Spud Webb wins dunk contest - HISTORY
Year
1986

Spud Webb wins dunk contest

On February 8, 1986, Spud Webb, who at 5’7” was one of the shortest players in the history of professional basketball, wins the NBA slam dunk contest, beating his Atlanta Hawks teammate and 1985 dunk champ, the 6’8” Dominique Wilkins.

Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb was born July 13, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Throughout his life, Webb had to prove himself as a basketball player due to his relatively small stature. As a high school player, he averaged 26 points per game and was one of 10 students out of 5,000 selected to the All-State team; however, his size prevented him from being recruited for Division 1-A colleges. Instead, he attended Midland Junior College in Texas, where he led his team to victory in the 1982 junior college championship. He then caught the attention of the coaches at North Carolina State University, where he went on to play for two years.

Despite a strong college career, his size initially kept him from making the NBA and after graduation he played in the U.S. Basketball League. In 1985, he had a successful tryout with the Atlanta Hawks and joined the team. Webb played six seasons with the Hawks, followed by stints with the Sacramento Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic.

One of the most memorable events of Webb’s career was his dunk contest win, which took place on February 8, 1986, at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend in Dallas. Webb, the shortest player to ever participate in the competition to that time, went up against men who were, in some cases, a foot taller. In the end, size didn’t matter. Webb dazzled the crowd with his soaring dunks and bested teammate Dominique Wilkins, who had won the 1985 contest by beating Michael Jordan. (The NBA’s first slam dunk competition was held in 1984.)

Webb retired from basketball in 1998, after 12 seasons in the NBA. He was said to have paved the way for other height-challenged NBA players, including 5’5” Earl Boykins and 5’3” Muggsy Bogues. In 2006, 5’9” Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the second-shortest player to emerge victorious in the NBA slam dunk contest. Spud Webb was on hand in Dallas for the event and during one dunk, Robinson jumped over him and put the ball through the hoop.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First execution by lethal gas

The first execution by lethal gas in American history is carried out in Carson City, Nevada. The executed man was Tong Lee, a member of a Chinese gang who was convicted of murdering a rival gang member. Lethal gas was adopted by Nevada in 1921 as a more humane method of carrying ...read more

The Russo-Japanese War begins

Following the Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launches a surprise naval attack against Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. The Russian fleet was decimated.During the subsequent Russo-Japanese War, Japan ...read more

Peter the Great dies

On February 8, 1725, Peter the Great, emperor of Russia, dies and is succeeded by his wife, Catherine.The reign of Peter, who became sole czar in 1696, was characterized by a series of sweeping military, political, economic, and cultural reforms based on Western European models. ...read more

Mary Queen of Scots beheaded

After 19 years of imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in England for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I.In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King James V. Her mother ...read more

Birth of a Nation opens

On February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, a landmark film in the history of cinema, premieres at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles. The silent film was America’s first feature-length motion picture and a box-office smash, and during its unprecedented three hours ...read more

Jaguar founder dies

On February 8, 1985, Sir William Lyons, the founder of the British luxury automaker Jaguar, dies at the age of 84 in Warwickshire, England.Lyons was born in Blackpool, England, on September 4, 1901. In 1922, the motorcycle enthusiast co-founded the Swallow Sidecar Company with ...read more

Americans secure Guadalcanal

On this day in 1943, Japanese troops evacuate Guadalcanal, leaving the island in Allied possession after a prolonged campaign. The American victory paved the way for other Allied wins in the Solomon Islands.Guadalcanal is the largest of the Solomons, a group of 992 islands and ...read more

Operation Lam Son 719 begins

South Vietnamese army forces invade southern Laos. Dubbed Operation Lam Son 719, the mission goal was to disrupt the communist supply and infiltration network along Route 9 in Laos, adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam.The operation was supported by U.S. ...read more

MACV established

The Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), headed by Gen. Paul D. Harkins, former U.S. Army Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific, is installed in Saigon as the United States reorganizes its military command in South Vietnam.Before MACV, the senior U.S. military command ...read more

Cleveland signs the Dawes Severalty Act

In a well-meaning but ultimately flawed attempt to assimilate Native Americans, President Grover Cleveland signs an act to end tribal control of reservations and divide their land into individual holdings.Named for its chief author, Senator Henry Laurens Dawes from Massachusetts, ...read more

New England digs out after blizzard

A classic “Nor’easter” storm that brought a severe blizzard to New England finally subsides on this day in 1978, and the region begins to dig out from under several feet of snow. Over the previous 72 hours, some areas of Rhode Island and Massachusetts had received as many as 55 ...read more

Irish race horse stolen

Gunmen steal the champion Irish race horse Shergar from a stud farm owned by the Aga Khan in County Kildare, Ireland. The five-year-old thoroughbred stallion, named European horse of the year in 1981, was worth $13.5 million and commanded stud fees of approximately $100,000.On ...read more

Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary sentenced

Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, the highest Catholic official in Hungary, is convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Communist People’s Court. Outraged observers in Western Europe and the United States condemned both the trial and Mindszenty’s conviction as ...read more

Battle of Roanoke Island

On this day in 1862, Union General Ambrose Burnside scores a major victory whenhis troopscapture Roanoke Island in North Carolina.It was one of the first major Union victories of the Civil War andgave the Yankees control of the mouth of Albemarle Sound, allowing them to threaten ...read more