Chris Webber could very well be the most gifted power forward to ever play the position, a revolutionary with his myriad gifts and a sign the NBA was changing when he arrived in the mid-1990s.
But his fingerprints haven’t been awarded with a Hall of Fame induction, at least not yet. Although best known for his stint in Sacramento, turning the Kings into contenders in the early 2000s, he took Golden State and Washington to the playoffs in his early years followed by productive stints in Philadelphia and Detroit.
A five-time All-Star, Webber averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists from 1993-2008. The Hall of Fame class of 2020 featured Webber’s contemporaries and it would’ve almost been perfect to see him go in with the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
Due to the pandemic, that class hasn’t officially been enshrined and the Hall is planning two separate ceremonies for this calendar year. Because of the secretive nature of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, nobody can pinpoint why Webber hasn’t gotten the nod yet.
“Yes it has bothered me but it’s not something that’s made me bitter or something you think about all the time,” Webber told Yahoo Sports. “The validation of the best players that have ever played in the world has been enough for me. Every year around this time, you get that call, right after that call you get legends calling you. You get to reminiscing with them about disappointments in their lives.”
Webber didn’t win an NBA title, coming close in 2002 with the Kings in a controversial series against the Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
The seven-game classic was perhaps marred in Game 6, where the Lakers went on a parade to the free-throw line that helped them tie the series at three, and won an overtime Game 7 on the road.
Webber had a strong case for MVP in 2001, and before his serious knee injury in the 2003 playoffs against Dallas, he carried the franchise with averages of 24.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals in a five-year stretch.
He helped turn the power forward position into a versatile one, ushering in a golden era highlighted by Duncan, Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, among others.
“KG and Sheed, we all grew up in the same era. I was just older,” Webber said. “I admired their games too. I stole from everybody that came before me. Barkley, Karl Malone, Derrick Coleman, Magic Johnson, big guys who could do more.
“I knew I was part of the generation that was changing the paradigm. We grew up on Magic. He’s 6-9 and now in practice our coaches are letting us dribble. I knew as a big man being able to shoot threes and do other things, not a lot [of bigs] were doing it. I knew I could do some things other people my size couldn’t do and I wanted to play different positions. Nellie [Don Nelson] validated that my first year by trying to make me a point forward. I knew I had that gift.”
Webber’s gifts first came to the national stage at the University of Michigan with the legendary Fab Five. Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were cultural icons on the way to national title games as freshmen and sophomores in 1992 and 1993.
They wore baggy shorts, black socks and Nike’s that became classics — along with ruffling the establishment that didn’t like the Five being rebels. Webber was the headliner, being part of the college select team that practiced against the 1992 Dream Team and becoming the first pick in the 1993 NBA draft.
Chris Webber's involvement in the cannabis sector
While Webber waits for the call, though, he’s joined with JW Asset Management to launch a $100 million private equity cannabis fund that will invest in companies led by minority entrepreneurs pursuing careers in the cannabis sector.
Since federal and state laws have eased up on marijuana, business has boomed but Black people have largely been shut out. Webber hopes to change that.
“First it’s about business and access to individuals who are qualified,” Webber said. “And giving access to a community that’s so unfairly targeted by racist laws. Hopefully, there’s a freedom with that. I’ve seen families devastated by a plant that can cause so much healing and restoration. And now that others are trying to take advantage of it.”
“It’s obvious that in America this needs to be done. If we do it right, my friends and other business leaders will do it in their fields of expertise. This isn’t welfare, we aren’t giving people anything. These are qualified people that just get picked over because of the color of their skin, or their gender.”
Webber has been more active speaking about civic issues. As a commentator for TNT, he made a passioned plea for change in the Orlando bubble when the NBA players boycotted a day of playoff games following a police-sanctioned shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
It’s not a stretch to say Webber’s career has come full circle, and it’s hard to see a Hall of Fame without a player who helped push the game forward.
“For me it’s not about me, it’s about my first coach and my father making me play. It’s honoring all those people who’ve got you there,” Webber said. “It’s about that person but it really isn’t. It’s everyone else getting rewarded. When does everyone else get the reward? The coaches, this and that, ‘we won, we put into him’. And they did that through my career but hopefully I’ll get to thank them in front of the greatest of the world. Hopefully, I’ll get to honor those that helped me get that honor, if that does happen.”
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