Chris Webber

Chris Webber (March 1, 1993)
Duration: 00:27:07

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Themes: Sports and Entertainment |

Guests: Chris Webber
Host : Cliff Russell
Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: In this program from March 1, 1993, host Cliff Russell devotes the entire program to an extended interview with Chris Webber, then a key leader of the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" basketball team. Webber went on to a long and successful career in the National Basketball Association, where he played for at least five different teams, including the Detroit Pistons.

At the time of the interview, Webber and his four fellow starters on the U-M team were sophomores and were preparing for their second trip to the NCAA national tournament. As freshmen, they had made it to the championship game before losing to Duke, and a few weeks after this interview, they again reached the final game of the tournament before losing, this time to North Carolina.

Their astonishing success, however, was accompanied by some controversy because of a brash, fast-paced style on the court that won them - rightly or wrongly - a reputation for being trash-talking hot dogs. Russell begins the interview by asking Webber how he feels about his treatment in the media.

"The media has made me out to be a great person, which I'm not, and made me out to be a terrible person, which I'm not," Webber says. "I don't think anybody deserves as much credit or criticism as the media gives them. That's just something I've got to live with."

Russell also asks about the tendency he perceives in the media to describe successful black players as "talented" when successful white players are described as "smart" and "hard workers." Webber says he sees that when Michigan plays Indiana. Michigan, whose starters are all black, gets called a "talented" team because of its fancy style of play, whereas Indiana, whose players are mostly white, gets praised for its work ethic. But, Webber says, "You can't be fancy if you don’t work hard."

Webber also says he hopes to use his success to give back to the black community, and cites as an example the professional football and baseball player Deion Sanders, who raised large amounts of money for black colleges in Atlanta.

"That's what I want to be like," Webber says. "I want to be like an Isiah (Thomas, of the Detroit Pistons) who reached back and helps me in the summer, lets me play with him, lets me get better with him in the summer, tells me what the NBA is like, that type of stuff. That's the type of people we need, the brothers we need to bring the young brothers along."

Parts of the interview, however, carry some irony in retrospect. When Russell asks whether college athletes should be paid because of the huge amounts of money their efforts bring into university coffers, Webber says they should not receive a salary, but should have other benefits. Several years later, after Webber had gone to the NBA, allegations that he had received $280,000 in illicit loans from a U-M sports booster sparked a major crisis for the U-M athletics department.

And despite his assertion in the interview that he planned to be back at U-M for his junior year, he was playing in the NBA the following fall.

This program offers an intriguing and close-up look at a young and articulate star athlete on the rise.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 7, File 15, Chris Webber – March 1, 1993 – Show # 2418