Golden State getting more than warrior in Webber PRO BASKETBALL

July 09, 1993|By Dwight Chapin | Dwight Chapin,San Francisco Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Golden State Warriors are getting a man of many parts in top draft choice Chris Webber, only some of them readily apparent, despite his menacing stature on a basketball court.

Listen to what columnist Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press has to say about the 20-year-old Webber: "In all the time I've written sports, I've very rarely come upon a guy with his sort of thoughtfulness and intelligence, his take on life.

"He's done endless interviews with black newspapers and TV stations so small they don't even warrant his time. And he would drive to their studios himself."

Albom, who is writing a book on Michigan's "Fab Five," said Webber is a young man who "always has to know why. On road trips, he would be expounding on Malcolm X or the meaning of college athletics."

People have been marveling at what Webber can do with a basketball since he was a teen-ager.

"His high school coach always talks about the game in which an alley-oop pass came in way too high for him," Albom said. "It went over his head and off the backboard, but he somehow stayed in the air, caught it one-handed when it ricocheted off the backboard and slammed it.

"He was so good that his high school team went from Class D to C to B while he was there, because it was just killing everybody. They won two different classes of state championships, the last one while he was playing the entire championship game on a sprained ankle."

Webber's toughness was evidenced at Michigan, too, when he blocked seven shots in a game against Minnesota -- a day after underdoing surgery for a broken nose.

His contributions were such that when he left college after only two seasons, he got the blessings of coach Steve Fisher, who said, "I'm just glad he was here for two years."

Jason Whitlock of the Ann Arbor News, thinks Webber's best game was in the narrow NCAA tournament win over UCLA last spring.

"Before that, I had a lot of questions about whether he was special," said Whitlock, "or whether he was just a very raw low-post player who relied on brute strength. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, he showed me if he puts his mind to it, he can do anything."

Like Albom, Whitlock said that Webber is "very intelligent, very savvy. He's smart enough about the media that he isn't always going to say what's on his mind. He's not going to be another Charles Barkley."

He can exchange "trash talk" on occasion. But he displayed a much different emotion after Michigan's loss to North Carolina in the NCAA final, thanks in part to Webber's timeout call when the Wolverines had no timeouts remaining, which drew a crucial technical foul.

Webber's coaches and teammates strongly defended him.

"I'll always remember the Fab Five doing what no one thought we could do," guard Jalen Rose said that night. "And I'll remember Chris Webber for making it possible."

"Chris was really gracious about the timeout thing," Albom said. "He took the blame on himself. He came right out of the locker room after the game for a press conference.

"Then he went into a back room for a long time. Finally, he emerged and walked down a long corridor [in the Louisiana Superdome]. There was no place to hide. There were mobs of TV people around him. But no one said anything. It was really eerie.

"Then Chris' youngest brother -- he has three brothers and a sister -- came up and gave him a hug and he just started to sob. Everybody felt so bad, they kind of pulled back and gave him his space. I think half the reporters were crying. He sort of inspires that kind of emotion and respect."

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