Today’s younger generation of basketball fan is familiar with Boston Celtics guard Nate Robinson. Standing at only 5’9 in a league where players tower far above 6 and 7 feet in height, we almost can’t help but root for the “little guy.” (Except for when Nate was playing at the University of Washington during a home and home series against NC State in the middle part of last decade). But long before Robinson hit the scene, the short superstar that set the stage for “vertically challenged” players was NC State’s very own, Spud Webb.
Spud was only 5’7 and took the basketball world by storm when he won the NBA slam dunk contest in 1986. His lack of height kept him from playing on his junior high and high school teams. But Spud didn’t become discouraged. He worked harder and got better, and eventually landed a spot in Coach Valvano’s N.C. State program.
Overlooked by the larger programs, Spud landed at tiny Midland Junior College, eventually leading the school to the junior college national title in 1982. This little bit of exposure gave Spud a big shot with North Carolina State. The late, great Jim Valvano saw it in his big heart to give the little guy a chance.
Coach Valvano’s gamble on recruiting Spud payed off. Webb led the Pack to a Sweet 16 birth and his recruitment established an eternal connection between his legacy and N.C. State. Webb’s career has certainly inspired later players to overcome adversity in their own lives.
July 13th marks the 47th birthday of Spud Webb. We can look back on his career with not only a sense of Wolfpack pride, but with absolute admiration as he was a great example of a David amongst Goliaths. Today, Spud is a motivational speaker who works to help others understand that they too can achieve the impossible. We can all appreciate Spud’s hard work as evidenced through his magical abilities and performances on the court.
* Manute Bol passes away