First things first. Everything you are about to read is purely my opinion, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else at 97.1 The Ticket or CBS Radio.
Last night I, like many of you, watched ESPN’s documentary “The Fab Five”. While I’m not by any means a Michigan fan, the Fab Five hold a special place in my memory. I was only 10 years old in 1993, but I remember watching the UNC/Michigan Final, and being shocked that a player as skilled as Chris Webber could make such a mistake by calling a timeout when Michigan had none left. After watching The Fab Five program last night, a conspiracy theory I have been developing for a long time was all-but confirmed: Chris Webber called that timeout on purpose.
Let’s set the background here. Ed Martin was giving money to Chris Webber (and Jalen Rose) while Webber was a student at The University of Michigan, and likely before that while Webber was attending Detroit Country Day. This is fact. We know Ed Martin made most of his money by running an illegal gambling racket during and after his time of employment with Ford. We know that Webber was already planning to declare for the NBA Draft following the 1992-’93 college basketball season. And finally, we know that Webber is one of the best college basketball athletes of all time, with the physical and mental ability to do anything he wanted on the court.
Here’s what I believe:
-Ed Martin had a lot of money tied into the game. Despite his support of Michigan players, he bet on UNC. Michigan was the Vegas favorite, and a winning UNC bet would be a big payday.
-Martin knew Webber was done in college, was moving to the NBA, and would no longer need Martin’s monetary support. Martin couldn’t know for sure if he would have another chance to influence a game for a big payout.
-Martin called in his favor with Webber. After years of providing money for “pizza and gas money”, Martin put the following proposal to Webber: throw the game or I expose every dollar and gift I’ve given you over the years.
-The game was close throughout, but in the final seconds, Webber had a chance to directly influence the outcome. Knowing Michigan had no timeouts left, after Pat Sullivan missed his second free throw with 20 seconds to play, Webber appeared to start calling timeout. But the referee wasn’t looking at him.
- Webber then made an attempt to pass the ball to Jalen Rose, but travelled in the process. I believe that travel was intentional as well, but once again, the referee didn’t see it.
-Out of options, Webber then moved down court, and saw a player (some say it was Michael Tally) signal for a timeout call. I believe that player was in on the fix as well, and was telling Webber what he had to do to seal the deal.
-Webber ran right into the corner trap that UNC set-up, let a few more seconds tick off the clock, and then called the timeout.
I believe Webber’s shame and tears were real, but more out of an “I just sold my soul” kind of feeling. I have no proof of any of this, it’s simply a hare-brained opinion I share with many other people. But the more I watch video of that game, the more I read about the Martin case and what developed after the Fab Five season, I can’t help but develop this conspiracy theory. Webber’s silence on the matter after all these years doesn’t help. Rose admitted he took money from Martin, but that it was only “walking around money”. Webber was indicted for lying to a grand jury when he said he never took money, but has never reversed his lie. Until I have proof that nothing shady went down, that it was simply a numb-minded mistake, I hold on to my opinion that C-Webb threw that game.