Anthony "Spud" Webb dazzled Reunion Arena and captured America in 1986. Unfortunately, I'd seen his act before.
As a horrible point guard for the 1981 Duncanville High School Panthers, I had the ball stolen from me on consecutive possessions by Webb, then a star at Wilmer-Hutchins. After the second theft, the 5-foot-6 Webb dribbled, dribbled ... dunked! The crowd went nuts. I got cozy on the bench.
That was during a holiday tournament on UT-Arlington's stage. Five years later I was watching in awe again as Webb soared even higher on an international stage.
It was the first NBA All-Star Weekend in Dallas, and 6-year-old Reunion Arena was abuzz.
Now working for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I walked into the locker room to get a quote from none other than Larry Bird. Trembling, I stammered out, "Mr. Bird, do you have a comment on the 3-point contest?"
Without turning around from his locker, Bird took a swig of his Budweiser, burped and said, "Good, cold beer. I like Dallas."
Bird later would - in the same locker room - legendarily ask "Which one of you assholes is gonna finish second?" before winning the thing without ever even taking off his warm-up top. Great as that was, Spud trumped him.
The bounce-off-the-floor-and-then-off-the-backboard dunk, climaxed by the 360-degree slam. Spud beat teammate Dominique Wilkins for the title, and reminded me why I had a pen in my hand instead of a ball.
Back then Reunion was a jewel and gas was under $1 a gallon. Now, Reunion is a memory, 92,000 fans will flock to Arlington for the return of the All-Star Game and Webb is back in Dallas, this time as a judge for Saturday night's Slam Dunk contest at American Airlines Center.
"Having lived in Dallas my entire life, it's great to finally see the All-Star game back here," says Webb, these days the president of basketball operations for the new NBA Developmental League team based in Frisco. "This event brings back a lot of great memories."
At the 2006 All-Star Game in Houston, Webb assisted 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson to the title by tossing the ball up for an assist and serving as a prop.
"I could make that dunk anytime," Webb jokes. "I expect Nate not to use props this time. I hope to see some new dunks, otherwise I may have to go put some shorts on and see if I have any springs left in these legs."
Robinson, looking to become the event's first three-time champ, will compete against Shannon Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers, Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats and either DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors or Eric Gordon of the Los Angeles Clippers.
A year ago LeBron James promised to participate this weekend, but has since broken his word. Probably better. Even King James couldn't upstage what Spud did here 24 years ago.
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