Chris Webber, it’s reported, is set to retire today. The shadow of his blunder 15 Marches ago outlasted him after all.
The timeout Webber called in the 1993 NCAA Final — a timeout his Michigan team didn’t have — in the waning moments against North Carolina just won’t go away. Not that it should, but it’s now filed in the Bill Buckner category of sports blunders — those that will forever follow their perpetrators, almost completely rendering irrelevant their careers.
The Detroit Free Press took one last cheap shot at Webber — and Webber’s a Detroit kid, remember — with this silly headline: Time Out! Webber To Announce Retirement.
That headline was disgusting, and not even funny. What does a timeout have to do with retirement? A timeout suggests action will restart at some point. Webber is hanging up his sneakers for good. At best, it’s a bad joke. At worst, it’s simply mean-spirited, another attempt to obliterate what Webber did as an NBA player, which is only average 20.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, along with making five All-Star teams. That after helping to lead U-M to two NCAA Finals in both his years in Ann Arbor.
Yeah, there’s the Ed Martin scandal. A blemish, for sure. But just as that shouldn’t discard Webber’s basketball accomplishments, nor should the timeout in ’93.
Returning to Buckner, you’d think the man played one game, and handled one chance in his brilliant 22-year career. He had nearly 2,000 hits, had a career BA of .295, and a .992 career FA at 1st base. Yet he’ll never, and I mean NEVER, outlive his error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, when Mookie Wilson’s weak grounder went between his legs, enabling the Mets to complete their improbable comeback win over Boston.
Scott Norwood won’t be remembered for much more than his errant kick at the end of Super Bowl XXV, when his miss allowed the Giants to escape the Bills.
Granted, these were high-profile mistakes, no question. Each occurred in their respective sport’s biggest games. And history isn’t kind; it’s simply there to record what happened, not to put anything into context.
Yet it’s still a shame that as Webber holds his press conference today, many will look at him and STILL think of that stupid timeout against NC fifteen years ago, instead of all that he did on the floor in the NBA.
Now, you can knock Webber the NBA player all you want with my permission. He never won a championship. He had a lousy attitude in Philly. He ran out of gas, out of shape, with the Pistons last spring. He was, at times, more divisive than apt to show leadership. Those charges vary in their credibility, but all are legitimate, at least on their surface. Not all are true.
But for the Free Press, Webber’s hometown paper, to take such a cheap shot at their local kid as he prepares to retire because of painful knees, is classless.
Shame on them. THEY need a timeout.