The nature of basketball means people blessed with an inordinate amount of height tend to have an advantage over the rest of the competition; the average NBA player stands at 6’6″, which is around seven inches taller than the typical American male.
However, much like simply being freakishly tall doesn’t guarantee you’ll become a superstar, it’s also possible for some vertically challenged individuals to overcome their shortcomings and pursue a career on the hardwood.
No one has had less business stepping onto an NBA court than Mugsy Bogues, who managed to stick around the league for 14 years despite clocking in at a whopping 5’3″.
He’s far from the only comparatively diminutive player who’s managed to make their mark, as the 5’6″ Anthony “Spud” Webb was also able to more than hold his own over the course of the 841 games he played as a member of the Hawks, Kings, Timberwolves, and Magic.
Webb had plenty of weapons in his arsenal—including the incredibly impressive hops that allowed him to dunk a basketball for the first time when he was just 5’3″. The guard had a 42-inch vertical in his prime, and he successfully harnessed it en route to one of the more unlikely victories in NBA history thanks to what transpired during All-Star Weekend in 1986.
The time Spud Webb pulled off the upset of a lifetime at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Webb was one of the eight players who participated in the Slam Dunk Contest when it was held at Reunion Arena in Dallas in 1986.
His stature already put him at a bit of a disadvantage, but he had a lot of work to do when you consider there was another member of the Atlanta Hawks who’d headed into the event as the odds-on favorite: Dominique Wilkins, the 6’8″ high-flying legend who was hoping to defend his crown after winning the showdown the previous year.
It’s safe to say the two teammates did not disappoint.
Webb kicked things off by throwing down a reverse clutch that caused a bit of confusion, as the ball bounced off of his head and back out of the rim after he threw it down. However, he was eventually credited with the basket and received a score of 46 from the judges.
The fan favorite followed that up with an effortless 360° one-handed slam that garnered a 48 before capping off the first round with a double clutch that earned a 47, which was enough to punch his ticket to the second round.
Webb kicked that sequence off with a bang by lobbing the basketball to himself before jamming home a reverse that was good enough to get him his first 50 of the night.
His attempt to channel his inner Michael Jordan by jumping as far away from the hoop as he could was only good enough to get a 42, but he was handed a 46 after returning to the double clutch, which was enough to earn a spot in the final to face off against Wilkins.
Webb took his 360° to the next level and kicked the last round off with yet another 50, but Wilkins answered with one of his own that was also given a perfect score. It all came down to the last dunk, which saw Webb earn his third 50 of the night with a pass off the backboard that caused the crowd to erupt before he was crowned the champion after his teammate posted a 48 on his final attempt.
Here are all of the dunks in their entirety.
Webb remains the shortest person to ever win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and while he’d never add a second trophy to his collection, he helped Nate Robinson become the second-shortest man to do so when the 5’9″ guard leaped over the former champ en route to winning it all in 2006.
It turns out big things do come in small packages.