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.