What do you remember most about Chris Webber?
Is it him wearing a Sacramento Kings jersey playing exciting and selfless basketball? Is it him as a wide-eyed rookie in Golden State doing a behind-the-back and dunking all over Charles Barkley? Do you remember him as a Washington Bullet with his budding athleticism? What do you make of his pit stops during the tail end of his career with the 76ers and Pistons before hanging it up as a Warrior? For the younger generation, you must have heard him as an analyst for TNT and as a commentary voice in NBA 2K, right?
They say his otherworldly combination of athleticism, showmanship, and craftiness in his prime was something else. They say he was built to lock horns with the game's best power forwards on a nightly basis. They also say his passing ability and feel for the game were transcendent and ahead of his time. Where do we place him among his contemporaries, such as Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan? More than a decade after his last season in 2008, what will Chris Webber be remembered for?
Well, simply put, Webber will be remembered for being a Hall of Famer.
It took him eight long years, but C-Webb is finally going to be inducted into the Hall. One of the game's greatest power forwards' arrival into basketball royalty may seem overdue, but his journey was anything but conventional. His entry had been a long point of contention on many fronts because his greatness was somehow undeservingly tied to his shortcomings.
He was part of college basketball's superteam of the ‘90s, Michigan's Fab Five. They barged into the NCAA with matching ferocity and style, captivating audiences worldwide. But Webber ended his career on a sour note with an infamous timeout call that cost his school the national championship. Webber later also found himself in the middle of a scandal that led to Michigan disassociating itself from its former star athlete for 10 years, ending in 2013.
Webber's NBA career was tantalizing as he wowed fans with power, finesse, and skill. As soon as he came into the league, it was clear that he was a different breed of a power forward. It isn't farfetched to say that he revolutionized the position not just because of his sheer athleticism but probably more so due to his passing ability.
With every behind-the-back pass, outlet, fake handoff, or nifty no-look, he was able to show his skill and showmanship. Oftentimes, it was his audacity that separated him. Who whips a wrap-around pass off an opponent’s backside all the way to the 3-point line? Who throws a one-handed, no-look, behind-the-back to a baseline cutter?
Watching him play with the Kings as they executed the Princeton offense was art. It was basketball nirvana with each player playing his role to perfection and being able to feel off each other with ease. And at the center of it all was the star power of Webber.
But for all his brilliance, C-Webb unfortunately never won a ring. His closest was a 2002 Western Conference Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also didn't have a clear-cut MVP season much like Nowitzki or Garnett. His prime was ultimately cut short by nagging injuries and even though he transformed his game as a spot-up elbow shooter, he just couldn't get over the hump.
Still, his failings shouldn't be considered stains to his legacy. Instead, they are merely parts of his not-so storybook basketball career. Somehow, the long wait into the Hall made his entry much sweeter. It was the uphill climb that made reaching the summit worth it. He was very much a superstar, imperfections and shortcomings be damned.
Webber's strained relationship with Michigan recently came to full circle with the school's athletic director apologizing for the fallout. It was also reported that there will be a Fab Five reunion this weekend at the Hall of Fame. It will be cathartic for basketball fans to see Webber coming to terms with his former school and teammates.
And even though Webber never won a championship in Sacramento, he revitalized the franchise. For a brief window, he made the Kings a playoff powerhouse that legitimately threatened the throne. He made the Kings not only deserving of an audience, but he made Sacramento basketball a must-watch. He ended his playing days as the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year, a five-time All-Star, five All-NBA selections, and will go down as one of the best big men this game has ever seen.
How will we remember the career of Chris Webber?
Maybe it’s best to remember him as the guy who did everything he possibly could to help the Kings win. We saw him as a passing savant who made the game aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to watch. He had an edge and fearlessness. He scored and played with a passion. Every star had the showtime plays and the rim-rattling dunks. He was that rare talent who did not only have the scoring highlights but also had a playmaking arsenal.
Webber was able to combine power with finesse, athleticism with precision, and showmanship with craftsmanship. For a generation of fans, he was a superstar who shined in his own way and pushed the game forward.
That's Chris Webber, Hall of Famer.