ATLANTA — Chris Webber, who is regarded as both a hero and a pariah in college basketball circles, has become the focal point of chatter during the course of the weekend.
In the past few days, he’s been as elusive as the chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. But in the moments before the start of the national championship game Monday night at the Georgia Dome, Webber had reportedly arrived.
The former Michigan center answered Jalen Rose’s pleas to join the rest of the group known as the Fab Five, who last led Michigan to the national championship game in 1993.
Members of the Fab Five entered the stands as Michigan’s starters were announced. Webber posted a statement on his Twitter account prior to the national title game.
“I’m here at the Georgia Dome to show my support for the Michigan men’s basketball team in its quest for a National Championship. I’ve known some of the players on the team since they were kids and I am excited for them and all of the student athletes on the court tonight who are wearing the Michigan uniform. It has been a great season and I wish them all the best.”
At halftime, Rose said he had not seen Webber, but knew he was in the building.
“No, I had a game I was kind of watching a little bit,” Rose said, grinning. “But I’ll get a chance to see him a little later. He’s in the building. I physically have not seen him, but I was kind of concentrating on a very important game, and I was wondering what was going on with [Louisville’s Luke] Hancock shooting threes!”
On the podcast “The B.S. Report,” hosted by ESPN personality Bill Simmons and recorded Sunday, Rose made an impassioned plea to Webber to join him and other members of the 1993 Michigan basketball program Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the national title game between Louisville and Michigan.
“We need to be there for so many different reasons,” said Rose, who is an NBA analyst and who played in the NBA for 13 seasons.
Rose said he, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, and Juwan Howard would be in Atlanta; Howard’s NBA team, the Miami Heat, hosts the Milwaukee Bucks today in south Florida.
“The elephant in the room has been Chris Webber,” Rose said. “While he loves us like brothers and vice versa, there has been a communication separation that is basically taken place since we were all teammates. I think the timeout had a lot to do with it.
“I think he wants to disassociate himself with that moment, with that school, in theory, with us to kind of rebuild his life to say, my career really started my rookie year in the NBA. But that’s not really how it works.
“If I saw him tomorrow, we would hug like brothers.”
Rose said he sent text messages to Webber, who had not responded. Webber, Rose said, lives in Atlanta and works as a commentator for NBA TV, which is headquartered in Atlanta.
Webber is barred from association with Michigan until May, the result of sanctions the school imposed upon itself and NCAA sanctions handed down in 1993 after investigations uncovered that a booster gave thousands of dollars to Michigan basketball players. Webber was indicted in 2002 on charges of obstruction of justice lying to a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to criminal contempt in 2003, a day before he was to be tried for perjury.
“He was the person eventually that ended up having the unfortunate timeout,” Rose said. “He was the person involved with the Ed Martin situation that led to the banners being taken down and the wins being vacated. He was the person that chose not to participate in the Fab Five documentary [on ESPN]. Now, hopefully, he’s not the only person who chooses not to celebrate Michigan basketball being on top.”
But on Saturday, Webber posted a photo of Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke, and Glenn Robinson III on his Twitter account and wrote, “It’s Your Time Now!”
THREE’S COMPANY: Hancock and Michigan guard Spike Albrecht combined for eight 3-pointers and 33 points in the first half — 17 from Albrecht. Hancock and Albrecht each went 4 for 4 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half. Louisville finished 5 for 8 on 3-pointers in the first half and Michigan 6 for 11. The notable halftime stat for the Wolverines? 17 rebounds, including 10 defensive rebounds.
STARGAZING: Former NBA great and basketball analyst Bill Walton, Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model Kate Upton, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were in the crowd. Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian and former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson were also on hand. Country artist Travis Tritt performed the national anthem. First responders to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut were honored.