Tomorrow night the Sacramento Kings will honor Chris Webber by retiring his Jersey in an elaborate halftime ceremony.
His greatness on the court has been well documented, including by this writer.
Webber was also considered an enigma; a great player who many thought could have been even greater.
But Webber was also an enigma off the court; a person who’s actions have drawn great scrutiny. That is the subject of this half of the story.
Webber found legal trouble in 1998. After being pulled over for speeding, Webber was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, driving under the influence and five other traffic violations.
Later in 1998 Webber was arrested by customs officials for possession of marijuana as he returned from Puerto Rico.
His biggest troubles were still ahead of him, as his past would come back to haunt him.
In 2002 Webber was charged with lying to a federal grand jury as part of an investigation into the University of Michigan basketball program. The investigation began as an investigation into booster Ed Martin, who was accused of running a numbers game. The investigation quickly spread throughout the University.
Martin was convicted of tax evasion and robbery but died of a heart attack before he could testify against Webber.
Webber would not escape the situation so easily.
As a result of evidence submitted during Martin’s trial, Webber pled guilty to one count of criminal intent for lying about his role in the scandal. As facts were revealed, it turned out that Webber had been receiving money from Martin since the eighth grade. Webber admitted to repaying Martin $38,000 in 1994.
Having concluded that Webber’s amateur status had been compromised, Michigan forfeited its 1992 Final Four appearance, its entire 1992-93 season, and deleted all of Webber’s records from the books. For all intents and purposes, Webber had made three years of Michigan basketball disappear.
The worst part of all of this is that he lied. While four other players on his Michigan team admitted their wrongdoings and accepted their punishments for their roles in what happened, Webber denied it.
When he got in front of a grand jury, he lied. Lying to a grand jury in this country is considered treason and (technically), punishable by death. Obviously times have changed a bit. Webber would end up with only fines and community service for his wrongs.
At the end of the day the question becomes, does what he did on the court overshadow what he did off it? For the Kings organization, apparently the answer is an emphatic "yes."