Interview: Jalen Rose Talks Fab Five Documentary, UNLV Love, and NBA Age Limits

The leader of Michigan's famed freshman class talks about his upcoming ESPN film.

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Complex Original

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As the leader of one of the most hated, oft-imitated, never-duplicated teams in NCAA history—Michigan's Fab FiveJalen Rose (@JalenRose) has made an indelible mark on basketball culture. We had a chance to sneak-preview ESPN's upcoming "30 for 30" Fab Five documentary, which Jalen produced, and it's every bit as good as The U, The Two Escobars, and the other amazing films from the series. With the movie scheduled to air on Selection Sunday (March 13, 9 p.m. ET), we chatted with Jalen about the making of the Fab Five, how they'd stack up against UNLV, and the influence his Wolverines had on the basketball world.

Complex: Tell us about the upcoming “30 for 30” ESPN documentary on the Fab Five.

Jalen Rose: March 13th, 9 p.m. ET after the NCAA Bracketology show: The revolution will be televised. It’s been covered, whether it was the best-selling book Fab Five by Mitch Albom, Beyond the Glory on Fox, or a throwback segment done by ESPN. But it's never been covered from how we felt and how we viewed it, and point out a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t realize were happening about how times were different in the early ’90s. Different things are accepted nowadays that weren’t accepted back then.

Complex: The Fab Five was sort of a planned super-team, something similar to what we're seeing today with the Heat, Celtics, and Knicks in the NBA. How did you guys make it work?

Jalen Rose: Let me tell you what makes it so special, and I thank God that I can actually say this with all humility. The situations you mentioned have three guys and the other has two, and ironically, that’s why we’re still talking about the Fab Five 20-plus years later. It was five of us. Four McDonald’s All-Americans and another All-American from Texas in Ray Jackson, all willing to bond as brothers, say we’re going to the same school, and set the same goals. Make each other better on and off the court, leave our egos at the door, and do what we can to change the game.

Complex: It's safe to assume that you still keep in touch with CWebb and Juwan, but how about Jimmy King and Ray Jackson?

Jalen Rose: Yes indeed, we keep it tight. You saw Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and myself on ESPN [earlier this week] doing a series of interviews for the documentary. They’ll definitely let the world know what they’re doing. Actually, I was watching Jimmy King the other night on Versus doing sideline for a NBDL game that Antoine Walker was in. So, he’s out there doing his TV thing.

Complex: What was the science behind the long shorts, shaved heads, black socks, and black Huaraches, a look that we all loved?

Jalen Rose: We were the original all-black everything. It was a trip because we were in a position to take advantage of our sponsors, Michigan and Nike. We knew that since we’re getting free gear, we might as well get gear that we liked. We might as well bring the flavor of what we liked rocking and bring it on the court. So, coach, if it's OK [laughs], we’d love to get these shorts a little bit longer. We’re not trying to look like Indiana, no offense, but they got on tight shorts and their name isn’t on the back of the uniform. There’s a difference between the kids that signed to Michigan, the kids that went to Vegas with the Runnin’ Rebels, or the kids that went to Georgetown under big John Thompson to the kids that went to Notre Dame, Indiana, or Duke. We see the difference, coach.

Complex: Some might say you inspired those Knicks teams that rocked the black sneakers and baldheads in the playoffs.

Jalen Rose: Exactly, we were doing that in college. Straight solidarity. I remember those Knick teams with Oakley, Mason, and them, when they first got Pat Riley.

Complex: What were you guys listening to back then to get hype before game?

Jalen Rose: Everything. Let me tell you something crazy about this documentary. That’s why hip-hop and sports are so transcendent and they were so influential in what we did at the University of Michigan and with the Fab Five. You're going to see footage of us getting off the plane in the early ’90s, walking in and out of the hotels with headphones on like they were Beats by Dre or Skullcandy.

Complex: We see a lot of similarities between the Fab Five and Larry Johnson’s UNLV squads. Who would win between the two?

Jalen Rose: Yo, I have to back it all the way up to the beginning and respect the O.G.s and tell you the true story first. I took a visit to Vegas in high school, I spent time out there before. Anderson Hunt, who was the Final Four MVP in 1990, went to my high school, Detroit Southwestern. He used to come home and bring all the Vegas gear. That team was family to me when I was in high school. I know Tark. I looked up to them. They had to play some team in Detroit at the Palace, and LJ, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony came to one of my high school games. Plus they had a couple Detroit kids to play in Vegas, like Jarvis Basnight. So, I was a huge fan of that team. Boom, they win in ’90 and the homie Hunt wins MVP, great. The next year I’m in Hunt’s house watching Duke end UNLV’s undefeated season. The next year I’m playing in the final with Michigan against Duke. So, I already had a built-in dislike for Duke. That’s what makes the question so ironic. I can never disrespect them by saying who will win. Just throw the ball up and we’ll do it for fun as if we were in the park or something. I pay homage to them.

Complex: Do you think in today’s climate, the Fab Five would have stayed together?

Jalen Rose: Jimmy and Ray stayed for four years, Juwan and I did three years, and Chris left after two years. I think we would’ve stayed two years, won at least one championship, and would’ve left at the same time.

Complex: Speaking of great college teams, we all loved the "30 for 30" about Miami football at The U. Would you say that the Fab Five were kindred spirits?

Jalen Rose: You’re going to see the documentary, and this is the producer talking to you, you’re going to see a picture of me in the doc with a Miami Hurricane sweater on. You’re speaking my language. Were you there in ’92 on the Michigan campus and saw this on me one day or something? That was my squad.

Complex: Why has Michigan basketball suffered so much since the Fab Five left?

Jalen Rose: I think it will never be 100% right. I mean, in 360 degrees: winning; karma; recruits, good or bad. It won’t ever be restored until they put those banners back up.

Complex: Moving on to the pro game, which you now cover for ESPN. How do you feel about the call to raise the age limit?

Jalen Rose: Most of those kids leaving early are black kids. With that being said, if you’re able to catch lightning in a bottle like Kobe, KG, Lebron James, or Dwight Howard, congratulations: 100%, you should be able to come out of high school. There should be some type of committee with the NBA and NCAA to come up with a system that determines where these kids might get picked in the draft. Hey, such and such out of such-and-such high school, your projected to be the 43rd pick. No, anybody that isn’t projected in the first round, you have to go to school for two years. It’s bigger than the game. It’s not only playing and being a pro, but learning how to deal with the success and failure of it. Nothing substitutes for a great education. What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Complex: That's a good segue to tell us about your Operation Graduation program.

Jalen Rose: I’m very excited about it. Its really an extension of the mission of my Leadership Foundation where I was able to help five kids a year with scholarships, to help aid 40 college students. I’m just trying to do what I can with my Leadership Academy and give these kids an alternate school where they can go and learn and be in an environment that hopefully breeds success.

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