Original Old School: Giant Killer
SLAM 68: Spud Webb was more than just a dunker
SLAM: After the Hawks, you went to the Kings. And that was rough then, right?
WEBB: Real rough. After coming from a team when you’re looking at Dominique and Moses Malone, Reggie Theus, Doc Rivers, and you go to a team where you’re looking out there going, Who is this guy? But that happens, and all the way you’re thinking, What did I do to make God do this to me? But you deal when you get there and reality kicks in; you have a job to do. And I tried to make the best of it. Me and Mitch [Richmond] the first year, we used to look at each other and didn’t have nothing to say because we just wasn’t a good team. It’s a joy to see them win now, because when I finished in Atlanta, people used to always ask me where do I play, and now they know. [Laughs] Or do I still play-playing in Sacramento at that time we didn’t get any coverage.
SLAM: Then you went back to the Hawks.
WEBB: Yeah, I went back there for one year. They were a playoff team, Lenny was the coach. That was after they traded Dominique, which they’ll probably never live down. It wasn’t the high-flying Atlanta Hawks after that.
SLAM: How did Lenny Wilkens differ from Mike Fratello?
WEBB: Like night and day. With Fratello, you was always on your toes, he kept you more hungry to play. But Lenny, he was laid back, he liked veterans that would go out and play. You would have to work out a lot on your own, go out and shoot a lot on your own to keep your game up to par.
SLAM: Which did you prefer?
WEBB: Well, you’d like to prefer the country club atmosphere, but that don’t get you but to the golf course early instead of the playoffs. But with Fratello you work hard. And that’s the way you want to be, because when you get in the game you always prepared.
SLAM: Then you went to Minnesota, where you got to play with Kevin Garnett as a rookie.
WEBB: Ah man, and he didn’t even act like a rookie at the time. Some of these superstars get their money and do all type of stuff, but this guy wants to win, and that impressed me when I was there. That really impressed me. That is genuinely a guy who wants to win. I’d sit in the locker room with him, and he was so frustrated and mad about different things, you’d feel sorry for him that he didn’t have any help. Even today.
SLAM: JR Rider was there, too. He supposedly learned a lot watching you dunk. Were you watching when he won his Dunk Contest?
WEBB: I heard he done a lot of the dunks I did. As far as throwing the ball in the air and doing that type of stuff, I don’t know. JR never hardly said anything to people, and when you said something to him it probably went in one ear and out the other. You didn’t know what you was gettin’. I haven’t watched a Dunk Contest since ’90. I’ve seen the highlights of different ones, Carter and Mason, but I never really watch it.
SLAM: So it just didn’t interest you anymore?
WEBB: I think it got kinda corny, really. They tellin’ me you get three dunks in a certain amount of time, but I don’t think…I think you’re like an artist. You sit there and think of what you have to do and go out and do it.
SLAM: We’ve heard Stan Kasten, when you first came to the Hawks, wanted you to wear “.4″?
WEBB: That’s Stan, always trying to think up something gimmicky, just like this year. [Laughs] I didn’t want to be known as a sideshow, then you end up with the Globetrotters. I’m not saying the Globetrotters are bad, because I love those guys, it’s just that I don’t want to be a sideshow. And that’s why I got out of Dunk Contests, because people didn’t appreciate what I did in games. Mainly they were looking at me as a dunker, as a small guy that could dunk, which is great, but you want to be known as an all-around ballplayer. I think my peers and colleagues respected me as a ballplayer, but I don’t think the public did.
SLAM: Do you feel you helped pave the way for guys like Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins?
WEBB: They tell me that every time I see ‘em. Those guys are my friends, me and Muggsy play golf together, I talk to Earl every time he comes through. Michael Adams, all those guys say, “If you didn’t play well, I probably wouldn’t have got a shot.” And all those guys probably ended up playing longer than I did. But that’s good, because especially with the zone defense now they can play even longer than that.
SLAM: Is there one moment in your NBA career that was most memorable?
WEBB: Meeting Dr. J. He was my idol, I tried to walk like him, I had his posters up, shoes, whatever. The ‘fro. We couldn’t afford jerseys, so we markered up t-shirts with “6″ on it. Then we went in the house or the yard and tried to emulate the one-handed finger rolls and things he did. And I got to meet him for the first time, and that’s something I’ll never forget. He’s probably the only guy I’ve never played 18 holes with but would love to. I’m still afraid to tell him, I guess. I have that much respect for him.
SLAM: Do you get back to Atlanta much?
WEBB: I never hardly go back. I went back for Dominique’s retiring of his jersey and got a big standing ovation. And Stan hollered, “I may have to retire your jersey, too,” and I said, Nah, I ain’t coming back. Every time I’m in town I call the PR director, Arthur, ’cause me and him are real close. I call Lee Douglas in the front office. But that’s about it. Now that Dominique’s-I don’t know what you call what he’s doin’. You can’t coach yourself, how you gonna coach? [Laughs] But you never know, he’s probably learned a lot, opened his eyes on certain things.
SLAM: Would you like to do something back there, now that Dominique’s back?
WEBB: I never mentioned it to him, but that’s something I’d love to do. Go back there and be an assistant coach or something like that.
SLAM: We heard you play a lot of golf.
WEBB: I used to. Not as much, but if you ask me, I’ll go. [Laughs]
SLAM: Who’s the best player you’ve golfed with?
WEBB: Terry Porter is a pretty good golfer. Ty Corbin. The only young guy I’ve played with is Ray Allen. He’s a decent golfer. And Michael Finley. I play with a lot of the older guys-Herb Williams. Dominique, he can’t count. Doc Rivers, I go to play with him sometimes when he gets a break. Whenever they come through town, they know I play and they call. I guess I’m not hard to find around Dallas, just everybody else thinks I’m hard to find.