The Fab Five tells the story of the five freshmen from the University of Michigan who took over the NCAA in the early 1990s.
How to Watch ‘The Fab Five’ Online
Every film in the complete 30 for 30 library, including The Fab Five, can be watched with a subscription to ESPN+.
Once signed up for ESPN+, you can watch The Fab Five on your computer via the ESPN website, or you can watch on your phone (iOS or Android), tablet, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox One or other compatible streaming device via the ESPN app.
‘The Fab Five’ 30 for 30 Preview
The 1991 recruiting class by the Michigan men’s basketball team remains one of the most unique and influential groups of individuals the sporting world has ever seen. This film takes a close look at that group.
Directed by Jason Hehir, the film provides a comprehensive look at the five freshmen at Michigan who became a national phenomenon. Hehir explains early on in the film what drew him to Michigan basketball back in December of 1991. “The Fab Five come in and don’t care how they look or how they’re perceived. Bald heads. Black socks. Black shoes, baggy shorts. They act how they want to act, and they’re doing well. No big time college basketball team had ever started freshmen like that before. A lot of America was threatened by some young, outspoken, brash, black guys. I think that the audience, when they watch this, will see what these guys had to go through … off the floor to get to a point where they could be successful.”
Hehir touched on a great deal of what made the five freshmen such an original group. The Fab Five were trendsetters. Their baggy, low-hanging shorts, black tennis shoes, and black athletic socks changed the way basketball players dressed. They were all freshman players — and they were all starting. And winning. Back in the days of John Wooden, freshman players did not play right away — they sat on the bench and paid some dues.
The Fab Five consisted of freshmen Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. All but Jackson went on to play in the NBA.
‘The Fab Five’ Takes In Depth Look at Rivalry vs. Duke
The film is full of fascinating tidbits: Jalen Rose started the whole “baggy shorts” trend that subsequently took the basketball world by storm. Juwan Howard credits himself with recruiting Webber, who was one of the most highly-sought after young recruits in the nation at the time. And the in depth look The Fab Five takes into Michigan’s brief rivalry with the National Champion Duke Blue Devils at that time is fascinating.
While nearly every member of the Fab Five cops to having extreme dislike for Duke basketball (the word “hate” is used more than once), Rose had a deeply personal story he revealed in this film about why he resented Duke basketball at that time.
“I was jealous of Grant Hill,” Rose says in the film about one of Duke’s star players. “He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college, and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, was a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20+ years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn’t know. I resented that more … than I resented him.”
Rose also explained his disdain for Duke thusly: “I looked at it as: they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates.”
Michigan Basketball Came Close to Winning Multiple National Championships
The Wolverines snagged five of the nation’s top 50 college basketball recruits in 1991, and while Rose, Howard and Webber began the season in the starting lineup, but by November, that changed.
Perhaps the most glaring disappointment of the team’s tenure was that it never won a National Championship. They came close, making back-to-back finals in 1992-1993, but they lost to Duke by 20 points in ’92 and to the North Carolina Tar Heels in a game that remains memorable for one of the biggest mistakes in the history of college basketball.
With time running out and the game on the line, Webber called one of the most costly timeouts in history. The problem? The Wolverines had no timeouts remaining, so Webber was given a technical foul instead, and Michigan ultimately lost the game, 77-71.
J. A. Adande wrote that “college basketball peaked” when the Fab Five did in the early 1990s, which speaks to their influence. “Michigan’s Fab Five culminated a run of unforgettable college teams that started with the Georgetown Hoyas in the 1980s and, after a brief pause, crested with the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, the Duke Blue Devils and then the Wolverines,” Adande said back in 2011. The film also noted the unique melding of popular culture during the time, a fact Adande also seconded.
“Their generation was the first generation to have hip-hop provide the soundtrack to their entire adolescence. You could hear EPMD booming in the Michigan locker room or see the players jump on the scorer’s table and wave their arms like in Naughty By Nature’s ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ video after a victory.”
The film also covers the team’s involvement with Ed Martin, which violated NCAA violations and became a huge scandal. An investigation discovered that Martin had given money to Webber and other Michigan players, which was against NCAA rules.
What Other Content is on ESPN+?
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Other Documentaries & Films
Other ESPN documentaries and films that aren’t included in the actual 30-for-30 series are also available on ESPN+, including D. Wade: Life Unexpected, Venus vs, The ’99ers and others.
The list of ESPN+ originals continues to grow. It includes Peyton’s Places, The Boardroom with Kevin Durant, NBA Rooks, Ariel & The Bad Guy, The Fantasy Show and Alex Morgan: The Equalizer.
UFC On-Demand Library
In addition to live UFC events, ESPN+ also features a vast library of past fights you can watch. This includes classics from Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, Brock Lesnar, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Frank Mir and others. You can find a complete rundown of the ESPN+ UFC library here.
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