Special to Page 2
Chris Webber's basketball career is a lesson in why it's important to be yourself. The basketball world has never seen the real Chris Webber, at least not for very long.
We've been treated to C-Webb, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound marvel who has more in common on the court with Magic Johnson than Karl Malone, and more in common off the court with Allen Iverson than Grant Hill. That's a shame.
Because Chris Webber is better than C-Webb.
Chris Webber had the potential to become the best power forward the game has ever seen. He could've been as reliable in the low post as Kevin McHale, as consistent and relentless as The Mailman, as immovable as Wes Unseld. He could've been a terrific last line of defense.
Instead, C-Webb focused on redefining the position. C-Webb wanted to do a little bit of everything -- shoot the 3, lead the break, dish the ball behind his back and avoid the daily bump and grind of typical low-post play.
C-Webb is no flop. In 12 seasons, he's averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists. When he's been healthy, he's been an NBA All-Star. In 2000-01, he made a strong run at league MVP. But he's never reached his potential. He's bounced around to four different franchises. Sacramento, the city C-Webb put on the NBA map, recently decided it had a better chance to contend without C-Webb, and dealt him to the Philadelphia 76ers. Webber lost a power struggle with Peja Stojakovic, a one-dimensional shooter.
|Page 2's Skip Bayless says that Chris Webber continues to be dogged by 'loser's intangibles', even after the trade to Philly.|
That would've never been said about Chris Webber. On draft night in 1993, shortly after Orlando made him the No. 1 overall pick, Golden State's Don Nelson acquired Webber from the Magic in the hope of turning him into an in-the-paint beast capable of causing Shaquille O'Neal a few problems. The thought of battling Shaq caused Webber to go on a hunger strike and shed 25 pounds. He shrank to C-Webb size and started working on his perimeter game.
Soon after that, C-Webb started working on a rap sheet and a rap album. Chris Webber disappeared. Now we only hear from him when ESPN does a package on Webber's love of art or African artifacts.
Chris Webber was never comfortable being Chris Webber. I could see it when he was a member of Michigan's Fab Five. I covered those teams for the Ann Arbor News. Webber wanted desperately then to be Jalen Rose, a player with half of Webber's potential and polish. Webber loved the fact that Rose was from Detroit's mean streets. Webber's parents, a factory worker and a school teacher, had placed him in a pricey, predominantly-white private high school.
Webber rebelled by idolizing Rose. It was as if Webber was embarrassed that he'd come from a solid two-parent home. Rose was never a bad guy. He was just "city" and cool. It was odd that Michigan's best player, the player with the most intellect, deferred to Rose's overpowering personality. Rose defined the Fab Five. His game was undisciplined, and so were the Wolverines. They achieved remarkable feats, but never won an NCAA title or even a Big Ten championship. In retrospect, particularly given the subsequent NCAA investigation into the Wolverines' program, they were the epitome of style over substance.