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Spud Webb: Not Just a Rim-Rattling Runt

Recently BTP put the call out to its dear readers for story ideas to fill the long, sad period between the end of basketball season and the start of football. Several readers indicated a desire to read about N. C. State basketball history beyond the 1983 season, which, for obvious reasons, steals a lot of headlines even 30 years later. In an effort to make your dreams of on-demand web content come true, this is the first of what will be many looks back at the Pack over the coming months.

Goodness. The ball is bigger than him.
Goodness. The ball is bigger than him.
Richard Mackson

When people think of Anthony "Spud" Webb, they remember a guy who stunned the basketball world by winning the NBA's dunk contest despite standing just five feet and seven inches off the hardwood (in shoes). But Webb was much more than that. He won a national championship in junior college, led N. C. State to an Elite 8, and played parts of 12 seasons in the NBA.

Due to his diminutive stature, Webb was told to watch from the stands when he tried out for his junior high basketball team but finally bugged his way on to the court and dropped 20 in his first game. Spud saw similar rejection in high school, where he was relegated to the JV team because he was too small. But when he was finally promoted to varsity, the little man played big, averaging 26 points per game and earning all-state honors.

But no division one offers materialized for the Dallas, Texas native, so he took his talents to Midland, Texas, a town so named because it is the midpoint between Forth Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Tom Abatemarco, who like the late Jim Valvano was a New Yorker and a tireless recruiter, ventured all the way to the sleepy Texas town to watch Spud play and, impressed, invited him to Raleigh. When Jimmy V first got a look at the 130 pounder, he turned to his assistant and said, "If that's Spud Webb, you're fired!"

But once he had seen him work out in person, V extended a scholarship offer to Webb, who was named a JUCO all-American in 1983 after averaging 14.6 points and 10.1 assists per game for the Midland Chaparrals. The year before, Webb led Midland to a JUCO national title, scoring 36 points in the double overtime championship game victory over previously undefeated Miami-Dade North. Webb accepted V's offer and for two seasons ably filled the shoes of another national champion point guard, Sidney Lowe. Webb actually posted a better scoring average (10.4 to 8.7) and free throw percentage (76.1 to 75.4) than his predecessor. Both shot 47% from the floor for their careers.

It was Webb who would go on to NBA glory and not just in the slam dunk championship. He was a starter for five seasons, and during each of those campaigns he scored in double figures, including a career-best 16 points per game for Sacramento in 1991-92. For his career, Webb averaged 9.9 points and 5.3 assists per game. He was an 84.5% free throw shooter and led the NBA in FT% in 1994-95 (93.4%).

Webb's 31.1% career assist rate is the 38th best in league history and helped him amass 40.2 win shares during his long NBA tenure. Only David Thompson (63.3), Nate McMillan (50.2), Thurl Bailey (45), and Vinny Del Negro (40.6) contributed more win shares among Pack alum in the NBA. Interestingly, McMillan and Del Negro were Spud's teammates under V and both went on to head coaching gigs in the league. Webb now works in the front office for the D-League's Texas Legends and is available as a motivational speaker.

Webb's closest NBA comps include names like Johnny Davis, Derek Fisher, and Greg Anthony. The little man was more than just a rim-rattling runt; he could ball. Of course, we all remember him for this:

Spud Webb Slam Dunk Contest (via aaitch)