Michigan’s ‘Fab Five’ Once Considered Transferring to an HBCU

Former University of Michigan men’s basketball standout and member of the ‘Fab Five’ Jimmy King writes for Scrap Sports about the data and disappointment surrounding black athletes at powerhouse predominantly white athletic programs. 

In a heartfelt narrative, King breaks down the racial and financial disparities created by these institutions, and perpetuated in part by star black athletes who are convinced that they are a necessary stop on the way to professional careers.

But then he drops a bombshell.

I wondered if we would have been called simply the “trendsetters” on a black campus instead of “thugs” on Michigan’s majority white campus? I’ve often thought my athletic, and personal development would have been much better served had I attended an HBCU.   The entire Fab Five – all us – seriously discussed in our dormitory one evening about transferring to an HBCU.  Looking back now over 25 years removed, we not only could have made history by leading an HBCU to the Final Four (which I’m convinced we could have accomplished), but we could have also made an emphatic statement endorsing the importance of black colleges and proving that Michigan, Duke or Kentucky did not have a monopoly on providing professional opportunities on or off the court. 

King’s piece and this revelation, in particular, should be striking to today’s elite athletes at all levels of competition. Nationally-ranked high schoolers are becoming increasingly interested in HBCUs, and college athletes have long developed a transfer pipeline from PWIs to black colleges when career plans don’t pan out.

King admits that he and four formerly fabulous freshmen had a chance to change history and didn’t. That’s easy to say 25 years later, but just as important for today’s black athletes to hear as it was for the Fab Five to even consider back then.

We can only hope that King’s words and today’s turbulent times create more than passing interest in today’s athletes, but a realization of how they can change history, black history, in seismic ways.

  1. ” I wondered if we would have been called trendsetters instead on a Black campus instead of ” thugs ” on Michigan’s white campus?”- Jimmy King.

    Possibly but even if the Black students would have ignored him at an HBCU, I believe that there would have been some others who would have been there to support him .

    Every time I look at these high school graduates go through these drafts,I cringe. The process reminds me of..excuse my expression…of them being auctioned off the highest bidding slaveowner. The coaches really don’t care about them as people. To them, they’re livestock

    While I’m not saying that there are no overzealous Black coaches, the difference between the way they treat their athletes opposed to how one may get treated at a PWI is that they will be seen as human to the Black one but chances are the White coach/ school will throw him under the bus if he doesn’t win any games .

    It wasn’t that long ago when I went to college.As I was going ,there were several requirements that I wanted my perspective school to have .When I visited Penn State University I knew that I didn’t want to go there because it didn’t feel like ” home”.Even though I preferred to be at Spelman,my PWI didn’t feel too bad because there were many Blacks and other cultures at my school that helped me cope.It wasn’t an HBCU but it was all good.

  2. Interesting article. I hope it gets a lot of attention. Many years ago, I was an assistant basketball coach at Cornell when the black ball players walked off the team in protest of the head coach’s comments that he couldn’t start five black ball players because he had received complaints from a Cornell alumnus that he better to do it. There were other smoldering issues leading to the walk off and piss poor communications was one. I’m working on a memoir about that walk off.

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