When Jalen Rose was 17 and making one of the biggest decisions of his life — where to attend college — the inner city Detroit kid didn’t want to go to Duke because he didn’t see that as a place he fit in.
In ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Rose and Michigan’s Fab Five, Rose was brutally honest about what he was thinking when he was recruited in 1990, saying he thought Duke only recruited players that were “Uncle Toms” and not guys like him.
But Grant Hill and others from Duke took offense, questioning how one should define both Duke and the black experience.
Today in the Wall Street Journal, Rose responded to his critics, saying everything was taken out of context, that who he was at 17 and who he is as an adult are different people.
Addressing the elephant in the room, comments from the documentary regarding Duke University were completely taken out of context. I respect the success of Duke’s program and stated this was my opinion as a teenager growing up in the inner city of Detroit. I also acknowledged that Grant Hill had something I wanted growing up – a successful family. It’s a bit disappointing some people insinuated I think black people from successful families are Uncle Toms. What made the documentary must-see TV is the fact we showed brutal honesty and addressed every topic head on and without reservation.
At the end of the day, some people will have their own opinions about the Fab Five and who we are as people. I am proud of what we achieved together from 1991-1993 and even more proud of the men we have become and how we all work in the community. For example, this past Friday, I had a groundbreaking ceremony with Dave Bing, the mayor of Detroit, for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, my college prep charter school for inner city youth. I am proud to be one of the few athletes to open my own school. Legacies are defined by how people remember you when you are long gone. The Fab Five and the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy are two things I will now leave behind as my legacy.
Jalen Rose and Grant Hill came from very different places. Still do.
In the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about Michian’s Fab Five, Jalen Rose (a member of that team and current ESPN NBA analyst) said this about Duke and Grant Hill (now of the Phoenix Suns).
“Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt that they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms. … I was jealous of Grant Hill. 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 as a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn’t know. I resented that, moreso than I resented him. I looked at it as they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates.”
Rose is talking about who he was, what he thought then as an 18-year-old. But as you might imagine Hill took that pretty hard and responded in the New York Times today.
It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me. I should have guessed there was something regrettable in the documentary when I received a Twitter apology from Jalen before its premiere. I am aware Jalen has gone to some length to explain his remarks about my family in numerous interviews, so I believe he has some admiration for them….
To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous. All of us are extremely proud of the current Duke team, especially Nolan Smith. He was raised by his mother, plays in memory of his late father and carries himself with the pride and confidence that they instilled in him….
Just as Jalen has founded a charter school in Michigan, we are expected to use our education to help others, to improve life for those who need our assistance and to use the excellent education we have received to better the world….
I caution my fabulous five friends to avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped them back then for their appearance and swagger. I wish for you the restoration of the bond that made you friends, brothers and icons.
I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.