Given the influx of do-overs, B-list talent and Kia-related stunts, it’s hard to remember the days when the Slam Dunk Contest actually mattered. Like the 1986 competition, when a man who was a fierce competitor — though not a tall one — out-jumped the competition (and nearly the building) to take home first prize.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Spud Webb’s feat, here’s a look at other pint-sized athletes who overcame long odds to achieve victory.
Meet the David v. Goliath All Stars.
Webb, all 5’7” of him, defeated his 6’8” Atlanta Hawks teammate and 1985 dunk champ Dominique Wilkins by receiving perfect "50" scores from every judge over the dunk contest’s final two rounds. (Webb also had a superior height to shorts-length ratio.) Other little guys have followed in his footsteps — watch 5’9” Isaiah Thomas play this weekend — but it was Webb who first raised the bar for undersized NBA-ers.
Spud Webb Dunk Contest 1:30
When the UFC staged its first competition in 1993, it did so as a one-night, head-to-head lab experiment of a tournament pitting eight fighters from different disciplines and weight classes against one another for the title of world’s greatest fighter. A 170-pound Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, Gracie beat three heavyweights — a boxer, a wrestler and a kickboxer — in succession on his way to capturing the sport’s inaugural title.
Royce Gracie UFC 1 5:31
After hitting leadoff for the Los Angeles Angels team that won the 2002 World Series over Barry Bonds’s San Francisco Giants, “Just Enough” hit .364 in the 2006 World Series and was voted MVP for the St. Louis Cardinals — a team that had Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds at the height of their powers. Eckstein, who was generously listed at 5’7”, had to choke up almost three inches on his bat while collecting 1,414 career hits.
David Eckstein Career Highlights 4:12
Martin St. Louis
After scoring 38 goals, racking up 56 assists and compiling a league-leading plus/minus of 35 during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2003-04 campaign, 5’8” St. Louis collected 24 points to lead his team on an epic playoff run that ended with the Stanley Cup in Tampa for the first, and only, time in franchise history. Added bonus? He was recognized as the NHL’s MVP as the recipient of the Hart Trophy.
Top 10 Martin St. Louis Goals 5:27
In a play that has became known as the “Hail Flutie,” the 5’9” Boston College quarterback faded back and threw a pass that traveled nearly 70 yards through the air before nestling into the arms of wide receiver Gerard Phelan for a game-winning touchdown. The 48-yard completion came with no time remaining on the clock and sent Bernie Kosar and the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes packing on the wrong end of a 47-45 upset. The play was noteworthy enough to be featured in an SNL sketch with Rich Hall as Flutie and Eddie Murphy as Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Flutie's Miracle in Miami0:45
At 5'7", the racing legend may have had a bit more difficulty seeing over the steering wheel than some of his peers, but that didn’t stop him from winning the Driver of the Year award in three different decades (1967, 1978 and 1984) and becoming the only driver in history to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and Formula One championship. His accomplishments are even more impressive considering his family spoke no English and had only $125 when they came to the U.S. after leaving a region of Italy that has since become part of Croatia.
1967 Daytona 500 5:00
He had no business beating Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago or even Tommy Gunn. Just watch the movies.
Rocky Balboa Career Highlights 6:40
Honorable mention: Barry Sanders (5’8”), Bruce Lee (5’7”), Floyd Mayweather Jr. (5’8’), Muggsy Bogues (5’3”)