Former basketball star Chris Webber was once named Rookie of the Year and is widely regarded as one of the Sacramento Kings’ best ever centers. Such was his prowess on the court that he was named an NBA All-Star on five occasions and one of the All-NBA Team the same number of times. However, Webber’s proudest achievement is a long way away from the basketball court. Here, then, is a look at the milestone that the sporting hero once thought he’d never achieve.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1973, Chris Webber started his path to basketball stardom at high school. He won a hat trick of MHSAA State championships with Detroit Country Day School and was once crowned Michigan’s Mr. Basketball. Webber went on to study at the University of Michigan, where he became an integral member of the freshmen group known as the Fab Five.
Credited with injecting a hip-hop vibe into the sport, the Fab Five guided the Michigan Wolverines to two NCAA finals. What’s more, four of its members eventually made it into the NBA – Ray Jackson being the only player to unfortunately miss out. A major scandal was then to overshadow Webber and his teammates’ skills on the court, however.
Indeed, Webber’s involvement in the University of Michigan basketball scandal of the mid-’90s subsequently saw him stripped of his various college awards. The center was, in fact, later convicted of perjury after it was discovered that a local booster had handed him more than $200,000.
And that wasn’t the only time that Webber got himself into hot water, either. 1998 saw the star charged with various offences including marijuana possession, second-degree assault and a DUI after police pulled him over for speeding. Webber was later acquitted of all the serious charges but was forced to pay $560 for the more minor offences.
But later that same year Webber again found himself in trouble when U.S. customs discovered a quantity of marijuana in his baggage during a stopover at an airport in Puerto Rico. The star was en route to Barbados to promote a new brand of sneakers for Fila. But after subsequently being dropped by the sportswear company for the misdemeanor, Webber received a $2.61 million payout for breach of contract.
And then there was the infamous timeout call during the 1993 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship. With just over ten seconds left on the clock, Webber shouted for a timeout which his Michigan team, then 73-71 down, didn’t have. This ill-informed play resulted in a technical foul that pretty much handed the game to North Carolina on a plate.
But in 1993, the Orlando Magic drafted Webber as the overall number one pick. And in doing so, Webber became the first sophomore to lay claim to this accolade since Magic Johnson. Not that he stayed in Florida for long, however. No, the franchise then immediately exchanged him for the Golden State Warriors’ Penny Hardaway and three other players. Webber enjoyed an incredible first season, though, guiding the Warriors to the playoffs and earning the title of NBA Rookie of the Year.
Next, Webber joined his old Fab Five teammate Juwan Howard at the Washington Bullets. And during his three-year stint in D.C. the front court ace earned his first selection to the All-Star team, as he guided the franchise to their first playoffs in nearly a decade. But then in 1998 Webber joined the Sacramento Kings, with Otis Thorpe and Mitch Richmond going the other way.
Webber was, in fact, initially reluctant to sign with the Kings, but he ended up playing the best basketball of his career in Sacramento. Indeed, he soon established himself as one of the NBA’s finest power forwards, achieving further All-Star team selections and a career best average of 27.1 points in the 2000-01 season. And shortly after posting the latter, Webber received a seven-year contract worth an astonishing $127 million.
But Webber immediately proved he was worth the money, guiding the Kings to a record-breaking 61-21 season and the Pacific division title. He also narrowly missed out on winning his first ever championship when the Los Angeles Lakers controversially beat the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, though, injury disrupted his later years with the franchise and in 2005 he joined the Philadelphia 76ers.
However, Webber struggled to repeat his form at the 76ers and after two years signed to his hometown team, the Detroit Pistons. Then in 2008, he made a brief return to the Golden State Warriors. But after just nine games with the franchise, Webber called time on his career due to an nagging knee injury. He finished his NBA career with an average of 4.2 assists, 9.8 rebounds and 20.7 points.
Following his retirement, Webber guested as an analyst for NBA on their Gametime Live series. He also opened a restaurant, founded an investment company and portrayed an aging preacher in the comedy Uncle Drew. And Webber had previously shown his talents extended beyond the court, too, by producing tracks for legendary rapper Nas.
Webber has also pursued various philanthropic causes, and in 1993 he founded youth project The Timeout Foundation. Then, six years later, he formed an initiative which has since distributed free basketball tickets to more than 3,000 youngsters. And he’s been given several community accolades for his services, too, including the very first Sacramento Kings/Oscar Robertson Triple Double Award.
And Webber’s family think he’s a real star, too. In 2009 he walked down the aisle with his long-term girlfriend Erika Dates in front of 200 guests. But while the couple intended to start a family straight away, fertility issues meant that doctors warned the couple that they might never be able to conceive a child.
Happily, however, that turned out not to be the case. Yes, in 2017 the couple made a surprise announcement on Instagram: they were now proud parents. And not just to one child, either – Erika had given birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Heartwarmingly, a photo posted on the social media site showed Webber cradling a baby in each hand.
“After many years of trying and more than a few heartbreaks we were blessed with these little ones,” the caption read. Webber also used the hashtags #godsgrace and #worththewait before thanking his wife. Unsurprisingly, Erika couldn’t contain her excitement, either. In fact, she wasted no time in posting a picture of the twins and their father on social media.
Erika captioned the photo, “Grateful… 7 years waiting for our family to grow, and we were double blessed. Never underestimate the power of prayer, even when ‘they’ tell you it’s impossible. All in his time. Thank you to all of our family and friends and even strangers who shared our journey and kept us encouraged.”
And later that same month Webber opened up to Esquire about being a new father. “It’s taken the edge off,” he said. “It’s just something my wife and I have been praying for and working toward for years. To have it happen is just – s***, I don’t know what to say. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
The basketballer also added, “I don’t get any sleep, but I’m the oldest of five, and I used to do a lot of babysitting growing up. I have a big family, so we’re used to that. But it’s amazing just seeing something that’s your own grow and develop. I’m just in awe. Most days is laughing and crying at the fact that something like this happened.”