Originally published in SLAM 30
The 6th Man: I feel I should be a role model. I’m tired of the bad connotations with my name.—Chris Webber, to SLAM, October ‘97
Dear Chris Webber:
I don’t know you—let me say that right up front. We’ve met on a couple of occasions, mostly after games or at some event, but I have no insight into what makes you you. So if you’d like to take my comments with a grain of salt, it’s certainly your prerogative. Here’s hoping you don’t, though.
One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made here at SLAM was putting you on the cover of the January ’98 issue. Initially, I was vehemently against it. I felt that your career has been marked by a repeated failure to perform in the clutch coupled with a propensity to stick your nose in where, as an employee, it did not belong, i.e. personnel decisions. (Although, for whatever it’s worth, I’m sure the bad situation with Nellie at G. State was because he was such a hump.) Others on the staff were vocal in your defense, and eventually I caved. I caved when I observed that the off-the-court Chris Webber was a nice guy who was respectful and always had a smile or an encouraging word to keep lesser teammates in the game or a latch-key kid in school. This is what I saw.
And you know what? Even though the issue was one of the poorest selling in SLAM history, I never once regretted my decision. Especially after watching kids respond to you, not in the wide-eyed way they respond to the superheroic MJ, but as if you were their older brother, as if you really cared how they were doing when you asked. (And I believed you did.) I realized then that what you represented in life was a whole hell of a lot more important than your on-court failings.
Lately, however, the moral highground on which you stand has been shakier than the Mailman’s knees during the Finals. I won’t list your transgressions; sadly, they’re far too numerous (and, frankly, depressing) to mention here. But I feel compelled to tell you that you’re one step away from the CBA and two steps from Turkey. For all the talents you possess—and they are prodigious—teams are becoming less inclined to deal with the kind of bullshit you’ve been slinging. Which, in case you were wondering, explains Sacramento.
Despite all of your antics, though, I still believe that you’re a good guy. I really do. I guess I’m just tired of watching you piss your career down the drain. The kids are watching you, yo. Make a difference.
This is your October ’98 wake-up call. Now wake the F up.
PS. To our readers: In case you were wondering, Mike Miller won’t be writing our Basketball Diary anymore, because even though we weren’t paying him a penny, some NCAA rule prohibits it. Thanks Mike, we’ll be checkin’ for you, and Mike Dunleavy, Jr.’s gonna hold the spot down.