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Webber, Chris

Chris Webber

1973–

Professional basketball player

Basketball player Chris Webber reached celebrity status by his early 20s, but it is questionable whether any prominent athlete's career had as many ups and downs. While he was a high school standout and a member of the University of Michigan's celebrated Fab Five, Webber got his first moment in the national spotlight when he made one of basketball's most notable all-time blunders at the end of his sophomore season. He then gave his last two years of college up to join the National Basketball Association (NBA) and enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons in the league's history.

Before his second season began, however, a well-publicized rift with his coach forced a trade to another team and left Webber being identified as a crybaby. While gradually gaining back his good-guy image playing with the Washington Bullets, Webber reached his mid-20s with a long career in front of him in which to define his place in the game's history. Though Webber helped the Sacramento Kings teams become playoff contenders in the early 2000s, an NBA championship remained an elusive goal during his time with the Philadelphia Sixers in 2005. In his early 30s Webber moved home to Detroit and remained hopeful that he might be able to help the Detroit Pistons to a championship.

Attended Private School

Webber was born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, March 1, 1973, in Detroit. His parents were Mayce and Doris Webber. Mayce, a factory worker in a Detroit General Motors plant, sometimes worked double shifts to ensure that his five children could have clothes that fit. Chris proved early to be a promising basketball talent—in one game in the eighth grade he scored 64 points and had 15 dunks. When it came time to start high school, Mayce made a decision that Chris did not like at the time, taking him out of public school and sending him to Detroit Country Day High, a private school located in the upscale suburb of Birmingham. "I wanted to go to Southwestern (where friend and future Michigan teammate Jalen Rose would play), but my dad wanted me to go to Country Day to make sure I got an education," Webber told Sport magazine. "He knew I was gonna be OK in basketball."

Webber's high school career brought him superstar attention. He led Country Day to three state championships and, as a senior, averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds a game. Such impressive statistics earned him Michigan's Mr. Basketball and 1990–91 consensus National High School Player of the Year honors. Hundreds of colleges and universities eagerly sought Webber for their teams. His desire to remain close to his family led him to pick the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Dominated at University of Michigan

An interesting situation awaited Webber at Michigan, one that became even more interesting late in his initial year. In addition to Webber, Michigan had recruited four other nationally praised freshmen for the 1991–92 season: Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, and Jalen Rose. Midway through the season, these five young men constituted Michigan's starting lineup, and they had enough success to earn Michigan a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) postseason tournament. At first Michigan's youthful starting lineup was little more than one of the footnotes to the tournament hype. Over the two weeks of the tournament, however, as the Wolverines won their first five games to advance to the championship game, the starting lineup became known as the Fab Five, the most famous quintet to come from Michigan since the Temptations. The ride ended with a 71-51 loss to Duke in the title game, but Michigan's freshman class already had attained superstar status. The season was a success for Webber on an individual level, as well: He became the first freshman ever to lead the Big Ten Conference in rebounding, and he made the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

The following season looked like a campaign of triumph for Webber and the Fab Five, until the final seconds of the final game, when it became an embarrassment Webber knew he must live with for the rest of his life. The Wolverines made it to the NCAA title game again, this time as major celebrities and serious contenders for the championship. They once again won their first five tournament games to advance to the National Championship. This time they hung right with North Carolina's Tar Heels in a title game that went back-and-forth all night. Michigan trailed by two points in the closing seconds. Webber managed to corral a rebound off a missed Tar Heel free throw. Dribbling up court desperately, he called a timeout, apparently hoping to set up a shot to tie or win the game. The Wolverines, however, already had used their last timeout. North Carolina made the two technical free throws and retained possession of the ball. Michigan lost the game, sending Webber down in history with players who had made the greatest mistakes in sports. "I don't remember," Sports Illustrated quoted him as saying after the game. "Just called a timeout, and we did not have a timeout. And I cost our team the game." North Carolina coach Dean Smith pointed out that his team could have fouled the Wolverines repeatedly to prevent them from getting off a shot and without putting them on the free throw line. That point was lost in the days that followed the game, however, and Webber's mistake became a national topic of discussion.

If people wondered how Webber would handle the adversity, however, they need not have worried. "I was mad for a long time after the Duke loss, but I am not mad at anybody or anything this time," he told Sports Illustrated less than two weeks after the game. "I just have to deal with what happened. It is my responsibility." He also found out that public sentiment can be quite supportive of public figures who receive widespread attention for prominent goofs. "You not only find out who your friends are when something like this happens," he told Sports Illustrated, "you find out you have friends you didn't even know about."

Putting the timeout behind him, Webber set about making the next important decision of his life: whether to return to Michigan or join the NBA. He had gained some NBA experience—of a sort—when he served on the college all-star team that scrimmaged with the U.S. Olympic "Dream" Team in its pre-Olympic practices. "That was definitely an experience," he told Sport. "It gave me confidence. I realized I could play on this other level." While he wanted another crack at an NCAA championship, Webber finally decided to begin his NBA career.

At a Glance …

Born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III on March 1, 1973, in Detroit, MI; son of Mayce (a factory worker) and Doris Webber. Education: Attended University of Michigan, 1991–93.

Career: Professional basketball player. Selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1993 NBA Entry Draft; Golden State Warriors, 1993–1994; Washington Bullets, 1994–1995; Sacramento Kings, 1998–2005; Philadelphia 76ers, 2005; Detroit Pistons, 2006–.

Awards: Mr. Basketball for State of Michigan and National High School Player of the Year, 1991; NCAA All-Tournament Team, 1992, 1993; NBA Rookie of the Year, 1994; NBA All-Star Team, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.

Addresses: Team—Detroit Pistons, 5 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326.

Impressive Rookie Season

Though many analysts correctly assumed that the Orlando Magic would use the first pick in the 1993 NBA Entry Draft to select Webber, they also knew Orlando would have trouble balancing their financial needs with his. Webber enjoyed the prospect of playing with Magic-center Shaquille O'Neal, but the Magic traded him to the Golden State Warriors for third pick Anfernee Hardaway and three draft choices just moments after picking Webber with the first selection. The trade was much more popular in the Warriors' home city of Oakland than it was in Orlando. After signing an eyebrow-raising 15-year, $74-million contract with a one-year out clause which no one expected to be exercised, Webber started his pro career as a Golden State Warrior.

Webber's rookie season with the Warriors appeared to be a success on the floor by any standard. He garnered Rookie of the Year honors after becoming the first NBA rookie ever to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, get 250 assists, 150 blocks, and 75 steals. He also became the youngest player ever to lead the Warriors in rebounding. He drew rave reviews from people within the Warriors organization and throughout the league. "He's the best thing that has happened to this franchise, and to me personally, in the last dozen years," his coach, Don Nelson, told Sports Illustrated. "He's doing things around the basket that haven't been seen around here in quite a while." Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West agreed, telling Sports Illustrated, "Webber's the best rookie in the league. [Jamal] Mashburn and Hardaway are having good years, but Webber's clearly the best."

Feuded with Coach

Everything was not terrific in Oakland as far as Webber was concerned, however, as he made clear before his second season. To the surprise of a lot of basketball people, Webber decided to exercise the escape clause in his $74-million contract, becoming a 21-year-old free agent. When Warriors officials tried to find out why Webber was unhappy, the answer came down to one name: Don Nelson. "The coach was going to have to leave," Golden State owner Christopher Cohan told Sports Illustrated, "That's the bottom line. [Webber was] concrete on this issue." Webber apparently felt that Nelson criticized him excessively and tried to sabotage his career by cutting back on his playing time. The rift became quite public and acrimonious. When the Warriors chose Nelson in the showdown, Webber signed a new one-year, $2.08-million contract designed to facilitate a trade to the Washington Bullets.

While the trade—which came in the first month of the season—might have resolved the situation immediately, the feud between Webber and Nelson continued. When the media tried to get to the bottom of what had happened, they found different parties had different versions of the story. Webber claimed that Nelson regularly goaded him in front of his teammates, and he told Esquire, "One time I asked Coach Nelson if I could talk to him. I said, 'Coach, I know you're trying to push my buttons a certain way, motivate me this way and that, but it's not the right way. But here's some things I think will work.'" He also claimed Nelson snubbed him when he attended Nelson's fantasy camp that previous summer. Nelson said the aforementioned conversation never took place, and those present at the fantasy camp said the pair posed together for pictures for an hour. At any rate, Webber denied that he issued an ultimatum to the Warriors. "I never demanded they fire Coach Nelson, and I never demanded a trade," he told Sports Illustrated. "There were things that needed to be settled, that I wish he and I could have settled like men, but unfortunately that never happened." Nelson told Sports Illustrated, "I don't know what I've done in the past that made Chris so angry at me that he would not want to play for me. I thought I was soft on Chris. I tried to love him."

The episode did serious damage to Webber's reputation, though, and when Nelson resigned not long after the trade, some blamed Webber for costing him his job. Nelson sounded conciliatory, telling Esquire, "Listen, I think it's time to put this to rest. Chris and I both went through a very hard time because of this. We were both hurt. I think maturity had a lot to do with it, but I made errors, too." Still, when Sports Illustrated ran a major article on the spoiled prima donna athletes who were ruining the NBA, Webber was one of those prominently featured in the story. He said the accusation was unfair. "But the players and coaches in the league know what kind of person I am," he told Sports Illustrated. "They know I'm willing to listen to instruction. I'm not going to try to prove to anyone that I'm a good person. I'm not going to make sure I have my ear right next to [Washington] Coach [Jim] Lynam's mouth when he tells me something just so you guys [in the media] will see it. I'm going to be myself, and the kind of person I am will become evident."

Set About to Change Image

Webber set about to change his image during his first years in Washington. If he planned to let his play do the talking, it did so quite eloquently. He led the Bullets in scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (9.6), steals (1.54), and minutes (38.3), and was second in assists, blocks, and field goal percentage. He also reunited with Juwan Howard, his old teammate from Michigan, and the duo proved quite popular with Bullets fans. Things were starting to look up for Webber again. "My back's against the wall," he told Esquire. "I feel like I've always done well when my back's against the wall. My mother keeps telling me that there's got to be good times ahead, to make up for the bad times I've had lately." But the bad times had not receded completely into the past: in the team's only game of the season at Golden State, Webber dislocated a shoulder, an injury that caused him to miss 19 games.

At the end of the 1994–95 season, Webber signed a six-year, $59-million pact with the Bullets in time for the following season. The new contract was not the only positive change. He met with Nelson over the summer and patched up their relationship. He even began to regain his image as a good guy. Furthermore, he started off the season playing excellent basketball, leading the team with 23.7 points a game. That ended after 15 games, however, when Webber dislocated the same shoulder he had hurt the previous year. His season officially ended on the first day of February when he underwent surgery.

Off the court, Webber settled into a more sedate lifestyle. During his brief stay in Oakland he had become known for throwing wild parties that would last all night; he had recorded a rap album (never released) produced by Kay-Gee of Naughty by Nature; he hung out with Money-B from Digital Underground; and he hoped to do some acting, à la Shaquille O'Neal. In Washington he concentrated on his game and kept a somewhat low profile otherwise. He may have been shy following his rough times with the media, telling Sport magazine, "The past two years is not what I expected. My character has been totally diminished." He also may have become somewhat disenchanted with the life of a celebrity. In the same interview he said, "America is strange. Once you're in the spotlight, you find out the people you think are the good guys, most of the time they aren't. Now when I go to the hospitals, no cameras are coming with me. I don't want that. That's fake. That's what a lot of players like, but it's not for me."

The 1996–97 season started with a little bit of what the doctor ordered for Webber: good health. Webber suffered no major injuries, led his team in scoring, and helped the Bullets fight for their first playoff berth in his stay there. He had not reached the level of NBA superstar yet, but he was regarded as a solid player with strong character. Hakeem Olajuwan of the Houston Rockets summed it up in Sport: "Webber's an excellent power forward now. Right now, he's the perfect guy to complement a team. He may be able to carry his team in the future."

When people reach celebrity status, they get a full spectrum of attention: good, bad, hostile or adoring. While playing for the Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets), Webber, headed for practice, was stopped by the police for speeding. He had no license or registration, and the situation got worse. There was an altercation with the police officer, Webber was sprayed with pepper spray, his car was impounded and searched, and marijuana was found. "He was charged with assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, driving under the influence of marijuana, and five other traffic-related violations. He was released from jail on his own recognizance," Jet reported. "The night after the incident Webber was back on the court." He scored 20 points against the Portland Trailblazers, saying, "When I have something going against me, it seems it's easier for me to perform because I concentrate better." A few months later, he and fellow teammate were accused of sexual assault. He was later acquitted of all charges and had to pay a fine of $560.

During his off-season, Webber released 2 Much Drama, under his own record label aptly called, Humility Records. Sports Illustrated described the release as "a funny slick, self-puncturing and self-pitying slice of his life, his unfiltered chance to reveal the real Chris Webber (a.k.a. C. Webb)." The cover of the album featured a picture "only a pastor could love" of a shirtless Webber, squatting down, praying with a shining crucifix, "looking very much like a man begging forgiveness." The liner notes of the album contain a quote from the Bible and a photo of Webber looking right into the camera, arms extended in front of him, with the middle fingers of each hand prominently stuck in the viewer's face.

But Webber's connection to marijuana continued. While at a basketball camp in 1998, Webber's father Mayce was subjected to questions posed by the kids, "Why is Chris smoking dope?" Mayce, of course, defended his son. Then weeks later, while Webber was on a promotional tour for Fila, customs officials found marijuana in a sock that was packed in his athletic bag. He paid a fine, and Fila dropped his contract. Webber sued Fila, and the arbitration panel ruled in Webber's favor, "Webber did not violate the terms of his contract. Fila prematurely terminated the agreement," reported Jet.

Sought Championship with Sacramento Kings

In 1998, the Wizards traded Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. The organization was trying to free itself of one of its "problem children." According to Jackie MacMullan of Sports Illustrated, "Wizards broke two NBA rules of thumb—they traded big for small and young for old." The Wizards wanted to trade Juwan Howard, but most of the teams were interested in Webber. Webber felt betrayed. "I wasn't traded—I was sent to my room, put on punishment. They wanted to send me to Siberia," he told Sport.

Webber used his off time for some deep thinking and soul searching. Webber admitted that he could have handled things differently and that he did not blame others. "I need to react like a champion and let that be the last word," he told Sports Illustrated, "I am not at peace with my career … I want the game to embrace me, I don't mean the media, I don't mean the people within the NBA structure. I want the game. It embraced me in high school, it embraced me in college. I want that same feeling. I want the pressure of being the best." He stayed out of trouble and concentrated on his game.

Webber arrived at the Kings training camp, and began rebuilding his credibility. His first season with the Kings was one of the organization's first winning seasons. Webber became a fan favorite and Sports Illustrated made this statement: "Chris Webber (right) is The Man this season." In 2000 the team made it to the playoffs but lost to the Utah Jazz.

The Kings finished the 2001 season with a good record, although after a game 4 loss to the Lakers, they were bumped out of the NBA playoffs. At the end of that season, Webber faced the decision of whether to move on or to re-sign with the Kings as a free agent. At the end-of-the-game congratulatory handshakes, Webber spent a few extra moments with Laker Shaquille O'Neal. In the locker room, when asked about this moment, Webber said, "He was just congratulating me. He knows what I was thinking about so he came over and gave me some encouraging words about my past and my future, and I appreciated it from him." During the summer of 2001, Webber, a free agent, was being considered for the Detroit Pistons but he decided to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings. According to the Detroit Free Press, Webber's contract was for $123 million, the largest possible deal under league rules.

The following season, losing to the Lakers was even more painful. Los Angeles defeated the Kings in Sacramento, in overtime, in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake. "They accomplished what they wanted to do, that's all I'll say about them," said Webber, according to USA Today, which said he appeared devastated by the loss.

Legacy of Fab Five Tarnished

Webber had one legal problem related to his University of Michigan days. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of lying about money he repaid to a Wolverines booster, Ed Martin, to avoid jail time. He paid a $100,000 fine as a result. The NCAA imposed sanctions in 2003 that would not allow Webber (or three other former players cited in the scandal) to return to the University of Michigan for ten years. Webber was the only Fab Five member to be involved in the scandal, but the University took down the championship banners the group won in the 1990s as part of a self-imposed sanction against the dishonor Webber brought on the university. Webber's college sports records were also erased. One of the four other Fab Five members, Ray Jackson, told the Los Angeles Times that "If they don't accept Chris, they don't accept any of us because without Chris, there is no Fab Five."

The events did not stop Webber from focusing on his career, but physical trouble did. In 2003–04, Webber missed the first 50 games of the season because of a bad knee, for which he later underwent surgery, and then missed eight games because he was suspended by the league for lying to the grand jury and for violating the NBA's drug policy. In February of 2005, Webber was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the Philadelphia 76ers with forwards Matt Barnes and Michael Bradley for forwards Brian Skinner, Kenny Thomas, and Corliss Williamson. That was his worst season ever, perhaps because he never related well with the team's coach, Jim O'Brien. He told Chris Mannix and David Sabino in Sports Illustrated, "To be a Player of the Month and a day later be perceived as a lame horse, that was hard to take." O'Brien was fired after that season, and Webber was looking forward to the 2005–06 season as an opportunity to redeem himself. The Sixers proved an unhappy fit for Webber. With his playing time cut, Webber requested to be traded. The Sixers struck a deal to buy out the remainder of Webber's contract and on January 16, 2006, Webber joined the Detroit Pistons. At the time, Webber was one of only five players who remained on the court with career averages of more than 20 points and 10 rebounds. His knee surgery made it difficult for him to continue to rely on his speed and agility, yet Webber remained a powerful force on the court with his exemplary passing ability and game smarts. Webber became a starting center for the Pistons, a position that enabled him to make the best use of his assets. Webber had high hopes for his time with the Pistons, remarking to the Philadelphia Inquirer that he hoped to help them reach the playoffs. His return to Detroit, his hometown, stirred anticipation that he had come to prove a few points: that he was not too old to win a championship and that—despite the scandal at University of Michigan—he was a player to be respected.

Sources

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, July 19, 2001, C1.

Esquire, November 1995, p. 50.

Jet, February 9, 1998, p. 52; December 21, 1999, p. 47; July 26, 1999, p. 49.

Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2007, p. D1.

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 31, 2007; February 3, 2007.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 14, 2001, p E1.

SI.com, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, July 15, 2003.

Sport, April 1993; March 1996; February 2000.

Sporting News, November 22, 1999, p. 50.

Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993; April 19, 1993, p. 54; February 7, 1994, p. 51; November 28, 1994, p. 17; May 25, 1998, p. 98; March 15, 1999, p. 78; April 12, 1999, p. 42; April 12, 2004, p. 66; October 24, 2005.

USA Today, January 23, 2007.

Washington Post, January 11, 2007, p. E6; January 16, 2007, p. E6.

On-line

NBA.com, www.nba.com/playerfile/chris_webber/ (February 14, 2007).

USA Today, www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/02play-offs/games/2002-06-02-lakers-kings.htm (December 23, 2004).

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Webber, Chris 1973–

Chris Webber 1973

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

Bittersweet Notoriety

Rookie Sensation

Wounded Bullet

In Need Of A Rebound

Exiled to Sacramento

Sources

Chris Webber reached celebrity status by his early twenties, but it is questionable whe-her any prominent athletes career had as many ups and downs as Webbers. While he was a high school phenomenon and a member of the celebrated Fab Five University of Michigan team, Webber got his first moment in the national spotlight when he made one of basketballs most notable all-time blunders at the end of his sophomore season. He then gave his last two years of college up to join the National Basketball Association (NBA) and enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons in the leagues history.

Before his second season began, however, a well-publicized rift with his coach forced a trade to another team and left Webber being identified as a crybaby. While gradually gaining back his good-guy image playing with the Washington Bullets, Webber reached his mid-twenties with a long career in front of him in which to define his place in the games history. Webber undoubtedly had the talent to establish himself historically as a basketball figure with celebrity status, but perhaps he was not prepared for the particular demands and temptations that come with that kind of status. By the time he was 26 Webber had been released by two teams, had been arrested for assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, and was named in a sexual assault complaint. In addition, the sport shoe and apparel company, Fila, terminated Webbers contract. Webber also started his own record label. By the new millennium Webber was playing for the Sacramento Kings, his crown a bit tilted and tarnished.

Webber was born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, March 1, 1973, in Detroit. His parents were Mayce and Doris Webber. Mayce, a factory worker in a Detroit General Motors plant, sometimes worked double shifts to ensure that his five children could have clothes that fit. Chris proved early to be a promising basketball talentin one game in the eighth grade he scored 64 points and had 15 dunks. When it came time to start high school, Mayce made a decision that Chris did not like at the time, taking him out of public school and sending him to Detroit Country Day High, a private school located in the upscale suburb of Birmingham. I wanted to go to Southwestern (where friend and future Michigan teammate Jalen Rose would play), but my dad wanted me to go to Country Day to make sure I got an education, Webber told Sport magazine. He knew I was gonna be ok in basketball.

At a Glance

Born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III on March 1, 1973, in Detroit, Ml; son of Mayce (a factory worker) and Doris Webber, Education: Attended University of Michigan, 1991-93.

Career: Professional basketball player. Selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1993 NBA Entry Draft; Golden State Warriors, 1993-1994; Washington Bullets, 1994-1995; Sacramento Kings, 1998-.

Awards: Mr. Basketball for State of Michigan and National High School Player of the Year, 1991; NCAA All-Tournament Team, 1992, 1993; NBA Rookie of Year, 1994.

Addresses: Sacramento Kings, One Sports Parkway, Sacramento, CA 95834.

Webbers high school career brought him superstar attention. He led Country Day to three state championships and, as a senior, averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds a game. Such impressive statistics earned him Michigans Mr. Basketball and 1990-91 consensus National High School Player of the Year honors. Hundreds of colleges and universities eagerly sought Webber for their teams. His desire to remain close to his family led him to pick the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Bittersweet Notoriety

An interesting situation awaited Webber at Michigan, one that became even more interesting late in his initial year. In addition to Webber, Michigan had recruited four other nationally-praised freshmen for the 1991-92 season: Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, and Jalen Rose. Midway through the season, these five young men constituted Michigans starting lineup, and they had enough success to earn Michigan a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) postseason tournament. At first Michigans youthful starting lineup was little more than one of the footnotes to the tournament hype. Over the two weeks of the tournament, however, as the Wolverines won their first five games to advance to the championship game, the starting lineup became known as the Fab Five, the most famous quintet to come from Michigan since the Temptations. The ride ended with a 71-51 loss to Duke in the title game, but Michigans freshman class already had attained superstar status. The season was a success for Webber on an individual level, as well: he became the first freshman ever to lead the Big Ten Conference in rebounding, and he made the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

The following season looked like a campaign of triumph for Webber and the Fab Five, until the final seconds of the final game, when it became an embarrassment Webber knew he would have to live with for the rest of his life. The Wolverines made it to the NCAA Finals again, this time as major celebrities and serious contenders for the championship. They once again won their first five tournament games to advance to the National Championship. This time they hung right with North Carolinas Tarheels in a title game that went back-and-forth all night. Michigan trailed by two points in the closing seconds. Webber managed to corral a rebound off a missed Tarheel free throw. Dribbling up court desperately, he called a time-out, apparently hoping to set up a shot to tie or win the game. The Wolverines already had used their last time-out. North Carolina made the two technical free throws and retained possession of the ball. Michigan lost the game, sending Webber down in history with players who had made the greatest mistakes in sports. I dont remember, Sports Illustrated quoted him as saying after the game. Just called a time-out, and we did not have a time-out. And I cost our team the game. North Carolina coach Dean Smith pointed out that his team could have fouled the Wolverines repeatedly to prevent them from getting off a shot and without putting them on the free throw line. That point was lost in the days that followed the game, however, and Webbers mistake became a national topic of discussion.

If people wondered how Webber would handle the adversity, however, they need not have worried. I was mad for a long time after the Duke loss, but I am not mad at anybody or anything this time, he told Sports Illustrated less than two weeks after the game. I just have to deal with what happened. It is my responsibility. He also found out that public sentiment can be quite supportive of public figures who receive widespread attention for prominent goofs. You not only find out who your friends are when something like this happens, he told Sports Illustrated, you find out you have friends you didnt even know about.

Putting the time-out behind him, Webber set about making the next important decision of his life: whether to return to Michigan or join the NBA. He had gained some NBA experienceof a sortwhen he served on the college all-star team that scrimmaged with the U.S. Olympic Dream Team in its pre-Olympic practices. That was definitely an experience, he told Sport. It gave me confidence. I realized I could play on this other level. While he wanted another crack at an NCAA championship, Webber finally decided to begin his NBA career.

Though many analysts correctly assumed that the Orlando Magic would use the first pick in the 1993 NBA Entry Draft to select Webber, they also knew Orlando would have trouble balancing their financial needs with his. Webber enjoyed the prospect of playing with Magic-center Shaquille ONeal, but the Magic traded him to the Golden State Warriors for third pick Anfernee Hardaway and three draft choices just moments after picking Webber with the first selection. The trade was much more popular in the Warriors home city of Oakland than it was in Orlando. After signing an eyebrow-raising 15-year, $74-million contract with a one-year out clause which no one expected to be exercised, Webber started his pro career as a Golden State Warrior.

Rookie Sensation

Webbers rookie season with the Warriors appeared to be a success on the floor by any standard. He garnered Rookie of the Year honors after becoming the first NBA rookie ever to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, get 250 assists, 150 blocks, and 75 steals. He also became the youngest player ever to lead the Warriors in rebounding. He drew rave reviews from people within the Warriors organization and throughout the league. Hes the best thing that has happened to this franchise, and to me personally, in the last dozen years, his coach, Don Nelson, told Sports Illustrated. Hes doing things around the basket that havent been seen around here in quite a while. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West agreed, telling Sports Illustrated, Webbers the best rookie in the league. [Jamal] Mashburn and Hardaway are having good years, but Webbers clearly the best.

Everything was not terrific in Oakland as far as Webber was concerned, however, as he made clear before his second season. To the surprise of a lot of basketball people, Webber decided to exercise the escape clause in his $74-million contract, becoming a 21-year-old free agent. When Warriors officials tried to find out why Webber was unhappy, the answer came down to one name: Don Nelson. The coach was going to have to leave, Golden State owner Christopher Cohan told Sports Illustrated, Thats the bottom line. [Webber was] concrete on this issue. Webber apparently felt that Nelson criticized him excessively and tried to sabotage his career by cutting back on his playing time. The rift became quite public and acrimonious. When the Warriors chose Nelson in the showdown, Webber signed a new one-year, $2.08-million contract designed to facilitate a trade to the Washington Bullets.

While the tradewhich came in the first month of the seasonmight have resolved the situation immediately, the feud between Webber and Nelson continued. When the media tried to get to the bottom of what had happened, they found different parties had different versions of the story. Webber claimed that Nelson regularly goaded him in front of his teammates, and he told Esquire, One time I asked Coach Nelson if I could talk to him. I said, Coach, I know youre trying to push my buttons a certain way, motivate me this way and that, but its not the right way. But heres some things I think will work. He also claimed Nelson snubbed him when he attended Nelsons fantasy camp that previous summer. Nelson said the aforementioned conversation never took place, and those present at the fantasy camp said the pair posed together for pictures for an hour. At any rate, Webber denied that he issued an ultimatum to the Warriors. I never demanded they fire Coach Nelson, and I never demanded a trade, he told Sports Illustrated. There were things that needed to be settled, that I wish he and I could have settled like men, but unfortunately that never happened. Nelson told Sports Illustrated, I dont know what Ive done in the past that made Chris so angry at me that he would not want to play for me. I thought I was soft on Chris. I tried to love him.

The episode did serious damage to Webbers reputation, though, and when Nelson resigned not long after the trade, some blamed Webber for costing him his job. Nelson sounded conciliatory, telling Esquire, Listen, I think its time to put this to rest. Chris and I both went through a very hard time because of this. We were both hurt. I think maturity had a lot to do with it, but I made errors, too. Still, when Sports Illustrated ran a major article on the spoiled prima donna athletes who were ruining the NBA, Webber was one of those prominently featured in the story. He said the accusation was unfair. But the players and coaches in the league know what kind of person I am, he told Sports Illustrated. They know Im willing to listen to instruction. Im not going to try to prove to anyone that Im a good person. Im not going to make sure I have my ear right next to [Washington] Coach [Jim] Lynams mouth when he tells me something just so you guys [in the media] will see it. Im going to be myself, and the kind of person I am will become evident.

Wounded Bullet

Webber set about to change his image during his first years in Washington. If he planned to let his play do the talking, it did so quite eloquently. He led the Bullets in scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (9.6), steals (1.54), and minutes (38.3), and was second in assists, blocks, and field goal percentage. He also reunited with Juwan Howard, his old teammate from Michigan, and the duo proved quite popular with Bullets fans. Things were starting to look up for Webber again. My backs against the wall, he told Esquire. I feel like Ive always done well when my backs against the wall. My mother keeps telling me that theres got to be good times ahead, to make up for the bad times Ive had lately. But the bad times had not receded completely into the past: in the teams only game of the season at Golden State, Webber dislocated a shoulder, an injury that caused him to miss 19 games.

At the end of the 1994-95 season, Webber signed a six-year, $59-million pact with the Bullets in time for the following season. The new contract was not the only positive change. He met with Nelson over the summer and patched up their relationship. He even began to regain his image as a good guy. Furthermore, he started off the season playing excellent basketball, leading the team with 23.7 points a game. That ended after 15 games, however, when Webber dislocated the same shoulder he had hurt the previous year. His season officially ended on the first day of February when he underwent surgery.

Off the court, Webber settled into a more sedate lifestyle. During his brief stay in Oakland he had become known for throwing wild parties that would last all night; he had recorded a rap album (never released) produced by Kay-Gee of Naughty by Nature; he hung out with Money-B from Digital Underground; and he hoped to do some acting, a la Shaquille ONeal. In Washington he concentrated on his game and kept a somewhat low profile otherwise. He may have been shy following his rough times with the media, telling Sport magazine, The past two years is not what I expected. My character has been totally diminished. He also may have become somewhat disenchanted with the life of a celebrity. In the same interview he said, America is strange. Once youre in the spotlight, you find out the people you think are the good guys, most of the time they arent. Now when I go to the hospitals, no cameras are coming with me. I dont want that. Thats fake. Thats what a lot of players like, but its not for me.

The 1996-97 season started with a little bit of what the doctor ordered for Webber: good health. Webber suffered no major injuries, led his team in scoring, and helped the Bullets fight for their first playoff berth in his stay there. He had not reached the level of NBA superstar yet, but he was regarded as a solid player with strong character. Hakeem Olajuwan of the Houston Rockets summed it up in Sport: Webbers an excellent power forward now. Right now, hes the perfect guy to complement a team. He may be able to carry his team in the future.

In Need Of A Rebound

When people reach celebrity status, they get a full spectrum of attention: good, bad, hostile or adoration. While playing for the Washington Wizards, Webber, headed for practice, was stopped by the police for speeding. He had no license or registration, and the situation got worse. There was an altercation with the police officer, Webber was sprayed with pepper spray, his car was impounded and searched, and marijuana was found. He was charged with assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, driving under the influence of marijuana, and five other traffic-related violations. He was released from jail on his own recognizance, Jet reported, The night after the incident Webber was back on the court. He scored 20 points against the Portland Trailblazers, When I have something going against me, it seems its easier for me to perform because I concentrate better. A few months later, he and fellow teammate, Juwan Howard, were accused of sexual assault. He was later acquitted of all charges and had to pay a fine of $560.

During his off season, Webber released 2 Much Drama, under his own record label aptly called, Humility Records. Sports Illustrated described the release as a funny slick, self-puncturing and self-pitying slice of his life, his unfiltered chance to reveal the real Chris Webber (a.k.a. C. Webb). The cover of the album featured a picture only a pastor could love of a shirtless Webber, squatting down, praying with a shining crucifix, looking very much like a man begging forgiveness. The liner notes of the album contain a quote from the Bible and a photo of Webber looking right into the camera, arms extended in front of him, with the middle fingers of each hand prominently stuck in the viewers face.

But Webbers connection to marijuana continued. While at a basketball camp in 1998, Webbers father Mayce was subjected to questions posed by the kids, Why is Chris smoking dope? Mayce, of course, defended his son. Then weeks later, while Webber was on a promotional tour for Fila, customs officials found marijuana in a sock that was packed in his athletic bag. He paid a fine, and Fila dropped his contract. Webber sued Fila, and the arbitration panel ruled in Webbers favor, Webber did not violate the terms of his contract. Fila prematurely terminated the agreement, reported Jet.

Exiled to Sacramento

In 1998 the Wizards traded Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. The organization was trying to free itself of one of its problem children. According to Jackie MacMullan of Sports Illustrated, Wizards broke two NBA rules of thumbthey traded big for small and young for old. The Wizards wanted to trade Juwan Howard, but most of the teams were interested in Webber. Webber felt betrayed. I wasnt tradedI was sent to my room, put on punishment. They wanted to send me to Siberia, he told Sport.

Webber used his off time for some deep thinking and soul searching. Webber admitted that he could have handled things differently and that he did not blame others. I need to react like a champion and let that be the last word, he told Sports Illustrated, I am not at peace with my career I want the game to embrace me, I dont mean the media, I dont mean the people within the NBA structure. I want the game. It embraced me in high school, it embraced me in college. I want that same feeling. I want the pressure of being the best. He stayed out trouble and concentrated on his game.

Webber arrived at the Kings training camp, and began re-building his credibility. His first season with the Kings, was one of the organizations first winning season. Webber became a fan favorite and Sports Illustrated made this statement: Chris Webber is The Man this season. In 2000 the team made it to the playoffs but lost to the Utah Jazz.

The Kings finished the 2001 season with a good record, although after a game four loss to the Lakers, they were bumped out of the NBA play-offs. At the end of that season, Webber faced the decision of whether to move on or to re-sign with the Kings as a free agent. At the end-of-the-game congratulatory hand shakes, Webber spent a few extra moments with Laker, Shaquille ONeal. In the locker room, when asked about this moment, Webber said, He was just congratulating me. He knows what I was thinking about so he came over and gave me some encouraging words about my past and my future, and I appreciated it from him. During the summer of 2001, Webber, a free agent, was being considered for the Detroit Pistons but he decided to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings. According to the Detroit Free Press, Webbers contract was for $123 million, the largest possible deal under league rules.

Since coming to Sacramento, Webber has slowly, but surely, reinvented his game and his thinking. I doubted myself, he told Sports Illustrated. I started to second-guess anything I did, any way that I lived. Chris Webber has decided to focus on his first lovebasketball. In so doing, he has regained the admiration of his fans and earned the respect of his critics.

Sources

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, July 19, 2001, C1.

Esquire, November 1995, p. 50.

Jet, February 9, 1998, p. 52; December 21, 1999, p. 47; July 26, 1999, p. 49.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 14, 2001, p E1.

Sport, April 1993; March 1996; February 2000.

Sporting News, November 22, 1999, p. 50.

Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993; April 19, 1993, p. 54; February 7, 1994, p. 51; November 28, 1994, p. 17; May 25, 1998, p.98; March 15, 1999, p. 78; April 12, 1999, p. 42.

Other

Additional information for this profile obtained from the Washington Bullets 1996-97 Media Guide.

Mike Eggert and Christine Miner Minderovic

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Webber, Chris 1973–

Chris Webber 1973

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

It is questionable whether any prominent athlete has ever seen his career experience as many ups and downs by his early twenties as Chris Webber did. A high school phenom and member of the celebrated Fab Five University of Michigan team during his college career, his first moment in the spotlight came when he made one of basketballs most notable all-time blunders, calling a time-out his team didnt have in the closing seconds of the National Championship Game at the end of his sophomore season. He then passed up his final two years of college eligibility to join the NBA, and enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons in the leagues history, labeling himself as a superstar for years to come. Before his second season would begin, however, a well-publicized rift with his coach forced a trade to another team and found Webber being identified as a crybaby. While gradually gaining back his good-guy image playing with the Washington Bullets, Webber reached his mid-twenties with a long career in front of him left to define his place in the games history.

Webber was born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, March 1, 1973, in Detroit. His parentsMayce and Doris WebberMayce was a factory worker in a Detroit General Motors plant, and he sometimes worked double shifts to ensure that his five children could have clothes that fit. Chris proved early to be a promising basketball talentin one game in the eighth grade he scored 64 points and had 15 dunks. When it came time to start high school, Mayce made a decision that Chris did not like at the time, taking him out of public school and sending him to Detroit Country Day High, a private school actually located in the upscale suburb of Birmingham. I wanted to go to Southwestern (where friend and future Michigan teammate Jalen Rose would play), but my dad wanted me to go to Country Day to make sure I got an education, Webber told Sport magazine. He knew I was gonna be OK in basketball.

Webbers high school career found him getting superstar attention before his college career even started. He led Country Day to three state championships and, as a senior, averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds a game. Such impressive statistics earned him Michigans Mr. Basketball and 1990-91 consensus National High School Player of the Year honors. Hundreds of colleges and universities eagerly sought Webbers services. His desire to remain close to his family led him to pick the

At a Glance

Born Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, March 1, 1973 in Detroit, Michigan; sonofMayceiafactory worker) and Doris Webber.Education: Attended University of Michigan, 1991-93.

Career: Professional basketball player, 1993. Selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1993 NBA Entry Draft.

Selected awards: Mr. Basketball forstate of Michigan and National High School Player of the Year, 1991 ; NCAA All-Tournament Team, 1992 and 1993; NBA Rookie of Year, 1994.

Addresses: Washington Bullets, USAir Arena, Landover, Maryland, 20785.

University of Michigan.

An interesting situation awaited Webber at Michigan, one that became even more interesting late in his initial year. In addition to Webber, Michigan had recruited four other nationally-praised freshmen for the 1991-92 season: Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, and Jalen Rose. Midway through the season, these five young men constituted Michigans starting lineup, and they had enough success to earn Michigan a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) postseason tournament. At first Michigans youthful starting lineup was little more than one of the footnotes to the tournament hype. Over the two weeks of the tournament, however, as Michigan won its first five games to advance to the championship game, the group became known as the Fab Five and quickly became the most famous quintet to come from Michigan since the Temptations. The ride ended with a 71-51 loss to Duke in the title game, but Michigans freshman class already had attained superstar status. The season was a success for Webber on an individual level, as well: he became the first freshman ever to lead the Big Ten Conference in rebounding, and made the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

The following season looked like a campaign of triumph for Webber and the Fab Five, right up until the final seconds of the final game, when it became an embarrassment Webber knew he would have to live with for the rest of his life. The Wolverines qualified for the NCAA Tournament once again, this time as major celebrities and serious contenders for the championship. They once again won their first five tournament games to advance to the National Championship. This time they hung right with North Carolinas Tarheels in a title game that went back-and-forth all night. Michigan trailed by two points in the closing seconds. Webber managed to corral a rebound off a missed Tarheel free throw. Dribbling up court desperately, he called a time-out, apparently hoping to set up a shot to tie or win the game. The Wolverines already had used their last time-out. North Carolina made the two technical free throws and re-tained possession of the ball. Michigan lost the game, sending Webber down in history with players who had made the greatest mistakes in sports. I dont remember,Sports Illustrated quoted him as saying after the game. Just called a time-out, and we did not have a time-out. And I cost our team the game. North Carolina coach Dean Smith pointed out that North Carolina had several fouls to give and could have fouled the Wolverines repeatedly to prevent them from getting off a shot without putting them on the free throw line. That point was lost in the days that followed the game, however, and Webbers mistake became a national topic of discussion.

If people wondered how Webber would handle the adversity, however, they need not have worried. I was mad for a long time after the Duke loss, but I am not mad at anybody or anything this time, he told Sports Illustrated less than two weeks after the game. I just have to deal with what happened. It is my responsibility. He also found out that public sentiment can be quite supportive of public figures who receive widespread attention for prominent goofs. You not only find out who your friends are when something like this happens, he told Sports Illustrated, you find out you have friends you didnt even know about.

Putting the time-out behind him, Webber set about making the next important decision of his life: whether to return to Michigan or join the NBA. He had gained some NBA experience~of a sort-when he served on the college all-star team that scrimmaged with the U.S. Olympic Dream Team in its pre-Olympic practices. That was definitely an experience, he told Sport.It gave me confidence. I realized I could play on this other level. While he wanted another crack at an NCAA championship, Webber finally decided to begin his NBA career.

Though many analysts assumed the Orlando Magic would use the first pick in the 1993 NBA Entry Draft to select Webber, they also knew Orlando would have trouble balancing their financial needs with his. Webber enjoyed the prospect of playing with Magic center Shaquille ONeal, but the Magic traded him to the Golden State Warriors for third pick Anfernee Hardaway and three draft choices just moments after picking Webber with the first selection. The trade was much more popular in the Warriors home city of Oakland than it was in Orlando. After signing an eyebrow-raising 15-year, $74-million contract with a one-year out clause which no one expected to be exercised, Webber started his pro career as a Golden State Warrior.

Webbers rookie season with the Warriors appeared to be a success on the floor by any standard. He garnered Rookie of the Year honors after becoming the first NBA rookie ever to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, get 250 assists, 150 blocks and 75 steals. He also became the youngest player ever to lead the Warriors in rebounding. He drew rave reviews from people within the Warriors organization and throughout the league. Hes the best thing that has happened to this franchise, and to me personally, in the last dozen years, his coach, Don Nelson, told Sports Illustrated.Hes doing things around the basket that havent been seen around here in quite a while. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West agreed, telling Sports Illustrated, Webbers the best rookie in the league. (Jamal) Mashburn and Hardaway are having good years, but Webbers clearly the best.

Everything was not terrific in Oakland as far as Webber was concerned, however, as he made clear before his second season. To the surprise of a lot of basketball people, Webber decided to exercise the out clause in his $74-million contract, becoming a 21-year-old free agent. When Warriors officials tried to find out why Webber was unhappy, the answer came down to one name: Don Nelson. The coach was going to have to leave, Golden State owner Christopher Cohan told Sports Illustrated, Thats the bottom line. (Webber was) concrete on this issue. Webber apparently felt that Nelson was excessively critical of him, and tried to sabotage his career by cutting back on his playing time. The rift became quite public and quite acrimonious. When the Warriors chose Nelson in the him-or-me showdown, Webber signed a new one-year, $2.08-million contract, designed to facilitate a trade to the Washington Bullets, which came in the first month of the season.

While the trade might have immediately resolved the situation, the feud between Webber and Nelson continued. When the media tried to get to the bottom of what had happened, it found different parties had different versions of the story. Webber claimed that Nelson regularly goaded him in front of his teammates, and told Esquire, One time I asked Coach Nelson if I could talk to him. I said, Coach, I know youre trying to push my buttons a certain way, motivate me this way and that, but its not the right way. But heres some things I think will work. He also claimed Nelson snubbed him when he attended Nelsons fantasy camp that previous summer. Nelson said the aforementioned conversation never took place, and those present at the fantasy camp said the pair posed together for pictures for an hour. At any rate, Webber denied that he ever issued an ultimatum to the Warriors. I never demanded they fire Coach Nelson, and I never demanded a trade, he told Sports Illustrated.There were things that needed to be settled, that I wish he and I could have settled like men, but unfortunately that never happened. Nelson told Sports Illustrated, I dont know what Ive done in the past that made Chris so angry at me that he would not want to play for me. I thought I was soft on Chris. I tried to love him.

The episode did serious damage to Webbers reputation, though, and when Nelson resigned not long after the trade, some blamed Webber for costing him his job. Nelson sounded conciliatory, telling Esquire, Listen, I think its time to put this to rest. Chris and I both went through a very hard time because of this. We were both hurt. I think maturity had a lot to do with it, but I made errors, too. Still, when Sports Illustrated ran a major article on the spoiled prima donna athletes who were ruining the NBA, Webber was one of those prominently featured in the story. He said the accusation was unfair. But the players and coaches in the league know what kind of person I am, he told Sports Illustrated.They know Im willing to listen to instruction. Im not going to try to prove to anyone that Im a good person. Im not going to make sure I have my ear right next to (Washington) Coach (Jim) Lynams mouth when he tells me something just so you guys (in the media) will see it. Im going to be myself, and the kind of person I am will become evident.

Webber set about to change his image during his first years in Washington. If he planned to let his play do the talking, it did so quite eloquently. He led the Bullets in scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (9.6), steals (1.54) and minutes (38.3), and was second in assists, blocks and field goal percentage. He also reunited with Juwan Howard, his old teammate from Michigan, and the duo proved quite popular with Bullets fans. Things were starting to look up for Webber again. My backs against the wall, he told Esquire.I feel like Ive always done well when my backs against the wall. My mother keeps telling me that theres got to be good times ahead, to make up for the bad times Ive had lately. The bad times had not receded completely into the past: in the teams only game of the season at Golden State, Webber dislocated a shoulder, an injury that would cause him to miss 19 games.

At the end of the 1994-95 season, Webber signed a six-year, $59-million pact with the Bullets in time for the following season. The new contract was not the only positive change. He had met with Nelson over the summer and patched up their relationship. He even began to regain his image as a good guy. Furthermore, he started off the season playing excellent basketball, leading the team with 23.7 points a game. That ended after 15 games, however, when Webber dislocated the same shoulder he had hurt the previous year. His season officially ended on the first day of February, when he underwent surgery on the shoulder.

Off the floor, Webber settled into a more sedate lifestyle. During his brief stay in Oakland he had become known for throwing wild parties that would last all night; he had recorded a rap album (never released) produced by Kay-Gee of Naughty by Nature; he hung out with Money-B from Digital Underground; and he hoped to do some acting, a la Shaquille ONeal. In Washington he concentrated on his game and kept a somewhat low profile otherwise. He may have been shy following his rough times with the media, telling Sport magazine, The past two years is not what I expected. My character has been totally diminished. He also may have become some- what disenchanted with the life of a celebrity. In the same interview he said, America is strange. Once youre in the spotlight, you find out the people you think are the good guys, most of the time they arent. Now when I go to the hospitals, no cameras are coming with me. I dont want that. Thats fake. Thats what a lot of players like, but its not for me.

The 1996-97 season started with a little bit of what the doctor ordered for Webber: good health. Webber suffered no major injuries, lead his team in scoring, and helped the Bullets fight for their first playoff berth in his stay there. He had not reached the level of NBA superstar yet, but he was regarded as a solid player with strong character. Hakeem Olajuwan of the Houston Rockets summed it up in Sport: Webbers an excellent power forward now. Right now, hes the perfect guy to complement a team. He may be able to carry his team in the future. Only the future would tell.

Sources

Esquire, November 1995, p. 50.

Sport, April 1993; March 1996.

Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993; April 19, 1993, p. 54; February 7, 1994, p. 51; November 28, 1994, p. 17.

Other

Additional information for this profile obtained from the Washington Bullets 1996-97 Media Guide.

Mike Eggert

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Webber, Chris

Chris Webber

1973-

American basketball player

Chris Webber, known as C-Webb, is an athletic and dynamic forward who, at six-feet-ten-inches, can get the crowd on its feet with spectacular dunks and nearly poetic play up and down the floor. In the media limelight since high school, Webber has become one of the shining stars of the National Basketball Association (NBA) during his ten-year career. As a member of the Sacramento Kings since 1999 he is a team leader and a fan favorite. However, the path for this member of the University of Michigan's acclaimed "Fab Five" had several tough years in the NBA before putting it all together.

Growing up in Detroit

Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III was born on March 1, 1973, in Detroit, Michigan, the oldest of five children. His father, Mayce, was a plant foreman for General Motors, often working double shifts, and his mother, Doris, taught special needs children in the Detroit school system. Although reared in a tough lower-middle-class Detroit neighborhood with few positive economic and social opportunities, Webber benefited

from a close-knit family with supportive parents who kept a close eye on their son.

Webber did not play much basketball until the summer before entering the sixth grade. His father encouraged him to take up the sport because his son was already exceptionally tall for his age. Joining a summer basketball program, with little idea how to play, Webber almost quit because the other kids teased him for his awkwardness. Encouraged by his father to tough it out, Webber was helped by a local coach who recognized his potential and spent hours working with him to improve his play, which paid huge dividends for Webber. Despite Webber's protests, his parents enrolled him as a freshman at Detroit Country Day High, located in an upper-middle-class suburb of Birmingham. During his time at Country Day, Webber led the school to three state basketball championships and averaged twenty-eight points and thirteen rebounds per game during his senior year. In 1991 he was named Michigan's Mr. Basketball and National High School Player of the Year.

The "Fab Five"

After the final game of the 1991 state championship, Webber announced to a group of reporters that he would play for the University of Michigan Wolverines. There, under the leadership of Coach Steve Fisher, Webber joined four other highly recruited freshmen: Ray Jackson, Juwan Howard, Jim King, and Jalen Rose. When Fisher put all five freshmen in the starting line in February of 1992, the team was dubbed the Fab Five. Known for their cocky, self-assured play, on-court trash talk, and knee-length shorts that soon became the national trend in uniforms, the Fab Five earned a bid to the 1992 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament as a sixth seed. Webber and his teammates reached the finals, but were soundly beaten by the Duke Blue Devils, 71-51. Webber was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, averaging 15.5 points per game and leading the conference in rebounding.

With all the Fab Five returning as sophomores, great things were expected of the Wolverines. Webber did not disappoint: he led his team in points per game (19.2) rebounds per game (10.1), blocks per game (2.1), and field goal percentage (.619). In March of 1993, the Wolverines were back in the final game of the NCAA tournament, this time favored to beat their opponent, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Webber poured in twenty-three points and grabbed eleven rebounds; however, in a fateful play, down by two points with eleven seconds left on the clock, he got caught in a trap in the corner near the Michigan bench. To avoid a turnover, he signaled for a timeout. But, because the Wolverines had no remaining timeouts, Webber was called for a technical foul. The Tar Heels made both free throws and ultimately won the championship 77-71.

Rookie of the Year

Webber was devastated by his mistake and at first vowed to return for his junior year to atone for his fatal error. However, with the NBA knocking at his door with promises of large salaries and future superstardom, Webber soon announced that he would forego his remaining years of college eligibility to enter the 1993 NBA draft. He was selected as the first overall pick by the Orlando Magic, who moments later traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and three draft choices. Webber signed a 15-year contract with the Warriors worth $74 million.

Chronology

1973 Born March 1 in Detroit, Michigan
1987-91 Stars in basketball at Country Day High in Birmingham, Michigan
1991-93 Stars as a member of the University of Michigan's "Fab Five"
1993 Begins career in National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Golden State Warriors
1994 Traded to the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards)
1998 Stopped for speeding, arrested for marijuana possession, assault, and resisting arrest; traded to the Sacramento Kings
2001 Leads Kings to first postseason victory in 20 years

During his first season in the NBA, Webber posted extraordinary numbers, becoming the first NBA rookie to attain 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 blocks, and 75 steals. However, even after earning Rookie of the Year honors and leading his team to a respectable record of 50-32, Webber let it be known that he was unhappy at Golden State. In the media frenzy that ensued to discover the source of Webber's discontentment, the young Warrior found himself in the midst of an ugly and well-publicized feud with Coach Don Nelson. The controversy tarnished Webber's image, causing him to be labeled as an overpaid prima donna. One month into his second NBA season Webber was traded to the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards), signing a one-year contract for $2.08 million.

Reunited with former Wolverine teammate Juwan Howard, Webber worked to regroup personally and professionally after arriving in Washington, D.C. An injured shoulder that eventually required surgery shortened Webber's 1994-95 to fifty-four games and the 1995-96 season to just fifteen games. Returning healthy in 1996, Webber posted excellent numbers, leading the Bullets in scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (9.6 per game), steals (1.5 per game), and minutes played (38.3 per game), earning his first invitation to the NBA All-Star Game.

Off the court, Webber once again ran into problems. In January of 1998 he was stopped for speeding on the way to practice. He was charged with numerous traffic violations as well as possession of marijuana. Assault and resisting arrest were also added after he became involved in an altercation with the arresting officer. Webber failed to clear his image and lost his contract with Fila after custom officials found marijuana in his gym bag while he was on a promotional tour for the footwear company.

Sacramento: A New Beginning

Despite his basketball abilities, the Wizards decided to rid themselves of the headaches caused by Webber's off-court antics and traded him to the Sacramento Kings in 1998. Webber, who responded bitterly to the trade, felt that the Wizards' organization was acting punitively and unfairly. Yet unexpectedly Sacramento became Webber's chance to begin afresh. He later told Sport, "I thought it was the end of the world coming here, but it was a new beginning."

As a member of the Kings, Webber has cleaned up his image and consistently proves himself on the court. After a rough first five years in the NBA, he once again enjoys the game of basketball. Despite an opportunity to exercise his rights as a free agent in 2001, Webber chose to remain in Sacramento, a place he once considered the Siberia of professional basketball. In 2001 the Kings won its first postseason series in twenty years. During his tenure with the Kings, Webber has averaged over twenty-four points and eleven rebounds per game. With ongoing success on the floor and a new maturity, he continues to push himself to become an NBA superstar of the highest degree.

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP Pts P/G FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO
GS: Golden State Warriors; SAC: Sacramento Kings; WASH: Washington Wizards.
1994 GS 76 1333 17.5 .552 .000 .532 9.1 3.6 1.2 2.2 206
1995 WASH 54 1085 20.1 .495 .276 .502 9.6 4.7 1.5 1.6 167
1996 WASH 15 356 23.7 .543 .441 .594 7.6 5.0 1.8 .06 49
1997 WASH 72 1445 20.1 .518 .397 .565 10.3 4.6 1.7 1.9 230
1998 WASH 71 1555 21.9 .482 .317 .589 9.5 3.8 1.6 1.7 185
1999 SAC 42 839 20.0 .486 .118 .454 13.0 4.1 1.4 2.1 148
2000 SAC 75 1834 24.5 .483 .284 .751 10.5 4.6 1.6 1.7 218
2001 SAC 70 1898 27.1 .481 .071 .703 11.1 4.2 1.3 1.7 195
2002 SAC 54 1322 24.5 .495 .263 .749 10.1 4.8 1.7 1.4 158
TOTAL 529 11667 22.1 .498 .301 .627 10.2 4.3 1.5 1.8 1556

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Sacramento Kings, One Sports Parkway, Sacramento, California 95834. Phone: (916) 928-6900.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Henderson, Ashyia, ed. Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 30. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Newsmakers 1994, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.

Sports Stars. Series 1-4. Detroit: UXL, 1994-98.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Periodicals

Adande, J. A. "The Quick Turn Around." Sporting News (November 22, 1999): 50.

Ballantini, Brett. "King for (Just) a Day?" Basketball Digest (April 2001): 24.

Deveney, Sean. "A 'Desperate' Man." Sporting News (March 11, 2002): 20+.

Deveney, Sean. "Now is No Time for Webber to Leave Kings." Sporting News (July 9, 2001): 50.

"NBA Star Chris Webber Arrested." Jet (February 9, 1998): 51-52.

Ribowsky, Mark. "King Leery." Sport (February 2000): 28.

Sabino, David. "A Whole New Rap." Sports Illustrated (April 12, 1999): 42.

Schoenfeld, Bruce. "Getting a Read on Chris Webber." Sporting News (January 24, 1994): 36.

Taylor, Phil. "Beating the Blues." Sports Illustrated (April 19, 1993): 54.

Taylor, Phil. "Capital Gain." Sports Illustrated (November 28, 1994): 16.

Other

"Chris Webber." National Basketball Association. http://www.nba.com/ (December 11, 2002)

"Chris Webber." Sports Stats.com. http://www.sportsstats.com/bball/national/players/1990/Chris_Webber/ (December 11, 2002)

Sketch by Kari Bethel

Awards and Achievements

1991 Named Mr. Basketball for State of Michigan and National High School Player of the Year
1992 Big 10 Freshman of the Year
1992-93 Named National Collegiate Athletic Association All-Tournament Team
1993 First Team All Big 10 and First Team All American; selected first overall in National Basketball Association draft by the Orlando Magic
1994 Rookie of the Year and All Rookie First Team
1997, 2000-02 NBA All Star
1999 Led NBA in rebounds (13.0 per game); named Second Team All NBA
2002 Named Second Team All NBA

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