The Fab Five Uncovered
Their revolution was televised.
SLAM: Was there any type of penalty for your protest?
JR: No, because when we did things we talked and planned it. By the time the coaches and the world saw it, it was too late. So, if we were going to wear plain blue shirts. Initially, they put our jerseys and warm ups in the locker, which was great, [but] we just didn’t wear it. That’s how we did our silent protest.
SLAM: In the film, I don’t know if I misinterpreted but in regards to the black socks, did Ray introduce the idea to the team, and then Nike started selling before you guys were pushing it?
JR: Well initially we were going to play Rice and one of Ray homeboy’s brought him a pair of footies that were grey with blue. When we saw those we were like those don’t match our uniforms but it sparked an idea. So we all went to the mall and tried to find all the black pairs we could so we could wear with our uniforms. And it seems crazy now, but they only had three pairs at the mall. When we played against Rice, I actually had on a pair of dress socks, because they didn’t have five pairs of black socks. But we knew that’s what we wanted to do and we didn’t want anyone to spoil the surprise, so that’s why we kept our warm ups on until it was time for us to take the court so Coach Fisher wouldn’t make us take them off or anything.
SLAM: The Fab Five set precedent for other teams to follow. How has the game changed from then to now?
JR: The game has changed because of social media. Everything is so fast forward. Guys are more sophisticated. They understand the business of how everything is happening. Players also understand that everybody is watching. Some of the things we did and said were because we were immature and unpolished. Sometimes I see some of the stuff we did and I just cringe like ‘Oh my God I actually said or did that?’ But the game has truly evolved to where you can have a personality now. Now, some guys do take it over the top, taking it from baggy shorts to having your pants hanging off your ass, having a tattoo to having tattoo on your head. So some guys do take it too far, but that’s really what it’s all about. I see us walking with our plain headphones in the documentary, and now it’s Skull Candy. So the game is more sophisticated.
SLAM: Did you guys realize then that you would have a greater cultural impact?
JR: We felt like we were changing the game, but that was really in our own heads. We didn’t know the social impact -that was worldwide- until we started to travel and people began to recognize and appreciate what we did. At the time, we were still staying in our dorms and trying to figure out how we’re going to go to the big parties and have fun and be college kids.
SLAM: Coach Perry Watson compared the pandemonium of the road games to traveling with the Jackson Five. Did you guys ever feel like you were rock stars?
JR: I think that’s a very good depiction; I think at times we did feel like rock stars. It was a big leap from being a high school player to being a member of the Fab Five and having everyone knows your name.
SLAM: There were racist letters from Alumni; did you guys ever experience that type of backlash on campus?
JR: It wasn’t necessary on campus, but the letters that you saw were actually in our locker room. We were like ‘Don’t take those down. We want to understand the element of racism.’ There are a couple of people that love us, but there’s a lot of people that are close to us, that hate us, and we wanted to bottle that and feed off that. And that’s exactly what we did.
SLAM: Did any of those letters turn into cheers?
JR: I would think so, because some of those letters were from Michigan grads and I’m pretty sure that eventually you couldn’t hate us forever and you had to find a way crossover. If you didn’t like us then, your kids or the people in your family did, so you didn’t have a choice.
SLAM: The film also revealed the groups dislike for Duke, as you stated ‘their program recruited “Uncle Toms.” Despite the hard feelings towards the Blue Devils, you felt they were the better team. How were you guys humbled when you were defeated in the ’92 title game?
JR: They beat us. They have a great program and their success speaks for itself.
SLAM: What was your favorite part of the journey in putting this film together?
JR: There were a lot of memories and situations I had a chance to reminisce about over a 20 year timeframe and it allowed me to appreciate our accomplishments. It allowed me to appreciate all for one and one for all as the Fab Five.
Thomas A. Harden is a veteran editor/writer who has contributed to MTV News, XXL, King and The Source Magazine and has been quoted in USA Today, MTV and the Baltimore Sun. He is currently the Editor-In-Chief of Urban Latino Magazine.