Last year I did a retrospective piece on the Kings acquisition of Chris Webber, a troubled young basketball player who had a reputation that was spotty at best. Here in Sacramento, this is not the Chris Webber that a majority of Kings saw. We saw Chris Webber as the face of the greatest era in Sacramento Kings history: An all star power forward known just as much for his million dollar smile as he was for his on the court domination. In recent years, however, it seems as though Chris Webber's image, at least off the court, has taken a hit.
We always knew about the past struggles for Chris Webber. Some of the greatest years the Kings had with him were in the midst of the Ed Martin situation. As a middle school Kings fan, I never truly cared about this situation. I was much more worried about his athletic dunks, silky smooth passes, and, of course, beating the Lakers. This "dark side" of Chris Webber's personality was never that big of a deal to me, and if I am being honest, it still isn't.
I do not know Chris Webber. I have never met Chris Webber. I haven't so much as gotten an autograph or a picture with Chris Webber with him, so all my views on him are from the outside. I tend to be much lighter on him than a lot of others seem to be. Everyone seems to have an opinion on Webber, be it a good one or bad one, but there appears to be only one person who really knows what Chris Webber is about, and that is Chris Webber. His career before the Kings was marred by all sorts of controversy (which you can read about in my aforementioned retrospective peace), but, after a struggle to get here, his career here as a player was pretty uneventful. He seemed to have a genuine love for this city, and the fans inside it. Sure, there were threats of leaving, ensuing lawn mowing offers, a drug suspension, and an ill-advised rap album, but, as far as the Kings went, there wasn't too much to complain about. It seems the real polarization began near the end of the "glory days" for Webber and the Kings.
In the years since the "glory days", he seems to have become more and more polarizing among Kings fans. From those who feel that his unwillingness to come off the bench in 2004 cost us another deep run, (something I will never agree with), to those who wanted him traded, due to his rapidly deteriorating knees, the fan base still loved him, but it was something of a first sign of things to come with the Chris Webber and the Kings fans of Sacramento.
Fast forward a few years to a time where the "glory days" seem like a distant memory for the Kings and their fans, and Chris Webber, after a rough attempt at a comeback with the Golden State Warriors, is a TV personality for TNT. Among the influx of misinformation that Kings fans have grown ever so accustomed to, Chris Webber and the rest of the TNT crew mistakenly refer to a recent city council vote as a defeat for the Kings bid to stay in Sacramento. After a public lashing from noted Chris Webber fan (insert sarcasm here) Grant Napear, Webber agrees to come on the show, and some very... interesting radio ensues. Long story short, while never admitting his wrongdoings on this specific issues, Chris Webber becomes one of the most outspoken voices for the Kings staying on TNT, saying he has a few tricks up his sleeve in regards to helping the Kings stay in Sacramento. In the end, the Kings end up staying, though Chris Webber's alleged involvement plays little into the equation.
Fast forward a couple more years to part 82 of the Kings relocation saga, and Chris Webber once again uses his platform on TNT to publicly support the city of Sacramento in their bid to keep the Kings, though he never attaches himself directly to the new ownership group. Still, once again, the Kings managed to stay, and Chris Webber even came out to Sacramento to celebrate among the fans who supported him for so many years.
That brings us today. While not Kings related, Chris Webber is grabbing headlines once again for a dispute with his former teammates in the fabled "Fab Five" over the documentary of the same name. Chris Webber's college career has all the makings of a Hollywood movie, and could be the basis of an entire post on its own. But, if you are reading this, I am assuming you at least know the basics of everything from the Ed Martin scandal, to the infamous time out (something Webber actually joked about during a TNT broadcast a few days ago!). That documentary has been a sticking point between the former teammates, specifically, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. Chris Webber says he was not told about the documentary until late it was almost completed, while Jalen Rose, Jimmy Smith, director Jason Hehir, and others say this is not the truth. This has brought Chris Webber's "other" side to the forefront again. The side that does not own up to past mistakes. On one hand, he is a 42-year-old man who is still paying the price for mistakes he made when he was just a kid, but on the other hand, he still needs to have some accountability for his actions. Whether he is being dishonest, either to us, or himself, this shadow of his will not go away. He might as well own up to it, or at the very least, give his side of the story. Not for me. Not for Grant Napear. Not even for his old teammates. But for himself. He can't constantly say his side needs to be heard, while not following through. Allegedly, he has his own documentary coming out, and maybe that will clear things up, but, it may also add another complicated chapter to this never ending Jekyll and Hyde saga that is Chris Webber.
Which side of Chris Webber is the "real" Chris Webber? The smiling good guy with the heart of gold, or the selfish one who has a knack for selfishness and empty promises? Or, most importantly, does it really matter? While to this day, I, like many other Kings fans, still hold Chris Webber in high regard, I also can acknowledge that other side. I know that Webber has a history of questionable behavior, but to me, nothing he has done off the court really bothers me all that much. I'm not saying it shouldn't bother you, but I am not going to fake outrage about it. Others do not see it my way. Some feel he needs to be more involved with the franchise, showing his face when he isn't doing TNT game, and acknowledge his past mistakes, and that is perfectly fair. He has a sordid past of sorts, and has yet to own up to it, and that steers people the wrong way. Chris Webber, while still having a place in everyone's heart will probably never win everyone over, and that is OK. I, for one, am fine with some of the things others view as slaps in the face. I view him as someone with faults, like everyone else, but I also view him as a guy who has done a lot of good, especially in this city. Whatever his motivation is, be it selfishness or kindheartedness, is up to him, but in my eyes, he is still the same guy I grew up loving, and continue loving to this day.
Webber will always be a polarizing figure, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. He does not owe any of us anything, and I can respect that. But, if he wants it to go away, it may be in his best interest to own up to his past, and soon.