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04/08/2013

The time I asked Chris Webber about his infamous timeout

Knl1xSxTonight in Atlanta, the University of Michigan will play the University of Louisville for the amateur basketball championship of the world. Or something.

This is the first time Michigan is in the title game since The Fab 5 played North Carolina for the 1993 title, when a certain bad-a$$ power forward named Chris Webber called a timeout he didn't have. Surely people won't remember that.

Webber left Michigan after this, his sophomore season in Ann Arbor. 

Webber is now a NBA analyst for TNT, and makes Atlanta his home. According to this link by TheBigLead, no one knows if Webber will attend tonight's game. Webber has all but removed himself from Michigan since he left.

There is some thought he does not want to talk about that famous timeout, and maybe that's the case. That's what his former teammate, Jalen Rose, believes. 

I do vividly recall one day when he played for the Sacaramento Kings in January of 2000 I nervously approached him to specifically ask him about this famous play.

1igjoK.AuSt.156His blunder was for a larger piece where I interviewed a handful of famous jocks who had famous screw ups.

Full disclosure: I totally backdoored this question, and anchored the interview around his personal charity, which was nicknamed "The Timeout Foundation." I softened him up with those questions, and then proceeded with a few quick questions about that famous play in '93. 

He was very polite, professional and candid. During the interview one of his teammates laughed as I asked the question, mentioning that Webber was getting it from fans in Houston in the previous game.

I wrote for a story that appeared in Star-Telegam in June of 2000: 

Chris Webber is a four-time NBA All-Star, the 1994 Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-American.

For all those highlights, Webber's basketball career is tagged with one word that no contract, championship or trophy will erase: timeout.

In the waning seconds of the 1993 NCAA title game in New Orleans, Webber's Michigan Wolverines trailed North Carolina by two points when he grabbed a defensive rebound. With 11 seconds remaining, Webber raced into the right corner and frantically formed a "T" with his hands.

One problem: The Wolverines had no more timeouts.

North Carolina was awarded technical foul shots, the ball, and won the game.

"I still hear about it probably once every game. At least ... at least," Webber said. "I heard it a lot in Houston. As far as fans yelling, 'Webber, call a timeout! Call a timeout!' It's not that funny now."

Eight years removed from the play, Webber has a sense of humor about his mistake. His mother convinced him to name one of his charities the "Timeout Foundation." His father's license plate reads: "Timeout."

Mi7WiAT"You know, I think it's something I never really looked at again or wanted to remember," Webber said. "I remember it happened, not so much calling the timeout, but what I remember is the feeling afterward. I don't remember calling it. It was something that worried me for a long time. But, most of all, I remember the feeling when I called it, and the reaction, and how I bad I felt."

Even for Webber, time - or timeouts - heals all wounds.

"It doesn't bother me now," he said. "[The jokes] do get kind of old though; I usually try to tell people, 'Come up with something new. You're not really a good fan if that's all you can use.' "

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