In a recent ESPN documentary, Michigan’s Fab Five spoke of their feelings about Duke basketball players in no uncertain terms, choosing words that stirred controversy.
"Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me," Jalen Rose, a member of Michigan’s famed 1991 freshman class, said in the documentary. "I felt that they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms. ... I was jealous of [Duke’s] Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL as a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know. I resented that, more so than I resented him. I looked at it as they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates."
One of those Duke players, Grant Hill, responded today on New York Times’ Quad blog:
“It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke ‘Uncle Toms’ and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me. I should have guessed there was something regrettable in the documentary when I received a Twitter apology from Jalen before its premiere. I am aware Jalen has gone to some length to explain his remarks about my family in numerous interviews, so I believe he has some admiration for them.
“In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’ Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.”
Hill concludes his commentary with a cautionary note — and a reminder of just who won their Duke-Michigan matchups, especially in the 1992 Final Four.
“I caution my fabulous five friends to avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped them back then for their appearance and swagger. I wish for you the restoration of the bond that made you friends, brothers and icons.
“I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.”