Chris Webber says goodbye to NBA

March 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Chris Webber burst on the basketball scene nearly two decades ago as a precocious freshman with his baggy shorts and black shoes as part of Michigan's Fab Five.

His basketball career came to a much quieter finish when he made official what seemed inevitable as he struggled to recover from another knee injury in recent weeks.

Webber announced his retirement after 15 NBA seasons on Wednesday, cutting short his comeback attempt with the Golden State Warriors and his rapprochement with coach Don Nelson.

"It definitely didn't work out the way that I planned," Webber said. "Life is what happens while you're making plans. I'm happy. I'm happy I got a chance to come back here and be reunited with Coach."

Webber played nine games with the Warriors before being sidelined by a bum left knee that's hampered him in recent years. He has not played since March 2 and had not been around the team of late.

The Warriors are in eighth place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of Denver for the final playoff spot. Even if Webber had been healthy enough to return, it would have been hard to work his way back into the rotation.

"I really didn't want to rehab and come back this season because I don't think that was possible," Webber said. "Plus, because the way the team is playing, the chemistry is already great with these guys, they're on a roll. I feel like they're going to win and have a great chance to go very far in the playoffs. I just felt it was time to let the game go and to be able to be happy about what I accomplished without trying to keep coming back."

Webber and the Warriors hoped that a return to the spot at which he started his NBA career would help both parties. Webber's first stint with the team ended after one season with a feud with Nelson, a public trade demand and finally a deal to Washington.

Nelson and Webber made up this time around and spoke well of each other. However, the signing ended up having little impact on the team.

"I'm really happy we brought him in," Nelson said. "It was good to get to know him again. He didn't have a lot left in the tank here and the injury pretty well ended it. It was good to have him. It was a good try on our part and it didn't work out. I wish him the best. I enjoyed coaching him."

Slowed by the knee injuries, Webber struggled to keep up with the fast-pace Warriors and averaged only 3.9 points per game in his brief stint.

At the time of the signing, Nelson said he thought he needed another big man in order to make the playoffs. Since Webber got hurt, rookie Brandan Wright has shown flashes and could play a key role down the stretch.

Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin said it was too late to get any help from the outside.

"Brandan does different things than Chris does," teammate Matt Barnes said. "Brandan is an explosive young player and he's definitely helping our team out right now. He's right in the middle of the rotation, doing a great job."

Webber once was that type of explosive player. He teamed with Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson in college to help lead Michigan to the NCAA championship game his only two years in college.

But the Wolverines lost both times, to Duke in 1992 and North Carolina the following year. Webber was most remembered for calling a timeout when Michigan had none remaining in the final minute of the 1993 loss to the Tar Heels.

He left school and became the first pick in the draft, getting dealt from Orlando to Golden State in a draft-day trade. He was rookie of the year with the Warriors before being dealt to Washington.

His greatest success came with the Kings, a team he helped revive during his time there. But Sacramento was unable to make it to the NBA finals, losing in a seven-game series in the conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002.

Webber's career began a downward slide after he underwent microfracture surgery on his knee the following year. He was dealt to Philadelphia in 2005 and spent the second half of last season in Detroit with his hometown Pistons.

Webber was a five-time All-Star, who ended his career averaging 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game.

"If you ask me, he was one of best players of his era," Mullin said. "When he was in Sacramento, they were right there among the top teams. He was in the center of all of that. He was the guy who made it all go. He had a tremendous career. I had the pleasure of watching him come in as a 20-year-old rookie and watched his career all along the way."

Webber said he wanted to stay involved in basketball, first as a television commentator and then in perhaps a bigger role with a team. He is scheduled to be in the studio for TNT on Thursday.