The Story of Spud Webb is an actually amazing, many people often wonder how a player that was 5 feet 7 inches tall made it to the NBA? Today I am going to tell exactly how he beat all odds and fulfilled is life long dream. Spud played amongst giants where the average height in the land of the NBA was around 6’6 – 6’8. The beginning of this story takes place on July 13, 1963, when Spud was born in Dallas, Texas. Spud Webb lived with his mother and father and 5 brothers and sisters in a very small home.
Spud’s real name is Anthony Webb. The nickname Spud, came from the kids on his block who couldn’t pronounce the name Sputnick. That nickname came from his father’s friend who jokingly called him Sputnick when he was born as his head looked like the Sputnick soviet satellite that was sent out into space in the 60s. Webb grew up thinking his real name was Spud and not Anthony.
Spud played basketball at an early age and like any kid dreamed of playing in the NBA. Spud always battled with his height on the basketball court, always being told he was too small. But what he lacked in height he made up for in athleticism. Being able to Jump out of the gym and jumping and reaching up higher than anyone on the court. His quickness and speed went unmatched by anyone else on the court.
Spud was your typical don’t judge a book by it’s cover basketball player. The road to his dream to making the NBA begins here. Much like Michael Jordan who was cut from his basketball team, Spud tried out for the varsity team for his high school at Wilmer-Hutchins. Spud always used to playing with bigger and older kids, but he was told that he was too small and to play junior varsity basketball instead. Spud wanted to quit, many would have but he continued to work hard and prove doubters wrong, working as hard as he could he was able to help the team make a run in the playoffs.
It was rumored that Spud Webb’s first dunk came when he was just 5’4 in high school. Word got around town and people were in aw taking notice of Spud, to add to that Webb not only could jump but could play too.
Spud Webb had a break out year in his senior year of high school averaging 26 points a game and drawing more attention to him and his capabilities on the court, but despite all the attention he still was not recruited to play college basketball at a Division 1 school due to his size. Spud was disheartened knowing playing at a D1 school would be one step closer to reaching his dream of making the NBA.
Refusing to give up Spud played Junior College basketball at Midland Junior College (Texas). In 1982 he lead his team to a junior college national championship game against the #1 ranked team Miami Dade.
The game went into double overtime with Webb leading all scorers with 36 points shooting 10 for 15 from the field while hitting 16 of 18 from the free-throw line which was enough to help his team win the national title. Spud Webb’s performance gained him National attention, that even lead to a write up in Sports Illustrated.
Spud played another year for Midland and in 1983 he was named NJCAA All American. During that season he was being watched by the assistant coach of North Carolina State assistant coach Tom Abatemarco. Webb visited the Campus on a recruiting trip.
The story goes that both Tom Abatemarco and the head coach of N.C. State Jim Valvano, met Webb at the airport and When Jim saw a little guy walking towards them at the airport he turned to Tom and told him “if that’s him your fired”.
Spud was able to impress the coaches and earn a full scholarship during his trip and Playing at N.C. state for the next 2 years in the 1984 and 85 seasons.
N.C. State 1983/84 Season
During the 1983/84 seasons, Spud’s first year with the team starting at the point guard averaged 9.8 pts 6.0 ast and and almost 2 steals a game. These are not incredible numbers but the role of a point guard back then was definitely not to shoot first. Given those stats, Spud was still able to shoot 45% from the field and was able to contribute with two future NBA players on his team which were Lorenzo Charles and Cozell Mcqueen.
The team itself struggled to stay 500 sporting a 19 – 14 record for the season overall but was 7th in the ACC with an awful record of 4 wins and 10 losses, which was 7th in the standings. This was a low point in Valvano Career with North Carolina State, coming off an emotional high winning the ACC conference title and National Championship the previous year. But the following year things would take a different turn.
N.C. State 1984/85 Season
This was Spud’s last year of eligibility to play college basketball which came in the 1984/85 season. Spud holding on to his dream of playing in the NBA Spud knew he had to have a breakout year, while continuing his role playing the starting point guard position on N.C. State. Jim Valvano and the Wolf Pack had a turnaround season with an overall record of 23 wins and 10 losses for the year.
In conference play, the Wolf Pack were third in the standings with a 9 and 5 record but losing in the semi-finals to a strong North Carolina team. In the NCAA tournament N.C. State was ranked 3rd in the west making it all the way to the sweet 16 but losing to a # 1 ranked St.john’s led by Chris Mullin a future NBA All-star who was a pure shooter.
Spud Played very well throughout the regular season that year in Conference play averaging 11.1 pts 5.3 ast and 2.0 steals a game. During tournament play, those numbers jumped to 17 pts and 6 assists a game. This was very good knowing he wanted to make the NBA.
Spud declared for the draft in 1985 and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 4th round which usually did not secure a spot on the team but would receive a tryout. But before the season started things did not go as planned and Spud would be waived by the Detroit Pistons as he did not make the team.
Spud received a tryout from the Atlanta Hawks, before the 1985 NBA season. On that team was superstar Dominique Wilkins who would play a major role in fulfilling Spud Webb’s dream of playing in the NBA. Nobody thought Spud would even make the team due to his height.
Things even got worse for Webb injuring himself during training camp the coaches barely even saw what Spud was capable of. Dominque Wilkins saw something in Spud and convinced the Head coach to keep Spud around that he thought it would be a mistake letting the 5’7 point-guard go. Now injured Spud was about to get cut, but again Dominque told the coaches hang on to him and let’s see what he can do.
Spud was healed from injury played his first NBA game as a rookie scoring 22 points. The Atlanta Hawks went 50 and 32 with Spud averaged almost 8 points per game and 4 assists in 15 minutes of play a game. Spud played back up point guard to Doc Rivers for Atlanta.
Spud Webb’s claim to fame was that he won the 1986 dunk competition at the height of 5’7 with what was possibly a 48-inch vertical leap out beating his teammate at the time Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan. I bet Dominique wished he didn’t put in a word for Spud now…….