Big Things Sometimes Come In Small Packages

February 15, 2018 | by Mark Stephen O'Neal

I witnessed something pretty amazing one night during my collegiate years, and this modern-day miracle took place while I attended Prairie View A&M University in Texas. There were three other witnesses to this event as well: my college roommate, another guy who we knew around campus, and the guy who was the lead character in the story that I'm about to tell. Some details in a person's life fade over time, but others leave an indelible impression that lasts a lifetime. This particular night was a "you had to be there" kind of experience that I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around to this day.


It was either a Friday or Saturday night because the campus was a ghost town. Most of the students at the time were from Houston or a neighboring town; and they would usually go home for the weekend unless there was a party, sporting event or concert going on. My college roommate and I found ourselves shooting around inside of the dimly lit women's gynasium that was kept unlocked most of the time. Neither one of us had any extra money for food or six pack of beer, so basketball was the only thing that saved us from total boredom that night. The other fellow classmate joined us a few minutes later, and after few more minutes of just shooting around, we struck up a game of varsity (the first player to score 21 points wins).


I remember being slightly ahead of the game with maybe 12 or 13 points before the last guy joined in. The thing that I loved most about playing varsity was that anybody at any given time could join in before someone scored 21 and ended the game. We didn't recognize the new guy; so we concluded that he was a local from Waller, Hempstead or Prairie View. Nothing really stood out about him either...he stood maybe five-feet five or six, and he was probably a buck thirty soaking wet. I don't recall him saying anything other than what's up or maybe he just gave the three of us a nod of acknowledgement. Looking back on it, he was an unassuming guy, but he had a quiet confidence about himself.


One of us took a might have been a free throw, and this slightly-built young man skyed high for the rebound and then put on a spectacle of epic proportions. Now mind you, I didn't consider myself to be a great or even good basketball player because baseball was more of my game. My skill level was what one would call intermediate or average...somewhere between a college level level athlete and someone standing on the sideline who never got picked. To put it bluntly, I could hold my own amongst any level of competition and not be humiliated.


Spud Webb would then run off 21 straight points and dismantle us in roughly five minutes flat. It was, by far, the greatest display of basketball that I'd ever witnessed firsthand in my life. He culminated his vast array of moves with a two-hand reverse dunk over all three of us. Simply put, he was a mixture of Kyrie Irving and Spud Webb rolled up into this tiny, five-foot six frame. He shook our hands after he thoroughly destroyed us, and he disappeared never to be seen or heard from again.


His brief encounter with us was like a seismic event such as an earthquake or the crashing of a comet or meteor, and all that my roommate and I could do was look at each other in utter disbelief. The general consensus between us was: "What just happened here?" My initial thought about the guy was that he definitely should've been playing Division I basketball somewhere. This experience taught me two things: the best players are the ones who don't make it to the next level and usually live in small towns that nobody has ever heard of, and never judge a book by its cover.


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