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q & a with Jalen rose

For the record, I am a Big Ten fan. As a proud graduate of the University of Illinois, I bleed orange and blue and my allegiance is with the Fighting Illini. That said, the University of Michigan basketball team and the Fab Five were a cultural phenomenon. They captured the hearts and attention of college basketball fans around the world. ESPN documentary, The Fab Five, tells an exceptional story about the team's success and their missteps during their two-year ride into the history books. Jalen Rose spoke with me about the controversy surrounding the film, the incredible pride he feels as an executive producer and his personal reasons for reaching back to help young men and women in his community. The one word he uses to describe himself: Passionate. Read below to find out how he's influencing the world through sports, television and philanthropy.

LeslieWrites: Jalen, congratulations on The Fab Five documentary. A lot of people are blogging, tweeting and engaged in intense discussions about race and class because of the ESPN documentary and Grant Hill’s subsequent editorial in the March 16, 2011 New York Times. Why do you think the film sparked such a heated debate?

Rose: Well, it just really reminds me of exactly how it was 20 years ago beyond the impact the Fab Five had on the floor. It was labeled sophisticated vs. dumb, republicans vs. democrats, urban vs. suburban, good vs. evil and really that’s how it’s playing out now 20 years later. When I said the revolution will be televised now everybody sees what I mean. Almost a week later and this is still a hot button topic from coast to coast. It’s been on the tip of everybody’s tongue because a lot of things in the documentary were noted and discussed about how we felt about times in 1991 but a lot of times people don’t like when situations are exposed for the masses.

Part of me feels like Grant Hill kind of missed the point. That’s number one because whether somebody was instigating for him to respond or not it was still his choice to do it. The next thing is how he responded. The New York Times is a good newspaper and I can’t dispute that but you and I both know that it went over a lot of people's heads. Also, the article was well written and very articulate but I already made my mind up that I was not going to respond to that because in the documentary we were talking about how we felt as college kids. We weren’t talking about 2011 so I can’t go back on how I felt then. The second part of that is I actually gave him props. I specifically said that I was bitter, upset and jealous of the fact that I didn’t have the structure in my life and in my family and a lot of the things that he had. I specifically said I was bitter about that, resented that and didn’t resent him.

LeslieWrites: In the film you acknowledged Grant Hill's family and the fact that his mother and father were educated. I think a lot of people "got" what you were trying to say and understood that you were recalling how you felt as a 19-year-old college kid.

Rose: I specifically said educated, well spoken. I said those things but it’s unfortunate that a lot of media members take things out of context, create hot button words for discussion and take sides. And it’s just so obvious how certain people will just do that, run with it and try to now make it a situation where almost a week later people are still talking about it and having to “pick sides.”

LeslieWrites: To put this to rest, we’re clear about how you felt as a 19-year-old college player but how do you feel -- as an adult -- about Grant Hill and other African American Duke University players?

Rose: I feel like what his mom and dad did for him, that’s what I’m trying to do for my kids. I understand. I appreciate it. I respect it. I know why Duke recruits the players that they recruit now that I’m an adult. They want a specific type of player to represent their university and they want to try to do what they can before the kids hit campus to minimize the risk. They recruit families. I respect it and understand it. I have no problem with it. Coach K is one of the best coaches in NCAA history. It’s all good. What Grant Hill’s family established for him as a youth is what I’m trying to establish for my family. There’s no bigger shine of respect than for me to say that.

LeslieWrites: Why did you decide to make the Fab Five documentary working with ESPN, Keith Clinkscales and director Jason Hehir, and why now? Ultimately, what do you want the world to take away from The Fab Five Documentary?

Rose: 100% raw, uncut, the truth of how we felt as a collection of five individuals that came together to be five brothers and to tell the story from our voice 20 years later. There’s a reason why the story hasn’t been told. We termed it "the revolution will be televised," because we knew, I knew, that people weren’t ready five, ten, fifteen years ago and obviously they're still not ready now to hear the truth about what made the Fab Five tick. You will hear a lot of people talk about the Grant Hill comment but you don’t hear anyone talking about the Dick Vitale comments: “They need to be more clean cut, all American kind of guys. They don’t fit the bill.” And you don’t hear anyone talking about the letters we received.

We were five freshmen that sacrificed our egos to come together and bond. We played with fearless emotion. We loved one another on and off the court and we symbolized what a lot of people in urban America felt like they could and would do if they were on that stage. So we embraced all of that negative energy and those negative thoughts and feelings… “Okay, so if you want to make us out to be evil, alright we might as well wear long shorts, black shoes and black socks. We might as well stand together in solidarity. We might as well take it all the way there.”

LeslieWrites: Define how you believe the Fab Five changed college basketball?

Rose: Oh, in so many ways. In the early 90s the game was so much different. You couldn’t go to an arena in college or the NBA and hear hip hop music. I mean people now have to be more accepting of urban personalities. Whether it’s the way we walk, the way we talk, how we dress, the music we listen to, our style, our flavor, what makes us tick. Those things weren’t really being acknowledged from a cultural standpoint then. When we showed up with headphones on listening to music as you saw in the documentary, and Chuck D said it best, they were looking at us like we were from Mars. And that really was the case. That’s really how we had to deal with situations.

LeslieWrites: In your opinion, are there any teams that came after the Fab Five with your level of talent, charisma and passion or did you guys make and then break the mold?

Rose: I think that was mold breaking. I mean, being a student of the game of course there were teams before us that I felt were knocking on the door whether it was Phi Slama Jama, (University of Houston Cougars, 82 – 84), whether it was Georgetown under Big John or whether it was UNLV. I idolized, looked up to, watched, studied and tried to implement a lot of what they did into who we were and take it to the next level.

LeslieWrites: Do you think that at some point Chris Webber will talk publicly about his experience as a member of the Fab Five?

Rose: I think he will. This would have been, in my opinion, the best forum because I don’t know if this forum will ever be duplicated. So I felt for him this was a great opportunity to say his piece good, bad, or indifferent. He felt otherwise. He felt like this wasn’t the time, this wasn’t the place, this wasn’t the opportunity and he chose not to participate. He was asked to participate on every level. He could have talked about whatever he chose to talk about and it would have been appreciated and supported. He didn’t. I still love him like a brother. It’s not something that I take personally or we take personally. It didn’t affect the integrity of the story though because the story took place from 91 – 93, not in 2011 and it just resonated so well with so many people.

LeslieWrites: Let’s move on to your philanthropic endeavors. Not many African American athletes endow scholarships at major universities. Why did you decide to establish an endowment at the University of Michigan.

Rose: Education is very important to me which is why it's been unbelievable that since the documentary came out people have noted Grant Hill as being intelligent, responsible and sophisticated because of his response to now portray me as being dumb… so dumb that I was too dumb to get into a school like Duke when actually I was an honor roll student in high school and I actually made the Dean’s List at the University of Michigan. Education was always important to me. I never wanted to be considered a dumb jock. I’m working in my major right now -- radio, TV, film. I know that education is really the key that unlocks life. That’s why at my charter school that opens in Detroit this Fall, we’re creating a 9 – 16 model moreso than a 9 – 12 model.

Regarding the endowment, the University of Michigan has done so much for me. I felt that it was only right for me to endow a scholarship there and do something substantial as a way to say thank you but also as a way to give back to not only my alma mater, but to my city.

LeslieWrites: What do you ultimately plan and hope to accomplish as a philanthropist and founder of the Jalen Rose Charitable Fund?

Rose: To help touch as many people as possible in a positive way and give them hope. There are so many families, kids, educators, neighbors, community leaders, civic leaders, politicians, elected officials… so many people that are trying to do what they can in a positive way but there are just as many people, unfortunately who are doing the opposite. I’m just trying to be a positive voice to influence as many urban youth as I can. I want to show them that sticking a gun in somebody’s face, standing on the corner, hanging out and not being educated is not necessarily going to be a formula for success in your life. I am trying to bring hope and life into my city. I’m tired of going places and the first thing I hear about my hometown is something negative. I want to be a person that’s a champion to help shape a positive image for my city but also make it a reality.

LeslieWrites: Who are your real heroes in life?

Rose: My real hero is my grandmother who is 93-years-old. She still has all of her motor skills and she will still pop me upside the head if I’m getting out of line. My real hero is my mom who was a keypuncher at Chrysler for over 20 years. They say it takes a village to raise a child and that was me. My real heroes are my brothers, my sister, my uncles, my aunts, my childhood friends and neighbors. Beyond that, coaches in basketball because that was my trade. Perry Watson, my high school basketball and high school counselor, my AAU coaches, sports figures like Isaiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Muhammad Ali, everybody, really, that made something positive of themselves from the city of Detroit, people I looked up to in basketball, my JV coach who’s now an assistant head coach at Tennessee. There were so many people who had a positive influence in my life. They are my real heroes.

LeslieWrites: What is your personal philosophy?

Rose: Really my philosophy is to work as hard as I can to be the best that I can. I’m very goal oriented. Very passionate about things that I believe in that I want to see happen in my personal life, in society and in my community and to just try to be a positive vessel. Of course I’m not perfect. Of course I’ve said the wrong things. Of course I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course I hope not to say and do some of the dumb things that I was saying and doing ten years ago, ten days ago, ten minutes ago. That’s what life is. That’s what maturation is.

LeslieWrites: Are you living your dream?

Rose: Yes, a lot of things that I worked for are happening. I am very proud of my basketball career and what sports have done for my life but I've always felt that I had a bigger mission. So to be working for ESPN and ABC doing multimedia, sports and entertainment, to be opening the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in September, to have my company, Three Tier Entertainment, executive produce a piece on the Fab Five that I hope becomes critically-acclaimed, these are the things that I laid the foundation for as a college student majoring in communications, radio, TV, film. Now I’m seeing it all come to fruition. I tell people all the time you can’t have a harvest if you don’t plant seeds.

LeslieWrites: Give us one word to describe you.

Rose: Wow. That’s a great question. I don’t know. Ummm… Probably passionate. I like, I love, and the things I do I try to do to the best of my ability. Yes, passionate is the best word to describe me.

For more information about Jalen Rose and the Fab Five documentary, please visit http://jalenrose.com/

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