The University of Michigan has been around for many years, giving them numerous great basketball seasons. Today we will be talking in-depth about the greatest University of Michigan basketball team of all time, also known as the Fab Five. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story.
The Greatest Basketball Team at U of M
Michigan’s 1991 Recruiting Class
The year was 1991 when Michigan had arguably some of the best players recruiting class in college basketball history, even up to 2021. This team consisted of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. Four of these five individuals were in the top ten recruits for their class that year, with only Ray Jackson falling out of the top five and sitting at the number twenty-four ranking. Including their high rankings, four out of the five members were McDonald’s All-Americans which set a record for two decades.
Now, these freshmen slowly came into stardom, with different players earning starting spots throughout the year. When the season began, only three of the young stars started for the team, which was still a high number in college basketball back in the 1990s. It also took a few games until the five members were all on the court together at the same time.
It would take another month until all five freshmen started together on the court when it occurred on February 9, 1992. They shocked the world when they scored all of the team’s points against Notre Dame, which earned them the starting spot for the rest of the year.
This team was remarkable not only for their talents on the court at a young age but also for their attire. They also grabbed the attention of fans all around with their baggy shorts and black shoes, and socks. This may seem common sense to people nowadays, but some of the guys who got this trend started in basketball.
1992 NCAA Tournament
Now we wouldn’t be talking about them if they weren’t a successful basketball team, and trust us, they were. They performed very well in their first season at the NCAA tournament in 1992 while they were all freshmen. The first few games of this journey were relatively uneventful, but all eyes were on their elite eight matchups against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes destroyed the Fab Five rather handily by double digits during the regular season, so fans were expecting another blowout during this game as well.
It is safe to say that everyone was shocked when the Fab Five beat the Buckeyes, and the Fab Five crew scored all but two points for the Michigan team during that game. This proved the power of the young team and was almost as impressive as their victory in general.
The National Championship game was not as close, losing by twenty points during March Madness to the Duke Blue Devils. It is safe to say that everyone was disappointed in this performance based on previous expectations. Despite the setback, Webber earned second-team All-Big Ten Conference recognition in 1992. Lucky for Michigan, all the players decided to return to the team in 1993 for their sophomore years to give it another shot and prove the world wrong.
1993 Season at U of M
Even though they didn’t have as much attention now that they were sophomores, their performance did not change much. Unfortunately, they never won a Big Ten regular-season championship, which is quite ironic. They still performed well enough to give them a second chance the following year at the National Championship in 1993.
1993 final four was a great game is one of the most iconic games in all of college basketball history. It was coming down to the wire in the second half, and Michigan was all out of timeouts. However, Chris Webber, a forward for the team, called a timeout when there were none left, which results in technical foul and free throws for the North Carolina Tar Heels. This was in the game’s final seconds, which ultimately led to their defeat 77-71 and earned them the runner-up title for the second year in a row.
Unfortunately for the team, Chris Webber would become part of an investigation that would strip the team of their wins and Final Four appearances. Michigan was stripped of its record for the entire 1992–93 season, including its six NCAA post-season tournament games. It was found that Webber had received cash and support payments from a booster. This would come many years down the road, but one of the best ways to show a team’s success is how many players furthered their careers in the NBA.
NBA Careers for Four of the Fab Five
To be exact, four of the five players on this Michigan starting lineup would make it onto an NBA roster. The only man who did not make it on an NBA roster was Ray Jackson. Despite playing 125 games and scoring over 1200 points for U of M, he was cut preseason by the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons. Jackson was also the only player who was not in the top ten of the recruiting class before attending the University of Michigan. In 1995 Jackson was drafted into the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) by the Grand Rapids Hoops, where he received the 1995–96 CBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Jimmy King only played two seasons in the NBA, not amounting to anything crazy. King played two seasons in the NBA, playing 64 games in 2 seasons with the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets, and made one start for the Raptors in 1996. For most of King’s career, he played for the CBA in the Quad City Thunder.
Juwan Howard was a little luckier as he is the only member of the Fab Five who won an NBA Championship. He also had one of the longest NBA careers as his ring came in 2012 and then 2013, decades after his time at Michigan. His career has now come full circle, with Howard now being the coach of the Michigan Wolverines.
Fab FIve point guard Jalen Rose never won a ring, but he still was a great player in the league and helped lead the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals in 2000. Unfortunately, he did not win that title and is more famously known for being the man Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on. Chris Webber took his talents to the NBA, became an All-Star, and led his team to score when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2002. During his fifteen-year career, he was an All-Star five times and even had his number retired by the Sacramento Kings
Conclusion of Michigan’s Fab Five Basketball Team
As you can see, the Fab Five was considered the greatest team in basketball at the University of Michigan and highly notable in NCAA history. Although they never won an NCAA Championship, Michigan fans continued to follow the team as they continued to play at a high level even after their time at college was over. For more information about this time, we recommend watching the Fab Five 30 for 30 documentaries made by ESPN.