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Spud We
Stephen Dunn /Allsport/Getty Images (left), Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images for Operation Graduation (right)

On February 8, 1986, Dallas, Texas prepared for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. For Anthony “Spud” Webb, it was a trip home. The Atlanta Hawks point guard grew up in the northern hub of the Lone Star State and flourished on the court in high school. He longed for scholarships to Division I schools, but Spud was only 5-foot-7. His stature deterred big-time programs.

He chose to attend Midland Junior College. After two years of success, he caught the attention of North Carolina State. He finished his college career in Raleigh and was selected in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons cut Webb before the season.

He hopped back on the horse in a tryout with the Atlanta Hawks. His hard work, determination and perseverance earned him a spot on the roster. His otherworldly hops didn’t hurt either.

Those hops etched themselves in NBA history that night at Reunion Arena

Spud Webb’s 1986 NBA Dunk Contest

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Competing with the rookie Webb was Roy Hinson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jerome Kersey of the Portland Trail Blazers, Paul Pressey of the Milwaukee Bucks, Terence Stansbury of the Indiana Pacers, Terry Tyler of the Sacramento Kings, Gerald Wilkins of the New York Knicks and defending champion Dominique Wilkins.

Webb dazzled the NBA All-Star Weekend crowd with a 46, 48 and 47 in the first round, highlighted by soaring acrobatics and rim-snapping finishes. Webb advanced to the final round where Atlanta Hawks teammate Wilkins primed to defend his crown.

A foot in height stood between Wilkins and Webb, a literal David and Goliath match. Webb delivered a 360-tomahawk slam. All cheers. He followed it up by bouncing the ball off the backboard and throwing it down, scoring a 50. Wilkins attempted to match the perfect score with a double-clutch baseline jam. His efforts were awarded a 48, and Webb officially usurped the dunk champion. He is the shortest player to ever win the contest.

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Spud Webb during a 1989 NBA game.
Photo by Tim Defrisco/Getty Images

Webb went on to have a solid 12-year NBA career with the Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic. He helped clear the path for other sub-6-foot NBA players such as Muggsy Bogues, Earl Boykins and Nate Robinson. Robinson paid tribute to Webb by jumping over him in the 2006 Dunk Contest.

Spud Webb Now

Spud Webb attends the 6th annual Cedric The Entertainer Celebrity Golf Classic at El Caballero Country Club on August 13, 2018.
Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

The 58-year-old Webb finished his career in the late ’90s.

He’s now the president of basketball operations for the Texas Legends, a team in the G League. He still gets stopped today because people remember his unforgettable dunk contest performance.

“One hundred thousand people have told me they were there,” Webb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The place only holds 20 (thousand). It’s just something that grows on you. And you just get used to it and understand that you’re going to have to talk about it everywhere you go.”

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Webb’s talent demanded the entire arena’s attention. The 1986 performance penned a fresh chapter in the youthful dunk contest’s history supplemented by Michael Jordan’s two show-stopping performances. Jordan completed mesmerizing feats, but Webb defied gravity.

This post was originally published on July 11, 2020.

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Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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