For 15 NBA seasons, Chris Webber silently put together one of the best careers in NBA history. If the actual merits of his achievement remained but a deft whisper, there was nonetheless a lot of noise surrounding it.
Coming out of college, Webber was the most prominent member of the University of Michigan’s Fab Five. His talent and the hype surrounding that fabled squad bolted Webber to the top of the draft board in 1993 and the Orlando Magic took him #1 overall. However, he was quickly traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the draft rights to Penny Hardaway. This inaugural experience set a big tone for Webber’s career…
Highly coveted, but often traded.
He lasted one year with the Warriors as the ultimate dream for Don Nelson’s small ball center, but the two men didn’t see the least bit eye-to-eye. Webber was traded to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season and he was reunited with his college teammate Juwan Howard. His time in DC was rocked by injuries, but in 1997 he put together one of his finest campaigns and led the Bullets to the playoffs for the first time in ages. But as an 8th seed, they were ravaged by the Chicago Bulls.
After the 1998 season, Webber was shipped back west to northern California. The Sacramento Kings gave up Mitch Richmond for Webber. What he did for the Bullets was amplified for the Kings. He pushed that franchise to their highest point since moving from Kansas City in the mid-1980s. They became perennial playoff participants and in 2002 were moments away from the NBA Finals. A searing, controversial loss to the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately blocked the Kings’ path.
That ’02 season was the last truly monumental season Webber put together. Over the ensuing years, he’d play well, but he’d also play increasingly injured. In 2002 he missed 28 games. In 2003 he was out for 15 games. Then in 2004 he missed all but 23 games due to a knee injury. The Kings traded the damaged Webber to the Philadelphia 76ers where Chris amazingly put together a 20/10 season on one good leg. But he shot just 43% from the field in the process clearly showing he was withering.
His final two seasons (2007, 2008) were spent split between Philly, Detroit, and back in Golden State.
The slow limping Webber of these seasons was nothing like the dynamic force of the 1990s and early 2000s. When so inclined, especially in his Warriors and Bullets days, he was a menacing dunker. He was always a great rebounder. He could rain in points with his superb jumper. And best of all he was an amazing passer. Watching him and Vlade Divac pass in and out of the post is one of the greatest basketball joys one could ever imagine.
The effervescent joy that came with those passes was always fleetingly around the corner when i came to Webber’s career, though. No doubt a Hall of Famer. No doubt a super talent. But there was so much of Webber left on the table for various reasons that his career nonetheless remains a bit unsatisfying.
It’s moments like these, however, where it’s wise to appreciate what we receive and what we’re given. When that sage advice is followed, we can indeed fully appreciate the greatness of Chris Webber.
Years Played: 1993 – 2008
Rookie of the Year (1994)
All-NBA 1st Team (2001)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1999, 2002-’03)
All-NBA 3rd Team (2000)
5x All-Star (1997, 2000-’03)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1994)
NBA – 831 Games
20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 47.9% FG, 64.9% FT
RPG Leader (1999)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1993-94 through 2006-07 season)
7th Points, 14th PPG
6th FGs Made, 32nd FG%
36th FTs Made
7th Rebounds, 10th RPG
11th Steals, 20th SPG
14th Blocks, 17th BPG
25th Assists, 31st APG
34th Games Played, 13th Minutes Played