Let Us Now Praise Jalen Rose

How the one-time Fab Five bad boy is becoming the most compelling voice in basketball. Watch your back, Barkley.

How the one-time Fab Five bad boy is becoming the most compelling voice in basketball. Watch your back Barkley.

Photo: Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Jalen Rose first took the national stage two decades ago as the brash point guard leading Michigan’s Fab Five freshman to the NCAA championships in 1992, and then back to the finals the following season. With their baggy shorts, confidence-verging-on-arrogance, and high-octane game, Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson brought a hip-hop swagger to the league that hadn’t been seen before (and has never left). But with all the attention came shitloads of criticism, and most fans were happy to see the much-hyped Five lose both of those championships to the (much-whiter) Duke and North Carolina Squads. When Rose turned up at the 1994 NBA draft in what can only be described as pimp couture, it would have been hard to foresee he’d put in a stellar 14-year career in the league, let alone become one of the most thoughtful, funny, and entertaining voices in the game as a post-career analyst.

But as his work on ESPN has shown, and his role in the killer Forty for Forty documentary The Fab Five showed, the Jalen Rose fans thought they knew twenty years ago seriously sold the guy short. In retirement, Rose founded the Jalen Rose leadership academy in his hometown of Detroit, joined ESPN’s NBA Tonight broadcast team, and launched one of the most entertaining podcasts out there, The Jalen Rose Show, where he lifts the curtain on what really goes on in the NBA. His tales of stealing Patrick Ewing’s television, pulling dirty plays on Kobe Bryant, and what players get up to when they step off the court are both hilarious and truly enlightening. The animated “Story Time With Jalen Rose” on YouTube gives you a taste of why Rose has become the second coming of Charles Barkley.

That fact that all this comes as a surprise says more about us than it does about Rose, or his fellow Fab Fivers. After all, Chris Webber has likewise become one of today’s best analysts as part of TNT’s Inside the NBA team, while Juwan Howard is still playing in his 19th season, coming off an NBA championship as a veteran force on the Miami Heat. Two decades ago, few would have guessed it.

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