Chris Webber: Hall Of Fame Worthy?





A few weeks back, Chris Webber was the broadcaster for a summer league game and Timberwolves general manager David Kahn made a quick stop and talked on the air with the former Wolverine. Webber asked Kahn about Darko Milicic and the Wolves GM mentioned that Milicic was still a young blossoming big man that, like Webber would need time to find his own. The statement was ludicrous at the time and C-Webb called him out on it, considering that Milicic still has yet to live up to expectations while Webber is one of the best power forwards of all time. That’s when I truly started to wonder: is Chris Webber’s career Hall of Fame worthy? Let’s find out.

Legacy
It’s a fairly simple question and yet it encompasses so many things. If I asked you what Dave Chappelle’s legacy was, you would probably answer the unmatched level of comedy of Chappelle’s Show. If I asked you what Jay-Z’s legacy was, your answer would probably speak to his #1 spot at the top of Hip Hop charts. What about Chris Webber though? Some might say that he will always be remembered for his infamous timeout in the NCAA championship game while others will point to his outspoken nature on the court after posterizing opponents. Mind you, Webber should always be remembered for two things:
-Vicious attacks on the rim
-One of the best passing big men ever

Chris Webber was a terrific finisher at the rim but don’t be fooled; his best contributions came in the passing game. C-Webb was a match up nightmare because he had a practically flawless passing game to accompany his gifts as a solid low post and high post scorer. Keep in mind, Webber not only passed the ball well, he did it with style. He would squeeze the ball in tight spaces off the dribble, pass it in between the legs of his defender, in between his legs and also behind his back. Have a quick look at what I’m talking about by clicking here.

Still not convinced? Let’s have a quick look at the best passers in NBA history over 6’9 (according to Basketball Reference):
RANK
PLAYER
ASSISTS/GAME
1
Larry Bird
6.3
2
Wilt Chamberlain
4.4
3
Bill Russell
4.3
T4
Kevin Garnett
4.2
T4
Chris Webber
4.2

Webber’s passing numbers are on par with three players already in the Hall of Fame, with the fourth one (Kevin Garnett) to be inducted in a few years. Granted, his passing ability alone does not put the former Sacramento Kings star into the Hall, but it sure helps build his case.

Second Round K.O.
A few years back, a young barely known artist by the name of Canibus (who had no platinum plaques of any sort) launched an all out lyrical assault (song was titled Second Round K.O.) on rap legend LL Cool J. The move was aimed at retaliating at the rap icon but it also helped put the young rapper on the map (even today, there is still a debate over who actually won that rap feud). Chris Webber reminds me in certain ways of Canibus: he somehow slips through the cracks of history, has no major accomplishments next to his name and yet the mere mention of him is enough to spark a huge barbershop debate. Have a quick look at Webber’s career achievements:
-1993-94 NBA Rookie of the Year
-Five NBA All-Star Selections (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
-One selection to All-NBA 1st Team (2000-01)
-Three selections to All-NBA 2nd Team (1998-99, 2001-02, 2002-03)
-One selection to All-NBA 3rd Team (1999-00).

That’s it. No MVP awards, no Defensive Player of the Year awards, no All-Defensive selections, no rings or even an NBA Finals appearance. So why should we even bother discussing C-Webb as a potential Hall of Fame inductee? Because like our young rapper, he took it to the legends that mattered most.

During his NBA career, Chris Webber faced five potential Hall of Fame power forwards (all of which have won at least one MVP trophy) and his career numbers overall measure up fairly well against them:

PLAYER
PPG
RPG
APG
BPG
FG%
Karl Malone
25.0
10.1
3.6
0.8
51.6
Charles Barkley
22.1
11.7
3.9
0.8
54.1
Dirk Nowitzki
22.9
8.5
2.7
1.0
47.3
Tim Duncan
21.1
11.6
3.2
2.3
50.8
Chris Webber
20.7
9.8
4.2
1.4
47.9
Kevin Garnett
19.8
10.8
4.2
1.6
49.7

The former King of Arco Arena did not just put up numbers though; much like our young rapper, Webber went at the respected legends and gave them the business. Have a look at his career averages against those same players:

Opponents
Games
PPG
RPG
APG
BPG
FG%
Vs. Charles Barkley
11
23.3
10.0
4.8
2.4
51.7
Vs. Dirk Nowitzki
21
21.9
10.8
4.8
1.4
52.5
Vs. Kevin Garnett
31
20.4
10.1
3.2
1.6
44.4
Vs. Tim Duncan
25
20.1
9.5
3.5
1.9
42.6
Vs. Karl Malone
27
18.9
8.2
3.9
1.4
45.5

The former Michigan Wolverine wasn’t exactly a nobody as we can see. He was able to perform at an All-Star level when playing against some of the best power forwards in the history of the league. For all intents and purposes, if you have ever seen him play, Chris Webber should in fact be part of the list above; we should be talking about him as one of the best NBA players of all time. And yet, there seems to be something missing…

The Usual Suspect
In the movie The Usual Suspects, we were treated to a world class criminal by the name of Keyser Soze. He was so smart and talented that he could pull off amazing criminal feats and then just disappear without ever getting caught or anyone confirming his actual existence. Chris Webber is his NBA version. Have a quick look at his averages in the 2002 Western Conference Finals (Vs. Los Angeles Lakers):

GAMES
PPG
RPG
APG
BPG
FG%
7
24.3
10.9
6.3
1.4
51.3

If a player can come anywhere close to putting up those numbers in a grueling seven game Conference Finals series, he should earn himself some respect. And yet, we casually forget just how good C-Webb was during those playoffs. Why? Because he pulled a Keyser Soze. When things got tough and the pressure mounted, Webber disappeared. The lasting memory that most people have of this playoff match up is Mike Bibby’s refusal to back down to the Lakers. For the most part, Webber is a mere afterthought, and you should never have that feeling about a potential Hall of Fame player.

Indeed, Chris Webber always left you wanting more. No matter how well he played in a big game, he would eventually become invisible in the fourth quarter. Instead of looking to score or create offense for his teammates, he would distance himself from the basket and hope that his teammates bail him out.

Webber backers will point to the fact that his career coincided with Michael Jordan’s reign, Shaq and Kobe’s dynasty as well as Tim Duncan’s best years; and it’s a fair point. However, Webber’s inability to come up big when his best was needed is what will doom him as it pertains to the Hall of Fame debate. No matter how productive he was as an NBA player, we never truly got the impression that he dominated a game. Try asking any NBA fan to point to a signature Webber performance in the playoffs, and see the blank stare they get. And yet, off the top of my head, I remember:
-Tim Duncan Vs. Lakers in 2002: 34 points, 25 rebounds
-Karl Malone Vs. Bulls in 1998: 39 points, 9 rebounds
-Charles Barkley Vs. Bulls in 1993: 42 points, 13 rebounds
-Kevin Garnett Vs. Kings 2004 (Game 7): 32 points, 21 rebounds
-Dirk Nowitzki Vs. Suns in 2006: 50 points, 12 rebounds

Those games weren’t just memorable because of the box scores, I remember them because those players decided to put their teams on their backs and refused to concede an inch to their opponents. They all understood that the difference between winning and losing rested on their shoulders. Webber on the other hand, shrunk from those responsibilities and it’s part of the reason that his team never got over the hump and why he never garnered any hardware. Ultimately, Chris Webber might get some consideration for the prestigious Hall of Fame, but will not make it in. Keyser Soze had this line in the movie: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…” and that’s C-Webb’s career in a nutshell.

1 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Good call. No frickin way that Webb should be in the Hall

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