Chris Webber produced two very underrated Nas songs.
The first was the hypnotising “Blunt Ashes,” track 11 off the 2006 release Hip Hop Is Dead. The second is the objectively better “Surviving The Times” from Greatest Hits, a 2007 compilation album, and Nas’ last on Columbia Records. “Surviving The Times” was the only song on the project that was previously unreleased, and it was track one. But let’s go back to “Blunt Ashes,” which hook ends like so:
“The blunts ash falls down in the ashtray
Well, I see my whole life fly past me
I’m asking, did I keep it gangsta or keep it classy? (Did I?)
Anything else you wanna know, just ask me”
Appropriate. For years, years, Webber refused to publicly discuss many of the things we want to know: The infamous 1993 timeout from the National Championship, his ban from Michigan, and The Fab Five being erased from NCAA record books. He didn’t even talk on the critically acclaimed Fab Five 30 for 30 that was released 10 years ago. But in a recent full length interview with ESPN, the now ex-TNT commentator finally talked about it all. But even so, he leaves behind a complicated legacy on basketball alone.
Regarding his participation in the evolution of the game, he did say the following:
“I wish we would have had the freedom they have today, but we didn’t. And we made the most of that. So yeah, I love being a point/forward. I think Don Nelson, he saw that when he drafted me back then, and the game was just different. You have to check centers and other things. But I love the role that I played, and that was trying to make players better and show that the power forward can facilitate the offense if he could shoot, if he could score and if he could pass.”
Similar to Chris Bosh, as noted yesterday, you see Webber’s playmaking in some of the versatile bigs of today’s game, like Nikola Jokić and Bam Adebayo, who are not only point/forwards, but point/centers. Webber, for his entire 1993-2008 NBA career, he averaged 4.2 assists per game. Even in his two college years at Michigan, he dished out 2.4 assists per contest, which back then was a lot for big, and even now it’s pretty damn good.
Webber made five All-Star teams, four of which were from the 1999-2003 seasons in Sacramento, the peak of his peak years where he nearly led the Kings to an NBA Finals. Webber’s best statistical period ran from his first Washington Bullets season in 1994-95 through his last healthy Kings season in 2002-03. He posted 22.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks per contest while shooting 49 percent from the floor. He had a noted mid-range jumper, because that’s what you did in that era, but also made 31 percent from three on 1.4 attempts per contest. Webber made five All-NBA teams and even won a rebounding title in 1998-99.
But none of those things are likely the very first thing you may go to as part of his legacy. There’s all of Michigan, as previously alluded to. There’s forcing his way out of Golden State after only one season. People viewed him as immature, which led to him being moved from the Bullets to the Kings. The infamous “fixed” Game 6 that may have robbed the Kings of beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. And the injuries that shortened his career, effectively ending his prime at 30 years old and ending his career at 35.
But, man, this dude was ill. He was a walking 25-10-5 per game in an era of power forwards being actual power forwards, producing head-to-head against the likes of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki, among otters. He also is responsible for leading the best era of Kings basketball in recent memory, which is damn near hall of fame worthy in itself given what’s happened to that franchise since. He’s complex, but he’s a legend, and he’s seemingly free. Now, hopefully we’ll get a formal and proper Fab Five reunion someday.