Review of ESPN's 'Fab Five' documentary: 4 out of 5 stars

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After nearly a month of sneak-previews and promos, ESPN unveiled its two-hour Michigan Fab Five documentary on Sunday. And as a lifelong fan and proud resident of the state, I can honestly say this was a well-thought out, engaging look at one of the most influential teams in college basketball history. When it comes to offering up a go-to history lesson for youngsters, this piece was a resounding success. But hiding behind a few surprise quotes (half of which were released before the airing), at its core, this broadcast felt incomplete. The material on its own, was brilliant. The delivery, for a variety of reasons, just couldn't match the overwhelming hype.

Above all else, Chris Webber's presence, or lack thereof, cannot be overstated. This was the Fab Five, after all. Every one of the key components back then, from the coaches to the role players, came aboard for interviews. Webber's shocking denial sealed the fate of this documentary from the onset, and never gave this project a chance to flirt with excellence like it deserved to. In terms of sheer popularity, Webber has been, and will always be the unquestioned king of this bunch.

In a way, director Jason Hehir was handicapped from the jump with an incomplete cast at his disposal. Doubling up on the quotes from Jalen Rose was perfectly fine because he's a well-spoken, interesting individual, but let's be real here: This felt like the equivalent of interviewing the '96 Chicago Bulls sans Michael Jordan, with the idea that asking Scottie Pippen most of the questions would supply the crutch of the quotes.

I'm a huge fan of the 30 for 30 series, and secretly hoped this particular topic would end up under the ESPN microscope. I had no problems eating up every minute of this nostalgic trip back to my childhood, but for a two-hour show lacking the biggest star it tries to promote, I could help but feel like many topics were glossed over. Michigan fans should probably go ahead and purchase this DVD as soon as it's available. However, as far as casual observers go this didn't quite reel in the viewers like it could have.

Review: 4 out of 5 stars

The Highlights:

  • In high school Jalen Rose picked number 42 "out of spite" for his biological father Jimmy Walker, who wore #24 in the NBA and was an absentee dad.
  • Juwan Howard on getting Webber to ink with the Wolverines: "I got that deal done."
  • Rose was the instigator on the baggy shorts: "I picked out a nice big pair, but the problem, they were for Chip Armer. They had a number 43 on them."
  • Jackson talking about being "ready to transfer" after watching his four peers get early playing time before him.
  • Rose on Ohio State: "We called them the Ohio State Fuckeyes."
  • Jimmy King's opinion of Christian Laettner: "A bitch. And I thought Grant Hill was a bitch too."

  • Rose on Laettner: "I thought he was an overrated pussy. Until I got on the floor with him, and realized he had game."
  • Jackson on not having luxuries: "We were eating cereal some nights."
  • King on monetary woes: "The only perks that we really got were pooling our money to go to Taco Bell, and they recognize us and give us free tacos."
  • Rose on his gift of gab: "Trash talking was 100% of who I was, on every level. I would do research on people, and say nasty things to them based on that research. I was a student of trash talking."

  • Rose on year two: "I didn't feel like a college kid anymore. I felt like a pro that wasn't getting paid."

  • Rose on the crack/drug house incident: He was playing video games on a couch when the cops busted in. Rose and a few friends were laughing at the idea of mistaken identity when a cop said "we got rocks". On the house itself: "It wasn't a dope house. I know what a crack house is. Trust me."

  • The taunting sequences after dunks and blocks on most of the replays shown were simply stunning. Kids would get kicked out of programs for that kind of stuff nowadays.

  • Some of the letters sent by Michigan alums, berating the players for being black, were despicable.
  • The Webber booster stuff didn't make the rounds until the 1 hour and 41 minute mark. The highlight of this section was Rose saying Ed Martin was around for "pocket change."

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