As I’m sure you all know by now the ESPN documentary that explored the story behind Michigan’s Fab-Five in the early 1990’s has received plenty of press over the past few days. Many people, myself included, were fascinated by the story and the opportunity to hear it from the players who lived it. It was an in-depth look at one of the most polarizing stories in college basketball history.
Naturally it sparked some controversy, especially when NBA analyst and former Michigan star Jalen Rose spoke his mind about former Duke star and current member of the Phoenix Suns, Grant Hill. Rose declared that he ‘hated Grant Hill,’ and that he ‘hated Duke.’ Later on he stated that Duke didn’t recruit black players like himself, and that they only targeted middle-class black players who came from more fortunate backgrounds. Rose went on to call Hill and the other black players at Duke ‘Uncle Toms,’ in an apparent attempt to claim that Hill and others like him had sold out their race to play at Duke.
Today Hill responded with a well-worded statement that was released in the New York Times. In this statement Hill remains professional throughout, yet states his displeasure with the words that Rose chose to use. Hill defends himself and his family, as well as his teammates at Duke and all the African-American players who followed in his footsteps.
I’m not here to take a shot at Rose or anybody else for saying those things about Grant Hill and the rest of the Duke athletes. Rose is much older and more mature now than he was back when he was in college. His beliefs have most likely changed since his days at Michigan, and I would be surprised if he still felt the same way. It would make sense that a young, black college student who grew up poor in Detroit might feel some bitterness towards another individual who was given a more luxurious upbringing. However, Rose does deserve some credit for being honest in the documentary and telling the audience what he believed.
Just as Rose deserves credit for being honest, Hill should be commended for standing up for himself. Hill doesn’t get overly defensive and turn it into a war of words. He simply states his opinions on the comments and leaves it at that. This should be the end of this story. It shouldn’t go any further than this. It began with Rose’s initial comments, and it ended with Hill’s brief yet powerful response. Both men have voiced their opinions, and I highly doubt it will escalate much further. Or at least it shouldn’t.
Today’s media has the tendency to fan flames to create an unnecessary fire. The topic should die here. But it won’t. This will immediately be thrown back at Rose who will be asked for a response to Hill’s comments, and whether or not he took them personally. Rose will undoubtedly try and explain that the comments were from a teenage perspective, but people won’t listen. It’s always about creating the latest controversy in an attempt to find a new story.
If Rose and Hill want the story to end now they need to take it upon themselves to make sure it does. As long as they’re willing to talk about it it is going to remain a story. Hill made his response, and it should end there. Rose needs only to say that Hill is entitled to his opinion and that young men aren’t nearly as wise as older men, and that he doesn’t necessarily feel that way towards Hill anymore. This story should become about a rivalry between two schools, not two men.
Jalen Rose has every right to hate Duke. Grant Hill has every right to hate Michigan. But as men, especially black men, they need to reiterate that the distaste goes no deeper than that.