules and family life and a university that is unable to bring everyone together, they have been apart.
“We want to solidify our legacy,” King said. “ So coming back to put the exclamation point on the sentence.”