Grant Hill responds to “The Fab Five”

In the ESPN documentary “The Fab Five,” Jalen Rose and his teammates made a few comments about the Duke basketball program. The most inflammatory was that the black Duke players were “Uncle Toms.” Grant Hill’s name was brought up, and Hill has since responded via the New York Times’ college sports blog.

My teammates at Duke — all of them, black and white — were a band of brothers who came together to play at the highest level for the best coach in basketball. I know most of the black players who preceded and followed me at Duke. They all contribute to our tradition of excellence on the court.

It is insulting and ignorant to suggest that men like Johnny Dawkins (coach at Stanford), Tommy Amaker (coach at Harvard), Billy King (general manager of the Nets), Tony Lang (coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in Japan), Thomas Hill (small-business owner in Texas), Jeff Capel (former coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth), Kenny Blakeney (assistant coach at Harvard), Jay Williams (ESPN analyst), Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies) and Chris Duhon (Orlando Magic) ever sold out their race.

To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous. All of us are extremely proud of the current Duke team, especially Nolan Smith. He was raised by his mother, plays in memory of his late father and carries himself with the pride and confidence that they instilled in him.

Well said, Grant.

In a recent column, FoxSports columnist Jason Whitlock took the Fab Five to task for saying such things:

The Fab Five clearly believe Coach K and Duke didn’t and don’t recruit inner-city black kids, and they believe race/racism/elitism are the driving forces behind the philosophy.

Let’s go back to the Fab Five era and Duke’s philosophy then. Coach K recruited kids who had every intention of staying in school for four years. He recruited kids who had a good chance of competing academically at Duke and could meet the standardized test score qualifications for entrance.

The Fab Five stated it was their intention to win a national championship and turn pro as a group after their sophomore season. Webber, who was recruited by Duke, left Michigan after two years. Rose and Howard left as juniors. Impoverished inner-city kids have good reason to turn pro early. I’m not knocking Webber, Howard and Rose for their decisions. They didn’t fit the Duke profile at the time.

During the three-year run of the Fab Five (one season without Webber), Duke beat Michigan all four times the schools met while winning two ACC titles and one NCAA title. During the same span, Michigan won zero conference or national titles. In addition, Webber’s interactions with booster Ed Martin put the program on probation and caused Michigan to forfeit all its games.

I think Coach K recruited and recruits the right kids for Duke.

It turns out that Jalen Rose was the executive producer of the documentary, so it would be tough to argue that his words were taken out of context.

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A few random thoughts about “The Fab Five”

ESPN is currently running a two-hour documentary about Michigan’s Fab Five (Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend it. Webber didn’t agree to participate, but the interviews with the other four members along with members of the coaching staff were quite compelling.

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with comments made by the former Michigan players about Duke and especially Christian Laettner, whom Rose thought was an “overrated pu**y,” until he actually played against him and saw that he had some serious game. I’ll leave those comments alone since Rose eventually gave Laettner credit, but there are a few other moments in the documentary that jumped out at me:

1. Rose hated Duke because they wouldn’t recruit someone like him; they only recruited “Uncle Tom”-type black players. He also admitted he hated Grant Hill because Hill grew up in a great home while Rose grew up poor with an absentee father. Rose probably hit the nail on the head with regard to why many inner city blacks resent/criticize suburban blacks; it’s out of envy. They see lives that are more comfortable than theirs, and they lash out in anger. The Fab Five translated this to a hatred of the Duke players, including guys like Grant Hill and Thomas Hill.

I suspect if Mike Krzyzewski were asked about his recruiting habits and answered honestly, he’d say that he had the luxury of recruiting players (of whatever race) that he thought would fit into his team-first concept. He already had a successful college program, so why recruit a ‘risky’ player like Rose who may or may not fit into what he’s trying to build? The last thing he wants is to have a to battle a player on a daily basis.

In the end, Duke was 3-0 against the Fab Five, so I’d say the Blue Devils got the last laugh.

2. Forget the shorts, shoes, socks or even the style of play. The thing that bothered me about the Fab Five was the in-your-face taunting. The film was great because it reminded me of what I didn’t like about the Fab Five. Their play was outstanding. Nobody hogged the ball and winning was paramount, so from a pure basketball respect, they were wonderful. It was all the antics that drove me nuts. There were several highlights that showed the players getting into the face of the opponent after the guy was just dunked on. It’s one thing to over-celebrate with your teammates, but to show up an opponent like that is just bad sportsmanship. This was explained away as being part of the inner city playground culture, but my guess is that if they would have gotten into someone’s face on the playground, they would have been punched in the nose (or worse). At the time, officials didn’t really call taunting technicals, so there were no consequences to those actions. Oh, and Juwan Howard was the worst. Webber or Rose would dunk and there comes Howard, getting into the grill of the guy who just got dunked on. It was no surprise that against Ohio St. in their first Final Four, Howard got headbutt to the nose at one point in the game.

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Poll Results: Why do you hate Duke?

Over the past week, we’ve conducted a poll that asks our readers why they hate the Duke Blue Devils. Here are the results (250 respondents):

The results are interesting. While 37% of respondents freely admit that they don’t hate Duke, that means that 63% do, for one reason or another. The top reasons were “they get all the calls” with 20%, “private school, elitist student body” with 14%, and “Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick, etc.” with 8%. Surprisingly, “Coach K” (3%) and “they win too much” (4%) were not popular responses.

A Duke hater chats with The Scores Report

As we get ready for the Duke/Butler matchup tonight, I thought it would be interesting to get my buddy (and Duke hater) LaRusso on the line to bash the Blue Devils.

John Paulsen: You’re a proud Duke hater, correct?

LaRusso: I am.

JP: What’s the biggest reason you hate Duke?

LR: It seems like, I don’t know if they have a sense of entitlement, but columnists, I guess ESPN, Dick Vitale, just seem to put them up on a pedestal a lot. They’re on TV all the time. They’re a good program — a top of the line program — so they’re going to draw attention. Like me, people hate them or people love them. One way or another they’re going to move the needle. So I think it’s a perceived elitist mentality of how they are so much better than everybody. They seem to get calls, they get more publicity than other schools. So I think that’s the driving factor.

JP: So one article I read listed like five reasons why people hate Duke and a commenter added a few more, so want to list them off and see what you think. So you think that they’re media darlings?

LR: Yes.

JP: They’re often compared to the Yankees, Cowboys and Patriots, and I guess the Lakers in terms of how much attention they get. I don’t like the Yankees comparison because it’s not like Duke can go out and outspend everybody. If anything, Coach K is at a disadvantage when compared with, say, North Carolina, in terms of recruiting because of Duke’s high academic standards.

LR: They do have tougher standards for academics. Some schools make concessions for athletes, I don’t know if Duke does that, it doesn’t seem like it. They always have smart kids. I don’t know if they’re on the same level as the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s all the media talks about. And in football, I’d probably say it’s more Cowboys — I don’t think the Patriots get much love. They’re probably more hated now than loved like they were when Brady first came up and they started winning. It seems to have flipped 180 on them.

JP: Well, we don’t have a local football team in Southern California, and if the Chargers aren’t on. We’re going to get the Cowboys because people either love them or they hate them. But it’s funny to me, because those teams that Duke is compared to — I hate them all. I don’t like the Yankees, or the Patriots or the Cowboys, so the fact that I’ve been a Duke fan since the days of Johnny Dawkins strikes some people as funny. I just gravitated towards the way that Coach K gets his kids to play night in and night out. We’ve talked about this in the past — I really take offense to this whole Yankees argument —

LR: I guess a better way to put it is that Duke is force-fed to us a little too much.

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Why does everyone hate Duke?

The Week has a piece that outlines five theories why everyone seems to hate Duke.

1. Americans hate monopolies, and love underdogs: Think of Duke as Microsoft, says workplace psychologist Paul Damiano, as quoted in Newsweek. Duke’s basketball prowess, like Microsoft’s software near-monopoly, makes people mad. Americans love underdogs that fight for victory with few resources. Conversely, we hate dominant businesses and sports teams — the New York Yankees are a prime example — on the assumption they buy the best players, or get cushy treatment from the regulators (“aka the referees”). Case in point: Many writers have complained that Duke got easy opponents to help it go far in the tournament, because Blue Devil hatred translates into good TV ratings.

Sure…only Duke hasn’t been to the Final Four in six years. They are still a top 10 basketball program, certainly, but they aren’t the dominant program they were in years past. If that were the case, why doesn’t everyone hate North Carolina or Michigan State? And I don’t like the comparison to the New York Yankees. Duke can’t go around and buy up all the best free agents. If anything, Coach K is at a disadvantage due to Duke’s stringent admission standards.

2. The “Cameron Crazies”: No school has more infamous fans than Duke’s Cameron Crazies, says John Gasaway in Basketball Prospectus. And many Duke haters believe the rowdy — some would say obnoxious — student fans who cram into Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium for home games and relentlessly taunt opposing players give their team an unfair advantage. Or, as a student at nearby arch-rival University of Carolina put it: “When I see those Dookie boneheads shoe-polishing their faces navy blue on television, squandering their parents’ money with their fratty elitist bad sportsmanship antics and Saab stories, I want to puke all over Durham.”

Really, we’re going to ask a Tar Heel fan to comment about the Cameron Crazies? That’s like asking Sarah Palin to comment on Dennis Kucinich’s single-payer health care plan. I suspect even most Duke haters wish that their team had a home court advantage like Duke does. Unfair advantage? Give me a break.

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