The year is 1986. Just completing fifth grade. Life was easy. We're talking parachute pants, enormous silver boom boxes mounted on shoulders, Ninja stars, baseball cards that boasted wax and bubble gum stains, Jheri Curl juice, and We Are the World. Bent basketball rims on the playground. Your best friend was the guy who owned a basketball hoop that stood at seven feet. Just low enough for you to dunk. Or at least low enough to grab it with the tip of your fingers, slip, and fall squarely on your back. Hard. I'm not going to lie to you. I don't remember a lot of details about Spud Webb's slam dunk victory including two perfect scores. I just remember the impression it left on me.
Spud represented the impossible. Literally, he represented the vertically challenged. Short people couldn't perform a 360 dunk if they could dunk at all. At 5' 6", Spud was lucky to be in the NBA. He may have been 10-some odd years older than I was, but he also represented the kids. He was on our level. We loved the Spud. Dominique Wilkins came in windmilling his arms and legs at various angles. Spud had one angle for his dunks: straight up and down. I think that's a 180-degree angle. Regardless, the point is that I vividly remember the image of Spud stretching every muscle and bone in his body to reach that rim. No looking down on the basket for Spud. Just happy to get there.
Like every memorable moment in our lives, this event was more than a point in time. It carried over into our activities. We all wanted to be Spud. My best friend at the time in Albion, Michigan was Donnie Seitler. He and I would perform tournaments involving our favorite players. We became the players. No, it wasn't imaginary. It was real, baby. We weren't hip to fantasy hoops yet. Atari was good for 10-Yard Fight, but we had yet to encounter a video game that took us into the world of the hoop. We created our own.
Seven brackets, 14 players. Donnie versus me, but as various (and I mean various) hoops players. Donnie owned Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Lou "Sweet Lou" Dunbar and another member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson during his Navy days, and our friend Spud Webb. I owned Clyde "The Glide" Drexler, Roy Marble and Ed Horton of Iowa Hawkeye fame, Craig Hodges, Marques Johnson, Sleepy Floyd, and Steve Colter.
Like in real life, Spud was always the underdog. Based on the Loomer-Seitler Seeding System (known as LSSS in some circles), the one and two seeds were consistently locked in on Dominique, Jordan, Drexler, and Johnson. Sometimes it was a dunk contest. Sometimes we played to 10. Sometimes it was a battle to the death.
One thing never changed: Spud always won.