I try to imagine what Spud Webb was thinking about flying towards the rim in the 1986 Slam Dunk contest. The electricity in the Reunion Center must’ve have been staggering as his undersized 5’7” frame was mid flight. Time seems drastically slow down in a transitional state like that, ample time to think. Was he worried that he might brick the dunk or worse completely miss the rim? At some point did he wonder exactly how he came to be in this moment, in way over his head competing with the likes of Dominique Wilkins? Or did he fall into a Zen state and become one with the air or something, nothingness or whatever? He must’ve felt some pressure, but then again nobody expected him to win so in some regards all bets are off being in his position.
I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m hurling through the air, and find it difficult to shape my thoughts mid-air. I don’t want to disappoint the people that help launch me into mid air, the people that support me, the people that cheer me on towards the rim. I know that’s fear talking and I do my best to ignore it, but it is loud. We’re all afraid of failure. When I find myself afraid I think of Spud, try my best to take the pressure off and just hurl myself toward the goal. I know that sometimes I will completely brick my dunks but the ones I make will be incredible. When my fingertips touched the rim last night at the end of this long promo cycle I looked up and saw a community cheering in support of the underdogs. I feel like Spud Webb winning the Slam Dunk contest right now because of you.
Spud’s dunks were not technically the best dunk of the evening. But the collective excitement of people seeing the undersized, underpowered man reaching the rim made them the most spectacular. He won because of the people’s support for the underdog. I think he and I both owe them a huge thank you.