Today is Day 5 of the Omer. Hod sheb’hesed, the gratitude and humility that comes from a deep place of love
For Day 5, hod sheb’hesed, I’m going with a member of the Fab Five, Juwan Howard.
Howard was the first member of that famed class to commit to Michigan and was responsible for helping recruit the other four members: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson.
They were five upstart freshmen who revolutionized college basketball, with their youthful confidence, baggy shorts, and swagger. They were a joy for me to watch and root for even if they never won an NCAA Championship.
It might seem strange to choose a player associated with one of the most brash, outspoken teams in modern history on a day that embodies gratitude and humility. Howard was those things at 18, but he was also always “the adult in the room.”
Raised by his loving grandmother on the South side of Chicago, he was a professional throughout his career. When his grandmother tragically died of a heart attack on the day he committed to play at Michigan, he found a way to build a new family around his coaching staff and teammates.
Howard’s pro career was solid, with moments of the spectacular. Over his first 7 seasons he averaged 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds and made one all-star team. He also made history by signing the first $100 million contract in the NBA.
However, Howard was our choice for Day 5: hod sheb’hesed, because of what he did over the rest of his career. Playing 19 total seasons, until he retired at the age of 39 with two NBA Championships, Howard became a mentor to younger teammates, including Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. Howard never needed to be THE man. He was humble (and smart) enough at a young age to welcome more heralded teammates to Michigan who would demand touches and attention. But over time he was able to do something that very few highly paid stars can do, step back and take a smaller role.
In Portland, he was a mentor to Greg Oden who said: “Guys kind of want to be the man no matter where they are in their career, but Juwan was so selfless with that team, regardless of whether he was going to play that night,”
It’s that kind of attitude that made Juwan Howard the head coach at his alma mater, Michigan, and that makes him our choice for a day that represents the gratitude that comes from a deep place of love.
If you have ESPN+, enjoy this documentary on the Fab Five.