Chris Webber and the University of Michigan Wolverines were a brilliantly talented and dazzling college basketball team. The starting lineup was nicknamed The Fab Five, a truly fabulous group of players who had all gone to Michigan as freshmen. They made it all the way to the NCAA championship game as freshmen, only to lose to a more seasoned Duke University.
As sophomores, the Fab Five did it again, rolling all the way into the NCAA title game against another seasoned team, this one from the University of North Carolina. The pain of losing the NCAA title to Duke the previous year was still fresh in the minds of Webber and the Wolverines when they came storming out of their locker room, led by Webber, yelling, screaming, vowing they would win this time.
With his teammates running behind him, like a boxer with his entourage, Webber led Michigan on to the court, yelping, "Y'all are going to lose this game." Cocky and arrogant, Webber was determined to take matters into his own hands and lead his team to the championship. He saw it no other way.
April 5, 1993. Michigan is in control of this NCAA championship, leading 67-63 with 4:32 left. Then the game turns completely around when North Carolina's Donald Williams hits a 3-pointer. The tempo changes the moment the shot hits the bottom of the net. Michigan's Jalen Rose misses at the other end and UNC's Derrick Phelps comes back and scores on a cutting layup, giving UNC a 68-67 lead. Next, Rose throws up an airball, UNC gains possession and sets up George Lynch, who posts up in traffic and scores, making it 70-67, UNC.
After another Michigan turnover, the Wolverines desperately try to foul with the game closing in on the final minute. But 7-footer Eric Montross scores on a dunk out of the spread offense on a pass from Lynch for a 72-67 lead with only 58 seconds to play.
Michigan responds as Ray Jackson hits an 18-foot jumper, slicing the deficit to 72-69. There's 46 seconds left. Michigan then calls a timeout -- its last. The teams strategize -- Dean Smith and the Tar Heels on one side, Steve Fisher and the Wolverines on the other. As Michigan breaks its huddle to return to the court, Fisher yells his players, "Remember, no more timeouts!"
Almost immediately, UNC's Brian Reese turns the ball over on the ensuing possession, and after Rose misses another basket, Webber ruggedly seizes the rebound and scores on the follow-up to slice the deficit to 72-71 with 36 seconds left.
On UNC's possession, Pat Sullivan is fouled. He makes the first free throw, giving his team a 73-71 edge, but he misses the second. Webber -- again -- grabs the rebounds. He cradles the ball. Then, just as he's about to pass the ball, Michigan's primary ball handlers take off upcourt, leaving Webber to bring the ball up himself.
Confused, Webber attempts, briefly, to call timeout. Incredibly, none of the officials see it. Webber has plenty of time -- 20 seconds -- but he rushes upcourt, as if there are just a few ticks left on the clock. In the process, he travels before picking up his dribble. Again, the refs do not call it, prompting North Carolina players to shoot off the bench, pointing and screaming.
As Webber recklessly moves past midcourt in a confused state, none of his guards come to help him as the Tar Heel defense moves in to trap Webber. At the top of the key, Webber pulls up, looking for help. The Wolverines are totally out of sync. There are only 11 ticks left on the clock.
Realizing he's about to get trapped by Lynch and Phelps right in front of the Michigan bench, and knowing his teammates have no idea what to do, Webber stops, looks around for a brief moment, and then, inexplicably, he brings his hands together to form a "T," indicating timeout.
The players on Michigan's bench scream in unison, "No! No timeouts!" No timeouts." Michigan forward James Voskuil would later say, "Web thought we said, 'Timeout!' He was arguing after the play. He yelled at a couple of our guys."
Lynch would say later that "it sounded like the Michigan bench was yelling, 'Timeout, timeout!'"
The result is a technical foul on Michigan. UNC's Donald Williams goes to the line. He makes both free throws, stretching UNC's lead to 75-71, an advantage that now appears insurmountable, especially since Carolina also gets possession. The ball is inbounded to Williams, who is fouled. The UNC bench goes berserk as Williams hits two more free throws, sealing the title.
As the clock expires, the Michigan players stand motionless, in disbelief, all around Webber, who turns pale. Rose grabs his head with both hands and winces.
Immediately, Webber is linked with sports' biggest goats, from Georgetown University basketball player Fred Brown to Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. Webber cries, saying, "I cost our team the game." Tears run down his face. He wipes them away slowly, unable to comprehend that he, the star of the team, the leader of his team, the guy who boldly bragged before the game that there's no way he'd lose, makes the mother of all mistakes, costing his team a chance to win a championship.