'Fab Five' basketball scandal elicits familiar feelings for Arizona fans

Tucson Festival of Books | The Daily Wildcat Mitch Albom is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster.

Acclaimed author and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom is coming to the Tucson Festival of Books, and the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. In 1993, Albom wrote “Fab Five,” a book that detailed the journey of college basketball’s most iconic team, the 1992 and 1993 Michigan Wolverines.

Mixed with scandal, recruiting and pay-for-play details abound, Albom follows the team. He specifically focuses on the five freshman who started for the Wolverines: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Jalen Rose. The story ends with the impending investigations as to the circumstances surrounding how each player landed in Ann Arbor.

The familiarity is striking to the University of Arizona. Its men’s basketball team finds itself in a swirl of controversy surrounding the current FBI investigation into college basketball. From an alleged $100,000 proposal to pay for the services of current freshman Deandre Ayton to recruiting schemes aimed to sway commits toward agents following their playing careers, the story of the Fab Five has many similarities.

In his writing, Albom touches on the aspect of players not reaping the benefits of their own success in college. When he spoke about Chris Webber in an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary, he hit at the core of what the current college basketball scandal is ultimately about:

“[Webber] knew that he would be the No. 1 pick, or pretty darn close. I was with him once when we walked past a store in Ann Arbor, and it had his jersey hanging in the window,” Albom said on the documentary. “I think it was $75 or something like that. And he had just asked me if I could give him money for gas or pizza or something like that. I couldn’t, but he asked anyhow. He saw this jersey in the window for $75 with the No. 4 and he said, ‘They’re selling that for $75 and that goes to somebody, and I have to borrow money to put gas in my car.’I remember thinking to myself, ‘He’s not coming back here.’”

It’s a detailed account of what some athletes go through despite the money they bring into a school and the perceived hypocrisy behind the punishments that follow.

According to Albom’s website, mitchalbom.com, he is “an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician.” He has sold more than 35 million books worldwide. Some have been made into critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning television movies. He has authored six consecutive New York Times best sellers, according to epicreads.com.

Albom’s versatility extends to more than just sports coverage. Three of his best sellers are “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “For One More Day” and “Have a Little Faith,” all of which tap into a different aspect of living, dying and the coping psyche used to deal with such circumstances.

Perhaps one of his more famous quotes originates from a simple thought:

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” 

Albom will be at the Tucson Festival of Books, running March 10–11.

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