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Through his incredibly successful career as a member of the Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets and Sacramento Kings, along with stops playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons, Chris Webber has fluid knowledge of the NBA game. It is ever since his early retirement that Webber has made a case for being one of the better analysts on NBA television. Now, after a record September of controversy and racism, the Atlanta Hawks are looking at Chris Webber, who is making a case for being the face of a group interested in purchasing the team, which may lead to the five-time All-Star taking a leadership role with the team.
Kasim Reed, the Mayor of Atlanta, has called for new ownership of the team ever since the middle of September. It was during this time that Hawks owner Bruce Levenson admitted to racist remarks made in 2002, where he stated his belief that the African-American community was scaring off the potential white demographic from attending games. As a result of his admission, Levenson later announced plans that he was willing to sell off his interest in the team.
To make matters worse for Atlanta, during their investigation of Levenson, a racist recording of general manager Danny Ferry was found. In the recording, Ferry made derogatory comments about then-free agent Luol Deng by making a generalization about players from Africa, as it is known that the forward is from Sudan. As Ferry elaborated in his evaluation of Deng, he explained in a controversial manner that due to Deng’s background, he has the potential to be an inferior player, despite the forward selling himself as a quality asset. Furthermore, Ferry’s comments also infer that Deng is a player who could go back on his word. Because of Ferry’s inflammatory remarks, Michael Gearon, who is a minority owner of the team, sent a memo to Levenson, where he pleaded for Ferry’s removal. Since that time, Ferry has taken a leave of absence and is not likely to return.
Webber, who is the first announced name in a new group seeking to purchase the team, has been a prominent figure in the Atlanta community over the past decade. The five-time All-Star who played 15 seasons in the NBA, currently works for TNT as an analyst, which is currently based in Atlanta. As a reaction to the Mayor’s insistence on new ownership, Webber has been working hard with community organizations and officials on reselling the organization.
While Webber is the fixture of the potential ownership group, it is reported that he will not have a significant stake in the team. Instead, it is a move that may position him to his first front office job by becoming a key piece in basketball operations for the Hawks. If Webber’s group purchases the team and he finds himself in a leadership role with the team, it would mean the former player would have to exit his current analyst job for TNT.
Moving away from commentary and inserting himself into a higher up position in the league is a logical next step for Webber. During his career, Webber had career averages of 20.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.4 bpg and 1.4 spg. Not only was he a force to be reckoned with on the boards and offensively, but he was one of the better passing big men the league has ever seen. While great players do not always transition well to front office jobs, Webber may be an exception. For a big man, he had tremendous basketball IQ while playing and continues to show it through his fresh perspective on the game as an analyst.
While his basketball knowledge will be key, Webber also would represent a huge shift in the restructuring for the Hawks. He would surround himself with many leaders in the community as well as some possible former colleagues of the game. Moreover, it would be a successful transition that would lead to the Atlanta community’s praise.
While on a basketball level, the Hawks have a positive future, it is their public appearance that needs restoration after a disastrous September. Chris Webber can be that face of restoration if the Atlanta Hawks are interested in a sale to his group. Not only will it bring many fans back to the arena, much like it will do for the Los Angeles Clippers after Donald Sterling’s outing, but it could be the next successful step in the Hawks returning to prominence. For Webber, it also could be the next logical step of his successful post-retirement career.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey