In 1991, the University of Michigan had five of the top high school players in the country in arguably the best recruiting class in college basketball history. Spearheaded by coach Steve Fischer; Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were the 5 recruits that stand out to this day. Each player had distinct characteristics as players that many believed would translate perfectly into the NBA. Of course, Chris Webber was regarded as the best player in America while Jalen Rose was drawing similarities to Magic Johnson due to his court vision.
Juwan Howard did a lot of things well on the court including scoring and rebounding, while Jimmy King had incredible athleticism next to the defensive-minded Ray Jackson. The “Fab Five” made the NCAA Championship Game in 1992 and 1993, although they fell to Duke and North Carolina in each of those years. In 1993, Chris Webber went for the NBA and was the No. 1 pick in the draft with the Golden State Warriors. One year later, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose were selected 5th and 13th in the 1994 NBA Draft. King and Jackson completed the entire 4 years with Michigan. Looking back at each player’s careers, 3 of them had long and successful NBA careers while the other 2 tackled different challenges in their lives which included time in Europe. It is time to remember the careers of each member of the famed “Fab Five”.
5. Ray Jackson
Ray Jackson completed all 4 years with the Michigan Wolverines and never made it to the NBA. Unlike the other 4 stars of the Fab Five, Jackson often flew under the radar. He was cut during the preseason by the Knicks in the 1996 season and later the Pacers in the 1997 season. He did, however, get drafted by the CBA (Continental Basketball Association) with the No. 35 overall pick.
With the Grand Rapids Hoops, Jackson won Rookie of the Year. While it is painful that Jackson was the only player of the “Fab Five” who did not make the NBA, he also had successful stints in France, Argentina, and Venezuela as a professional basketball player. Ray Jackson’s other life endeavors include running a moving company and also a non-profit organization for children called “Rise Up”.
4. Jimmy King
Similar to Jackson, King completed all 4 years with the Michigan Wolverines. The 6’5” shooting guard had a ton of explosiveness and athleticism in college, and it was clear he would have no problem finding a job in the NBA. Unlike Ray Jackson however, King eventually decided to join the NBA. With the 35th pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors selected King to be their shooting guard savior. King had a subpar rookie season, averaging 4.5 PPG in only 14.0 MPG, although he managed to play in 62 games as a 22-year old.
One year later, King only played 2 games with the Denver Nuggets and averaged 3.0 PPG on a 10-day contract. King then decided to take up a career in Europe with the CBA where he won league MVP with the Quad City Thunder. King’s success in Europe earned him a spot in the 1998 FIBA World Championship with Team USA, although he never returned to the NBA for a full season. King is also known for owning a high-school recruitment solution company called “TruChampions”. His success in Europe and also with his entrepreneurial endeavors made him a successful professional as part of the Fab Five.
3. Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard was one of the top two members of the Fab Five who made an All-Star Team during his career. Howard had a very strong rookie season with the Washington Bullets averaging 17.0 PPG and 8.4 RPG. It was not enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year over Grant Hill, who averaged 19.9 PPG and 6.4 RPG. The following year, Juwan Howard had his best season averaging 22.1 PPG and 8.1 RPG with Washington and earned his first and only All-Star appearance.
Howard also made the 1996 All-NBA Third Team as a forward alongside Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal in the frontcourt. Juwan Howard would go on to play with 7 different NBA franchises over his career, before finding success with the Miami Heat during his final 3 seasons. Despite being 38 and 39 years old, Howard was the locker room veteran and glue guy for the Heat superteam in 2012 and 2013. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh leading the Heat to back-to-back NBA titles; Howard became a 2-time NBA champion.
2. Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose was a very hyped rookie going into the NBA, although he fell to the No. 13 pick in the 1994 Draft. The draft class was stacked with talents such as Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, and even Rose’s teammate Juwan Howard. Rose took a while to get going in the NBA, after a modest rookie season averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.8 APG. His numbers were good enough with the Denver Nuggets to earn a spot with the All-Rookie Team. 5 years after his rookie season, Rose finally came into his own and won the Most Improved Player Award.
Rose averaged 18.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 4.0 APG with the Indiana Pacers that season. Rose would then go on to average above 20 PPG over 4 of the next 5 seasons with both the Pacers and Bulls, and would slowly enter a declining role in the league. Rose, with his confidence with the ball and with his solid playmaking, played a total of 13 seasons as a professional and he was the 3rd most successful part of the Fab Five.
1. Chris Webber
By far the most successful member of the Fab Five, Chris Webber might be in the Hall of Fame in the near future. Webber was regarded as the best player in the country during his time as a college player, and he certainly met that expectation in the NBA. Everywhere Webber went, his team was a winner. He captured the Rookie of the Year in 1994, averaging 17.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors traded Webber to Washington for Tom Gugliotta, and he would have more success. He would make his first All-Star Team in his third season with Washington, averaging 20.1 PPG and 10.3 RPG as a 23-year old.
On May 14, 1998, Washington traded Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. The Kings were a losing team for years and Webber was meant to be the city’s savior. With his ability to dominate the glass, handle the ball, and score in the paint; he nearly carried the Kings to the NBA Finals. His best years came with the Kings where he made 4 All-Star Teams and created a contender in Sacramento alongside Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac, and Peja Stojakovic. Webber was the best player for the team that famously fell to the Los Angeles Lakers (and potential referee bias) during the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Looking back at his career, Webber made 5 All-NBA Teams and had the most iconic career out of all members of the Fab Five.