The actual anniversary for Kenny Walker occurred on Feb. 11, 1989. That marked the 25 year anniversary of his unbelievable performance in the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest b.k.a. the Sprite Slam Dunk. The 2013-14 Cats were in the midst of their SEC season then so I decided to wait until things slowed down a bit to take a few moments and reflect on Kenny’s most notable NBA highlights.
Big Blue Nation (the Cards and the entire SEC for that matter) was extremely familiar with what “Sky” Walker was capable of.
However, on this night he put on a show for the entire NBA. All of the stars were out and Kenny Walker owned the night. His father had passed away a few days before the competition so he had the burden of a heavy heart weighing on him and motivating him at the same time.
Now remember, this was back when the Sprite Slam Dunk was still the Sprite Slam Dunk. It was must see TV. The legendary Bob Neal was on the mic and you could feel the electricity of the night oozing right through your television screen.
Take a look at some of the competition that Walker had to beat on his way to the title. Ron Harper was in the contest that year. This wasn’t the Ron Harper from the championship winning Chicago Bulls. This was Ron Harper in his prime when he was a key cog and young high flyer for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jerome Kersey of the Portland Trail Blazers was there. He always brought big powerful dunks to the mix. Spud Webb, the 1986 dunk champion was back again.
Lastly, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler was competing again. Spud Webb had won the contest in 1986 in his hometown of Dallas. The 1989 contest was held in Houston. Clyde Drexler was from Houston and had played his college ball at the University of Houston and along with Hakeem Olajuwon was one of the most popular members of those Phi Slamma Jamma Cougars’ teams.
Drexler had always been a dunk contest bridesmaid but never a bride. He had lost to Larry Nance in 1984, Dominique Wilkins in 1985 and Michael Jordan in 1987 and 1988. To say that he had the hometown crowd behind him would be an understatement.
None of that mattered to Kenny Walker. He overcame all of those factors and still brought the championship home and denied Drexler a slam dunk title yet again. It’s hard to believe that this year marks the silver anniversary of Walker’s aerial display. Those of us watching as young kids or grown folks that Saturday night have never forgotten it.