B/R's March Madness Top Moments, No. 7: Webber's Folly
On March 1, 1993, Chris Webber turned 20 years old.
The next day, Webber scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a win over Iowa. His Michigan Wolverines, the reigning national runners-up, were 23-4. Webber was the best amateur basketball player in the world.
Fast forward one month and three days: April 5, 1993.
Webber is still 20 years old—a sophomore in college. He's playing in his second consecutive national championship game. For the season, he's averaging 18.3 points per game on 58 percent shooting. On the night, Webber—again, a 20-year-old sophomore in college—has 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Webber grabs his 11th board with 19 seconds left and Michigan down two. As the scrum clears, Webber looks for the outlet to fellow sophomore Jalen Rose. North Carolina star George Lynch flashes in front of Rose, causing Webber to hesitate and drag his left foot.
It's a travel. The refs miss it.
Now forced to put the ball on the deck, Webber dribbles across half court into a Carolina trap. With 11 seconds left, Webber calls timeout. Michigan has none.
Technical foul. Carolina ball. Wolverines lose.
The media honed in on Webber's gaffe.
"Technical Knockout" wrote Sports Illustrated.
The New York Times led with "It's Michigan's Call, but It's Carolina's Title." The opening paragraph of that article, which probably sounded hyperbolic at the time, rings truer with each passing year.
No matter how successful his basketball career may be at the University of Michigan or beyond, Chris Webber will never be allowed to forget the moment tonight, with a national championship in the balance, when he called a timeout he did not possess.
Indeed, Webber would go on to great success in professional basketball.
Less than three months later, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. His career would span 15 seasons and include five All-Star selections. If not for some questionable officiating in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, he likely would have been an NBA champion.
And indeed, after all that, he has never been allowed to forget.
Almost two decades later, Rose—a friend of Webber's since childhood—would tell ESPN's Bill Simmons that the timeout still haunted his All-American teammate.
"He may or may not ever admit this," Rose said, "[but] I think that timeout really screwed him up emotionally."
What we remember is so often bound up in why we remember it.
So, why do we remember that Chris Webber cost Michigan the game? After all, the Wolverines were down two. Their chances of winning were already slim.
The answer is no doubt complicated, but it probably begins with the Fab Five—the most storied freshman class in college basketball history, of which Webber was the principal member.
Depending on who you ask, the Fab Five were either a revolutionary buzz saw that slashed through the vapidity of the 1980s or a revolutionary buzz saw that destroyed everything sacred.
Heroes and villains. Artists and criminals.
Where you fall on that spectrum probably corresponds to how you remember the Webber timeout.
Either you saw a headstrong dolt being undressed before the eyes of millions.
Or a 20-year-old kid caught on the wrong side of circumstance.
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