Flying High by Spud Webb

Flying High by Spud Webb with Reid Slaughter

Flying High by Spud Webb with Reid Slaughter

When a typical NBA player walks into a room of regular people, the player towers over the people in the room; not so with 5’7” Spud Webb.  Amongst the gaggle of guys in our master mind group, Spud was the shortest of the guys gathered!

You need not be a devout NBA fan, to know the name Spud Webb.  Spud became world famous in 1986 when he defeated his Atlanta Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins in the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

To put the magnitude of his victory into perspective, Dominique Wilkins was the defending Slam Dunk Champion having defeated ion 1985 none other than Michael “Air” Jordan!

Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb was “Flying High” but he was not born into the high life.  Spud was born into poverty on July 13th, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.  It was in the 7th grade that he was first told that he was too short to play basketball.

A Young Spud Webb

A Young Spud Webb

His first big break came when two taller players forgot to complete their physical exam paper work before the season opener.  Spud took full advantage of his chance, scoring 20 points in his first game.

As a varsity player at Wilmer-Hutchins High Scholl, Spud averaged 26 points per game.  Being only 5’7”, no big name colleges were interested in him, so off to junior college he went in Midland, Texas, where he led his team to the NJCAA Junior College National Championship.

In the NJCAA Championship Tournament, he led all scorers with 36 points and was featured in Sports Illustrated.   The write-up was noticed by Head Coach Jim Valvano, who offered Spud a scholarship to North Carolina State University.

Most NBA scouts predicted Spud would play for the Harlem Globetrotters as a novelty because of his height, but he had other plans.  Spud went on to play 13 NBA seasons before retiring in 1998.

Spud and Wally

Spud and Wally

In the years since his retirement, Spud has remained active in basketball.  He is the President of Basketball Operations for the Texas Legends, the minor league affiliate for the Mark Cuban-owned Dallas Mavericks.

Spud is a true testament to capitalizing on your own limitations, believing in yourself when others doubt you and focusing your effort to work hard.

Even more intriguing than how he could muster up a mind blowing 42” vertical leap, is how someone could come to be named “Spud”!

“It comes from Sputnik, the Russian satellite Sputnik”, Webb said.  “So, you know how black folks have this great sense of humor?  The day I was born – it’s not on the birth certificate, don’t get me wrong – one of my dad’s best friends came in and said ‘Boy, you got a big head like a Sputnik.’

“The kids in the neighborhood couldn’t say Sputnik, so they said Spud.  I grew up thinking my name was Spud, until the cops or mama call you by your real name.  My real name is Anthony, because when you get in trouble, your mama calls you Anthony, the police call you Anthony, and the government calls you Anthony.”

If you’d like to read the rest of the story in Spud Webb’s autobiography “Flying High”, you’re going to need to do some digging.  His book has been out of print for 15 years.