Grant Hill, a near 17-year NBA veteran and winner of two NCAA championships, eviscerated Jalen Rose and Michigan’s legendary Fab Five earlier today in a New York Times op-ed.
Hill was writing in response to an ESPN documentary that aired earlier this week on Michigan’s legendary class of Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. In it, Rose, who was also a producer on the documentary, spoke of how he believed some players once perceived black players who played for Duke University – Hill’s alma mater – as Uncle Toms.
Rose’s intent was to speak in the past tense. I covered Rose briefly about a decade ago when he played for the Chicago Bulls. He’s a smart guy. Worldly. Founder of a charter school in Detroit and a champion of education reform. I don’t believe he intended to say black players who play at Duke are Uncle Toms. Rather, in the documentary he was saying that in 1991 and ’92 his perception and the perceptions of some of his peers was that Duke’s black players were Uncle Toms.
Rose’s observation was sociological, even historical.
As we know, however, we live in a 1,440-minute news cycle. Truth lies only partially in the facts. It also lies in the new. Hill’s op-ed is new. It came out this morning, nearly 60 hours after the Fab Five documentary, which gives it an edge in truthiness even if Hill chose to hear Rose’s words in the present tense instead of the past tense for which they were intended.
It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events … to see friends (from the Fab Five) 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.
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.
Hill’s essay in its entirety (the NY Times edited for space) can be found here on his website. It is, quite frankly, beautiful in its prose and organization. Hill’s eloquence draws you in. It turned Bobby Hurley’s response on the Dan Patrick Show into Grade F idiocy. (Hurley said Rose, a point guard, might never have seen the court if he went to Duke because Rose would have been playing behind him.)
Hill’s essay also was unfair to Rose, who was speaking contextually, remembering his urban, lower-economic-class, broken-family, 20-years-in-the-past perception of black basketball players who attended Duke. Here are Rose and Jimmy King further explaining their comments:
Clearly Rose is on the defensive. What should have been a revelatory and celebratory documentary on one of the most revolutionary college basketball teams ever has blown up in his face. It’s been hijacked by Hill, who poured 20+ years of frustration into his op-ed. And it’s been debunked by Dan Patrick, who rightly points out that much of what the Fab Five is given credit for was first achieved by the UNLV team of coach Jerry Tarkanian, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
This is what I tried to convey earlier today in a series of posts on Twitter, which benefits from and is limited by its 140-character restriction: I tried to write that Grant Hill and Dan Patrick had stolen the mic and were now controlling the Fab Five message. Instead I misrepresented Rose’s context, which, although unintentional, I should not have done.
Jason Schaumburg pointed out that Rose was not speaking in the present tense, and Jason is 100 percent correct. Rose wasn’t speaking in the present tense. Rose the adult made a blunt, astute observation about Rose the kid, and now he’s paying for it.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.