Memories of Chris Webber

By Sam Rubenstein

A lot of what we do here is telling the life stories of basketball players, attaching importance to every little move they make and every big game they play. But there are times when you selfishly have to ask yourself, what does this guy mean to ME and my life?

Chris Webber is set to announce that he can’t come back from his latest injury setback, and so his career as an NBA player is over. When I think about it, Webber is the first player that I can remember breaking in as a rookie, having a great (Hall of Fame?) career full of twists and turns, and now retiring. Along the way he had his ups and downs. But this isn’t totally about Chris, this is also about memories of Chris.

Fab 5 days – there was an older girl in my school who used to wear her Webber Michigan jersey all the time. No big deal. A few years later when she graduated high school, her senior page in the yearbook had a photo of her bedroom. The word “shrine” does a disservice to how much Chris Webber paraphernalia she had. I’m amazed she never stalked and kidnapped him.

Rookie year with Golden State – NBA Live 95. The Warriors had Hardaway, Sprewell, Mullin, and Webber (and Billy Owens. He wasn’t allowed to touch the ball). Unstoppable. In real life they had injuries, but I prefer to remember the virtual best team ever. I can’t even tell you how many times we did impression of the barbershop commercial where he dunks on Barkley and invents the Sir Charles quote “I don’t believe in role models, but you mine.” He also had a guest skit on the Naughty By Nature album “Poverty’s Paradise.” The skit was called “Chris Webber Skit.” He uses the n-word on the phone when talking to, I guess Treach.

Oh yeah, Webber dunked on Barkley. It was supposed to be one of those changing of the guard, passing of the torch moments. Eh… didn’t happen quite that way.

There were a few lost years with the Bullets, some injuries, and in one of the dumber P.C. things ever they became the Wizards. What’s more dangerous, a little piece of lead and grammatical checkpoint you use to make lists? Or a dark hooded sorceror in flowing robes who can throw lightning bolts at you? I fear the wizard more than the bullet.

Annnnnnyways… I remember the playoff series against Chicago, where Washington played hard but got swept. I also remember C-Webb had this whole thing about how he was going to smile and love his life no matter whether he was winning or losing games. Very Bobby Bonilla of him.

Traded to the Kings, to the proverbial “NBA Siberia”, a.k.a. Sacramento. At this point in my life, all I knew about the Sacramento Kings was they had Wayman Tisdale once and this guy Mitch Richmond was putting up huge numbers but I’d only seen him play a few times, usually just in the All-Star game.

And then came White Chocolate, the artist who would someday be known as Eboy, and there had never been a more fun team to watch. They played the heavily favored and always hated Utah Jazz. That was a fun series to watch with friends. I remember that Chris Webber had a bad back, and that meant with the series on the line in game 5, Vlade Divac took the big shot. They did not win, but the future was bright.

The next year, Sacramento was supposed to the first round sacrificial lamb to hungry Shaq and the Lakers. Once again, they pushed a favored and hated team to the limit, but couldn’t get it done. This may have closed the book on the short-lived Chris Webber  as KG-type of sympathetic figure days.

The Kings became a great regular season team, who would get huge numbers from their MVP candidate Webber, then they’d get to the playoffs, run past some cupcake team, and then fall short against the Lakers. The Robert Horry pick up and fling it game-winner was symbolic of everything. Chris Webber was doomed to never be a champion. Oh well. Maybe if he wanted the ball with the game on the line… DIRK, this could be you!

I remember watching the epic game 7 to get to the Finals with some friends at a dirty, prehistorically disgusting apartment where we’d have to actually have a can of roach spray on the table at all times. When it went to OT, we looked around at each other and we were like “We are a part of history just watching this.” Most people in that room were on their way to becoming rap magazine big shots, so that kind of talk was normal.

The next year, I remember it was Sacramento-Dallas in the second round, back when every other team in the NBA was lucky to top 85 points in a game, they had a playoff game where it was like 75-72 at HALFTIME. Webber was out there too long in a blowout, and his knee… blew out. That was the end of Chris Webber explosive power forward, and he was forced to re-invent his game.

The next season, with Webber on the shelf rehabbing from the at-the-time mysterious microfracture surgery, Peja Stojakovic was – I kid you not – a for real MVP candidate! C-Webb was working his way back slowly, and I remember some thing about him boldly claiming “It’s my team! I’m the leader!” which was like, bro, that’s not the real you Chris.

I was done with Webber at this point. Had enough! People tend to hate a guy that piles up numbers in softer games and then doesn’t have the stomach for the big moment when we expect them to define themselves. Choking is a sign of weakness I suppose. We prefer our heroes to be able to run into a burning building and sacrifice, or to be completely driven with an insane need to prove they are better than YOU and everyone else. That’s just not the kind of guy Chris wanted to be. I guess. I don’t really know him like that. Daniel Plainview time: “There is a competition in me… I want no other man to succeed, etc.” You’d have more fun kicking back with C-Webb.

I was on the T-Wolves bandwagon hardcore that summer. They had Sprewell, I liked KG, and the Knicks were living La Vida Layden. So, I was pro-Wolves, anti-Kings when they met up in the second round. The series came down to a seventh game, where the MVP, KG, had some preposterous 25-20 line or something like that. The Kings had a chance to tie it with a three… the shot came from Webber, and it went in and out at the buzzer. The guy is CURSED! I felt pity, as much pity as you can for someone making a hundred mill and dating a pre-knowing too much about her Tyra.

When he was traded to Philly the next year, there was all the usual “Now Iverson gets to play along with a superstar!” talk. Yeah, his numbers were good in the East, but the thing I remember most about that trade was it happened the same day Randy Moss was traded from Minnesota to Oakland. The Sixers had invested a few bucks in two guys, and well, yeah… so Webber was blessed with a humungous buyout and had a renaissance with Detroit, giving them enough of a push to dominate the East in the regular season. The past few years blend together because I actually remember them clearly and that’s not as fun.

Going back to Golden State and Don Nelson, everything was set up to come full-circle for him, but this is Chris Webber we’re talking about, so you don’t get a happy ending.

Thank for the memories though Chris. Now I feel even older than you must feel as a retiree.