American basketball player
Standing only five feet, seven inches tall, Spud Webb was one of the shortest players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Despite his diminutive size, Webb enjoyed superstardom as a small man in a big man's game. In what was perhaps the crowning achievement of his twelve-year career in professional basketball, Webb won the NBA Slam Dunk Championship in 1986. Looking back on this win, Webb recalled, "No one expected or imagined that a person of my size could win the slam dunk contest. It was the highlight of my career and everybody recognizes me from the slam dunk contest. But I played twelve years in the NBA and performed every year, that's what you really want to be recognized for. There's no way to dodge the stigma that's put on you for winning the slam dunk contest at my size."
He was born Anthony Jerome Webb in Dallas, Texas, on July 13, 1963. Living with his parents and five siblings in a small, three-bedroom home, he began playing basketball while still quite young, overcoming the limitations of his small stature with his uncanny ability to jump higher than the bigger kids in the neighborhood. Early in his teens, Webb, standing only four feet, 11 inches tall, found that he could dunk the basketball by hurling his small frame high into the air to bring himself closer to the basket. He would rush at the basket, push himself into the air, clearing the ground by more than four feet, and slam the basketball through the hoop.
Although Webb made it onto his junior high school basketball team, he found himself spending almost all of his time on the bench, once again hampered by his small size. When he finally convinced the coach to let him play, Webb scored twenty points in his first game. At Wilmer-Hutchins High School, Webb was rejected by the varsity team and told to play junior varsity ball because of his size. So discouraged that he almost abandoned basketball altogether, he decided instead to devote all his energies to improving his game. When he eventually made it onto the varsity team, he averaged twenty-six points a game and as a senior was named Player of the Year. He also was one of ten Texas high school players to be named to the All-State team.
Enrolls at Midland Junior College
Despite his impressive high school record, colleges showed little interest in Webb. Unwilling to give up on his dream of college, he enrolled at Midland Junior College and in 1982 led Midland's basketball team to the national junior college championship. After seeing Webb play for Midland, Tom Abatemarco, assistant basketball coach at North Carolina State University, suggested to his boss—the late Jim Valvano—that they invite the diminutive player to visit N.C. State. Despite his initial misgivings, based on Webb's small stature, Valvano was impressed enough by the Texan to offer him a scholarship. It proved to be a wise decision, for Webb in 1985 led N.C. State's Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Passed over in the NBA draft because of his size, a disappointed Webb played briefly for the United States Basketball League. Finally, in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA draft, he was selected by the Detroit Pistons, only to be cut by the team before the season began. Given an opportunity to try out for the Atlanta Hawks, Webb impressed the team's coaching staff with his incredible jumping ability and was signed to a contract. For the next six years, he teamed with Doc Rivers to average over ten points and five assists a game. In 1986, Webb blew away the competition—including high-flying teammate Dominique Wilkins —to win the NBA Slam Dunk Championship.
Spends Hours Training
Although Webb somehow made it all look easy, he made it clear that his performance was the result of years of hard work and practice. "Most people believe that I can dunk and play in the NBA because of my God-given talent," he said. "This is only half true. I also spent countless hours training to improve my jumping ability. I must have tried dunking over 1,000 times before I actually did it. I never gave up on my goal no matter how impossible it seemed, and neither should you."
After six seasons with the Hawks, Webb was traded from Atlanta to the Sacramento Kings, where he played from 1991 until 1995, when he was traded back to the Hawks by the Kings. His second stint with the Hawks was short-lived. In February 1996 he and Hawks center Andrew Lang were traded to the Minnesota Timber-wolves in exchange for forward Christian Laettner and center Sean Rooks. After playing out the remainder of the 1995-1996 season with the Timberwolves, Webb left the NBA to play briefly in Italy. In 1998 he returned to American basketball after signing a ten-day contract with the Orlando Magic. When the Magic waived Webb, he announced his retirement from professional basketball.
|1963||Born July 13 in Dallas, Texas|
|1981||Graduates from Wilmer-Hutchins High School|
|1981-83||Attends Midland Junior College in Midland, Texas|
|1983-85||Attends North Carolina State University|
|1985||Drafted by Detroit Pistons but later cut from the team|
|1985-91||Plays for Atlanta Hawks|
|1991-95||Traded by Hawks to Sacramento Kings|
|1995||Traded by Kings to Hawks|
|1996||Traded by Hawks to Minnesota Timberwolves|
|1998||Signed to 10-day contract by Orlando Magic|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1981||Named Player of the Year at Wilmer-Hutchins High School|
|1981||Named to the Texas All-State High School Team|
|1982||Led Midland Junior College team to national junior college title|
|1985||Led N.C. State to Sweet 16 in NCAA Tournament|
|1986||Wins NBA Slam Dunk Contest|
Since leaving basketball Webb has kept busy by making the rounds on the professional speaking circuit. As founder and president of Spud Webb Enterprises, headquartered in central Florida, Webb speaks extensively around the country, focusing on his personal experiences in overcoming insurmountable obstacles and achieving the seemingly unachievable. As he tells audiences, "I never let my size keep me from excelling in a sport in which the odds of making it to the professional level are nearly impossible." At home near Dallas, Webb today spends most of his free time trying to perfect his golf game. In an interview with Tony Haynes, a contributing editor for N.C. State's GOPACK.com, Webb said: "I get up and go play golf just about every day. I live on the golf course. I've been bitten by the bug and am addicted to the game. It wasn't tough to leave the game of basketball because no one ever expected me to be able to play. I still have a passion for watching the game, but the only thing I miss about it is the competition and hanging out with the fellows. The competitiveness is still there to go out and take on any golf course."
|ATL: Atlanta Hawks; MIN: Minnesota Timber Wolves; ORL: Orlando Magic; SAC: Sacramento Kings.|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY WEBB:
Flying High, Harper Collins, 1988.
"Jim Valvano." Almanac of Famous People, 6th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.
"Spud Webb." Almanac of Famous People, 6th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.
"Spud Webb." Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.
Cornwell, Susan. "T-Wolves Trade Laettner to Hawks on Trade Deadline Day." Reuters (February 22, 1996).
McCallum, Jack. "Inside the NBA." Sports Illustrated (March 18, 1991).
McKay, Matt. "Webb Stays with Basketball, But His New Passion Is Golf." Dallas Morning News (May 1, 1998): 17B.
"Anthony 'Spud' Webb." NBA Stars in Europe. http://www.geocities.com/tzovas/nbastars/webb_spud.html (December 27, 2002).
"Behind the Scenes with Tony Haynes: Spud Webb Is Still Looking Up." GoPack.com. http://gopack.ocsn.com/genrel/011702aaa.html (December 27, 2002).
"NBA Great Spud Webb Joins the Pro-Speaking Circuit!" Spud Webb Enterprises. http://www.nopasports.com/spudwebb/main.htm (December 27, 2002).
Sketch by Don Amerman