My 20+ Year Love/Hate Relationship With Chris Webber
In 1992, the Orlando Magic was my favorite NBA team, Shaq was my favorite NBA player, the University of Michigan was my favorite college team and Webber was my favorite NCAA player. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that the Orlando Magic — who missed out on the playoffs because of a tie-breaker — somehow (thanks David Stern) won the Webber sweepstakes with just a single ball/chance of landing the No. 1 pick. I was even more excited when I actually heard the words, “With the first pick in the 1993 draft, the Orlando Magic select Chris Webber from the University of Michigan.”
I was so excited, I jumped in my car (I miss my Firebird Formula) and drove two miles to visit my best friend, who was bagging groceries at a Win-Dixie, to tell him the great news. Keep in mind, we didn’t have the web and cell phones back then so communication came via letters, home phones, bird or face-to-face. While me and my friend sat in the grocery store parking lot thinking about how dominant the Shaq and Webber duo will be, I missed this….
Although I grew to like Penny and still believe that the mid-90’s Orlando Magic had the potential to be a dynasty that could have dominated the rest of the decade — regardless of how many more years Michael Jordan would have played — I still couldn’t help but think about how great and exciting the Magic could have been with Webber.
I remember Webber throwing down a 360 dunk in the final seconds of the 1994 Rookie game and wishing he was doing that in an Orlando jersey. Then Penny was awarded the MVP of the game so I felt a little better.
Then the Magic faced the Warriors later that season and the Warriors won because Chris Webber blocked (goaltend?) Dennis Scott’s potential game winner. I cursed out Chris Webber and went to bed (those West Coast games ended really late for Eastern timers).
Then of course we had Webber throwing down the infamous behind the back dunk on a slim Charles Barkley.
Thankfully, Barkley had his revenge and made me feel better when he scored 56 points (27 in the first) against Webber and the Warriors during the playoffs.
It also made me feel less guilty when I bought my first Webber/Nike T-shirt that fittingly said, “You Got A Problem With That” on the front.
MR WEBBER GOES TO WASHINGTON
Things soon went real sour in Golden State between Nelson and Webber and the Rookie of the Year took advantage of the opt-out clause in his contract; He reportedly threatened to leave if they didn’t get rid of Nelson. Nelson offered to quit but Webber called his bluff. Drama, drama, drama and the next thing you know the Warriors traded Webber to play with ex Fab Five teammate Juwan Howard in Washington. The deal was Webber for Googs and three future draft picks that turned out to be Todd Fuller, Keon Clark & Chris Mihm. I didn’t really care at that point. I soon became a big fan again after watching what I considered one of the most fun teams ever: the 95 Bullets. Here’s an ancient mix I made about them.
Also worth noting about this time period was how big of scare they gave MJ and the Bulls in the playoffs. Jordan even gave them some praise by saying the Bullets were a young (even with Rod Strickland) team to watch; Jordan also parked his Corvette outside the arena, smoked a cigar and and stared down the players as they got off their bus and walked past him.
But what Webber did during this time period that I still praise the most, is leaving Nike because they wouldn’t lower the price of his shoes.
By the time Webber joined the Sacramento Kings, I was still riding with Shaq and now proudly wearing purple and gold. But, I have to admit that I had a VHS tape ready in the VCR to record every Jason Williams and Webber fastbreak in Sacramento.
Still, I tried to hate Webber. I tried to hate him because he was dating the beautiful Tyra Banks. I tried to hate on him because of his “Gangsta, Gangsta” rap video (which was better than Kobe’s god awful K.O.B.E rap song with Tyra Banks).
THE TWILIGHT YEARS
Once Shaq left the Lakers, Webber left the Kings and Penny pretty much left the league. I didn’t really have much of an opinion on Webber and what he was doing until he retired and became my favorite basketball analyst, who often sits next to the man I wanted to see him play with back in 1993.
What still bothers me the most about Webber is that over the past decade, I’ve met and/or worked with just about every one of my favorite players growing up except for him. Anyways, in honor of his birthday today, I’m going to present some of my favorite moments of Chris Webber, starting with this great feature on Rodney Rogers.