Spud Webb Lives

By Ta-Nehisi Coates


To be honest, the whole point of writing about Obama and race was to find some excuse to talk about Spud Webb. What a great name. Almost up there with World B. Free.


When I was eleven years old Spud Webb became immortal. This was 1986, and Webb accomplished this feat by winning the dunk contest. The idea that a 5'7'' point guard could take the dunk title was something more than just a "feel good" story. It confirmed something particular about our black lives. 

It was the artistry of raising up out of the hood, and against all limitations, defying the very rules of gravity. To be black is to be 5'7" and charged with dunking in the NBA. OK, not quite, but do you see where I'm going? I think of Doctorow's meditations on Houdini's great escapes. To paraphrase the man, 20 years later, in this era of Occupy and inequality, the audience for defiance is even larger than ever.

Some props to O.C. also whose voice was jangling around in my head while I was writing. What a beautiful song.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/spud-webb-lives/261572/