I am an unapologetic Michigan fan. That should be of no shock to anyone who has been on this site before. So with that being said, the Fab Five was one of my favorite teams of all time. Not just because of them being a Michigan team, but because this was my age group right here. I first played against C Webb in the 8th grade. And I first ran against Jalen Rose in the 10th grade at the Pal building in downtown Detroit. So when they rocked the baggy shorts, black socks, and made other incredible influences on pop culture, they were a movement as much as a basketball team. Before AI had his braids, and Lil Wayne was rapping about NBA players the Fab Five were the ultimate trendsetters.
I remember being down at Freak Nik in Atlanta and there were flyers with Snoop, Dr Dre and the Fab Five on them advertising for parties. This was pre Internet, pre twitter, pre Youtube. These guys were sensations in some ways ahead of their times. Mitch Albom wrote a book about them while they were STILL in college.
The groups collective raw talent was apparent from the McDonald’s All American game in 1991 where all but Ray Jackson played. But some of us had seen it even earlier.
Taken from a previous article:
Back in high school days Chris was the gooch. He was son the channel 7 news in the 8th grade. He was Dwight Howard minus the Johnny Socco robot moves. Howard plays like someone in row six has an Atari controller making his post moves for him. Chris was none of that; he was 6’10 deer, with goalie gloves for hands. Anything with in 10 feet of him, either hand was caught. Chris in High school once scored Fitty on my AAU team. But this was Chris long before he had that elbow jumper and started making his free throws. This was a grown ass man hoopin with boys. He dunked E’r thang. And I mean everything. He must have missed at least 12 free throws and still had half a hundred. In fact he had more dunks than missed free throws. And it was those dunks where he’s in a crowd and just explodes and rattles the rim, and just starts screaming Moses Scurry style. No one on our team wanted to make eye contact with him. Even though as a point guard I never guarded him, I felt like less of a man that day. We all did. 4 years later he was the #1 overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft. I instantly got 350 points of self-esteem back.
I have always maintained that if Minnesota Golden Gopher guard Voshon Lenard, Jalen’s high school teammate at Southwestern, had gone to Michigan instead of Ray Jackson, or Jimmy King that Michigan would have won a national championship. Voshon would have providing the outside shooting the Fab Five lacked, without being the defensive liability that now super sports agent Pelinka was.
But despite three future lottery picks including the 1993 #1 over pick in Chris Webber, we all know that the Fab Five left Michigan without winning a title. But you also have to remember this was 20 years ago when only elite players left college early. The NCAA was as watered down as it is now. Look no further than the two teams they lost to in the NCAA finals. Senior laden Duke and North Carolina teams.
So today we take a look at some of the most absolutely talented teams in recent sports history to never win a title. Again recent, as in my 30 some odd years of being a sports fan. I am sure there was a Knick team in the 60’s that just came up short, or even the Lakers with Wilt, the Logo, and Elgin Baylor, etc. But that was all well before my time.
And if a team won it with that core group soon before or after that doesn’t count either. I.E. the 1996 Red Wings who were a silly 62-13-7 (131 points) but fell short of hoisting Sir Stanley’s cup. That group went on to win it all the next two years. So they are automatically discounted.
To the list: (as per usual, they are numbered but not ranked)
1. Buffalo Bills
A team loaded with future hall of famers, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, and the should be HOF Andre Reed, went to 4 straight Super bowls and won none of them. Yes they were blown out in the middle two, but the one that hurt the most was when Scott Norwood missed what would have been the game winning field goal. If he makes this kick, would the Bills fate been any different in the next 3 Super bowls? Would they have been as hungry to make it back those other times? No one knows, but I have to imagine we will NEVER see a team in four straight Super Bowls again.
2. Florida state Seminoles
Pick a year. Wide right university. Bobby Bowden routinely had the most talented teams in the nation year in and year out. He dominated all of college football except for one program. The U. Mind you it is not like Florida State was getting blown out of its annual rivalry with Miami. In fact in many cases they were the better team. But at the end of the game, it seemed like every year it cam down to a field goal. And whether by bad luck, bad footing, or the curse of a rival Native American tribe, “dag gummup”, Bobby’s Seminoles came up short. I mean right.
4. Orlando Magic: Shaq & Penny
Penny was like Lebron on meth. He was a triple double waiting to happen. And Shaq was well a young Shaq. Rapping with the Fu-Shnickens, dunking on everybody, and bricking free throws. And unfortunately beefing. This team was loaded! You had Penny, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, Horace Grant, and Brian Shaw off the bench. People forget that they are the squad that not MJ’s Bulls out of the playoffs the year he came back wearing that wack ass #45 jersey. They were incredibly talented, incredibly young and incredibly un-clutch at the free throw line. Four missed Nick Anderson free throws, AT HOME led to a clutch Kenny Smith game tying 3-pointer, in a game the magic would ultimately lose in overtime to the Houston Rockets, away from a dynasty. Who is to say that if Orlando doesn’t win that series that Shaq doesn’t stay in Orlando? The entire power shift to the western conference that took place with him heading west, and Chris Webber and the drafting of Kobe may not happen. Think about it, do the Lakers trade Vlade if Shaq isn’t coming? Is Brian Shaw ever a Laker? If not who would carry Phil Jackson’s Cialis?
At any rate this team simply wasn’t ready to win it all. The fact that Penny and Shaq feuded so publicly did nothing but confirm that. The Orlando Magic, what could have been…
5. Michigan football 1992
Gary Moeller’s “undefeated” team. This team was LOADED. And after an opening week tie with ND was poised to win a national championship. They went on to tie Illinois, a game where they lost 7 fumbles, and then they tied the hated Buckeyes 10-10 at their place. Even thought they went on go to the Rose Bowl and get a rematch against the Washington Huskies, this season was a disappointment in my eyes.
In what was an incredible back and forth shoot out, Michigan beat their Pac 10 foe behind an unreal rushing day from Tyrone Wheatley. Take a look at just some of the names on this team:
Elvis Grbac, Chris Hutchinson, Joe Cocozzo, Chris Hutchinson, Derrick Alexander, Chris Hutchinson, Corwin Brown, Rob Doherty, Matt Dyson, Steve Everitt, Tony McGee, Shonte Peoples, Doug Skene, and Tyrone Wheatley!
In his short tenure as head coach of my Wolverine’s coach Moeller ushered in the modern Michigan passing game. If he could have stayed sober, and on the job longer I think he would have had other undefeated seasons to come.
6. Seattle Mariners 1990’s
How do you have the best shortstop of a generation? The Best Center fielder of a generation? And the best clean picture of a generation and never even make it to a world series? I am no baseball expert but Peter Gammons is going to have to explain this right here to me. I know it is a team sport and you need depth but they also had arguably the best DH of a generation in Edgar Martinez. WTF?
7. Utah Jazz late 1990’s
The Jazz just like the Knicks, Suns, and Super Sonics all fell victim to MJ’s Bulls in the 90’s. They were led by a HOF coach, two HOF players, and had more than solid role players in Byron I got pushed Russell, Jeff Hornacek, and a young Shannon Anderson. They fell short to the Bulls in Back to back NBA final appearances losing in 6 games both times. Let me share with you that I gladly added them to this list.
Karl Malone is my 2nd least favorite black person after Clarence Thomas. I despise him so much I rooted for the Bulls to beat Utah. I am a better brother, a better son, a better nephew, a better uncle, and a better boyfriend, because of the happiness I feel waking up everyday knowing Karl Malone never won a championship. What that says about me as a person I have no idea. Nor do I care.
8. Kansas Jay hawks
Kansas under Roy Williams was always loaded with talent. Year in year out. And this squad was no exception. You had future NBA players everywhere, with Paul Pierce, Raef Lafrentz, and Jacque Vaughn. This was Paul Pierce pre wheel chair, pre facial hair that looks like star constellations. And Lafrentz was probably the most coveted of the trio coming out of high school. The Iowa native was 6’11, with go-go gadget arms, left handed with 3-point shooting range. There is no way this team doesn’t make a final 4 at least right? Wrong. This was the team that got Roy Williams labeled an underachiever until he ultimately returned to his alma mater UNC to win 2 NCAA championships.
9. LSU Tigers 1990
Man were they ridiculously talented in 1990! They had the artist formally known as Chris Jackson, Shaq, and Stanley Roberts. But unfortunately Dale Brown. You have two dominant big men. Well Shaq wasn’t dominant yet but he sure as hell was physically imposing. And Stanley Roberts was actually skinny then. And then you had the most prolific scorer I have ever seen in college basketball, my dude Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. There is no way in HELL this team shouldn’t have won a title. One and done or not. Yes they were only a team for one season because Mahmoud went pro, but still!
10. O$U 1995
Long before Jim Tressel and his golly gee lying ass was in office, I mean coaching it Ohio state university, coach John Cooper was the man at the helm of those bastards in Columbus. Recruiting was never an issue under cooper as he routinely churned out as many NFL players as any other school in the country.
But this team was special. You had Heisman winner Eddie George. Future 1st round Pick wide receiver Terry Glenn. Arguably the best offensive lineman in Big Ten history Orlando Pace, future 1st round pick Ricky Dudley, and serviceable quarterback Bobby Hoying. Not only did they not win a national championship, they didn’t win a Rose Bowl. In fact they couldn’t beat a disappointing Michigan team that year that was led on defense by a young man you may have heard of in college football circles Charles Woodson.
But even being the Michigan homer I am accused of, there is no hating on that collection of Talent in 1995 in Columbus. The funny part about this team was I went to prep school with Rickey Dudley and Eddie George, in a small town in Virginia at a place called Fork Union Military academy. Eddie would never admit this now, in public or email (hint Jim Tressel) but he was a Michigan fan. Tony Boles #42, former Michigan running back great, was Eddie’s favorite running back. While he had a great career in the Scarlet and gray, he only claimed one victory of Michigan, and that year he red shirted.
11. Sacramento Kings early 2000’s
They made the Miami Heat look mentally tough. Yes the refs absolutely screwed them in game 6 at LA. Yes I am convinced that game was fixed. And yes I do not think man has ever set foot on the moon. But the game 7 loss at home, missing free throws down the stretch is what really has to haunt this team. Even more so than Vlade tapping the ball back out to Robert Horry for a game winning 3-pointer.
Because when you have the ball in your hands, at the foul line, in the comfy confines of your own stadium, you are in control. You can dictate what happens. And the Kings like it or not chocked. Reliable guys like Peja, and Bibby, and Christie all missed free throws down the stretch, and Shaq of all people, which is often overlooked, hit some big free throws in the 4th quarter. The Kings were still talented, but mental fatigue and severe injuries to Webber’s knee cost them another serious bid at an NBA championship. And now the team is moving to anahiem.
RIP the Sacramento Kings.