Catching Up With Spud Webb

Wednesday night at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead, the Atlanta Hawks hosted a Basketball New Year’s party to celebrate the opening of the 2004-05 season. On hand was Hawks legend Spud Webb, who interacted with the fans, signing autographs and answering questions as well as taking on challengers in a shooting contest.

A seven-year Hawks veteran and member of several playoff teams in his time with Atlanta, Webb is best known for his 1986 Slam Dunk championship (won over his teammate and fellow dunk champion Dominique Wilkins). The 5’7” Webb is also known as a pioneer for other diminutive players who came after him (like current Denver Nuggets guard Earl Boykins and former player Muggsy Bogues). Hawks.com had a chance to sit down with Webb at the party and find out what he has been up to since he last played in the league with Orlando in 1998.

Hawks.com: What are you up to these days?

Spud Webb: Well, my daughter (Lauren, 15) is very much into sports. She plays basketball and volleyball, so I spend a lot of time teaching her about sports and life. Thank god she isn’t a boy, or it’d be track and football! But I spend a lot of time working with her, and then after that she is tired of me (laughs) so I play a lot of golf.

Other than that, I do the pre- and post-game shows when the Mavericks are on local television (Webb lives in Dallas). It’s about 30 games a year, and I do it with (former Dallas Maverick) Derek Harper.

Hawks.com: With the season getting started, basketball action is heating up. Do you miss the game at this time of year?

SW: The only time I really miss it is the beginning of the season, cause all the guys start to get so fired up, and also during the playoffs. Just being around the fellows during the playoffs, those are moments you cherish and never forget.

Hawks.com: Kevin Willis came in the league before you did. What’s it like to still see him out there?

SW: It’s great. I feel like watching my brother play out there. Kevin is such a good guy, and he keeps himself in such great shape, you can’t help but root for him. He has worked so hard to get to where he is and he’s such a good person, I’m glad he is still able to keep it up.

Hawks.com: Does he make you want to get back out there?

SW: (laughs) No, no, no, no, no. I like to play with kids, and I coach my daughter, but that’s it.

Hawks.com: What do you think about the state of the league today?

SW: The guys are bigger and more talented than ever, and because of that they have become more one-on-one players. A lot of players are so naturally talented, they don’t work on the fundamentals as much, and that’s why there are so few shooters out there now. They get away with it though because they are so fast and powerful, and it’s still exciting to watch.

Hawks.com: Do you keep up with the current players who model themselves after you (Denver’s Boykins is charitably listed at 5’5”)?

SW: Oh definitely. To see Boykins play makes me proud. He always comes up to me when he sees me. A lot of today’s players don’t really think much about the players who came before them. But Boykins, Muggsy, and (former Nuggets guard) Michael Adams always come up and speak when they see me. They just show me that respect, that if I hadn’t played the way I did they might not have had the chances they did, so it’s a very nice compliment.

Hawks.com: The Slam Dunk Contest has lost some of its luster the last few years and there has been talk of scrapping it. Is the event past its prime?

SW: I don’t think so, but I don’t like the way they do it now. A dunker is like an artist – you picture a dunk in your mind and then you go out and execute it. But the way it is now, where the guys keep messing up and then keep trying until something finally works, it’s just not as exciting.

Hawks.com: Can you still get up there?

SW: I never play anymore. I will go to my daughter’s games and be messing around a little, and everyone wants to see me dunk, and I tell them they are out of their minds (laughs). Maybe I could still get the rim, I don’t know, I just never play anymore.

Micah Hart is the Assistant Web Editor for the Atlanta Hawks