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30 for 30: The Fab Five

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Chalk this movie up to opening my eyes to something as a much more fascinating topic than I realized.  The hook: "Five freshmen came to Michigan to play basketball in 1991, and they comprised one of the best recruiting classes in basketball."  Ho hum, sounds like the kind of story that's been told thousands of time before any time an announcer wants to tell me that THIS sporting event is truly simple.

But these guys weren't just an amazing recruiting class.  These guys were a cultural symbol that transformed hoops from the culturally boring and lily-white hoops of Hoosiers to the black and much more entertaining sport that it is today.  These guys were enormously influential, and they were a big step in race politics of college.  

It's misleading to say that the shift was because of them.  Instead, they were part of a larger cultural shift, but because they were so good and willing to be just ever-so--slightly transgressive, they happened to be the focal point.  So many issues are still the subject of hand wringing NCAA apologists wishing for the way it [never] was.  They were paid against NCAA rules.  The university profited enormously from sales of licensed merchandise without them getting a dime.  They left school early. They wore baggy shorts.  Why, clearly they represent the downfall of society, can't you see that Doris?

The movie's pretty good too.  They're an amazingly media savvy bunch, with Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose providing great interviews.  The director subtly points the story where he wants it to go, and it's quite convincing.  One of the best of the 30 for 30 films.

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