Herb White: Dunker Extraordinaire

2015 September -

Herb White: Dunker Extraordinaire

"elevator from decatur" Atlanta Hawks NBA ABA

One of the best sport magazines I ever read was Sports Illustrated's The Most Overrated And Underrated (August 27, 2001).  This very entertaining feature  approaches some sports figures and events from a different perspective and dispels some sports myths in the process, rating the most overrated and underrated quarterbacks, sports rivalries, baseball player, sports flake, heavyweight champion, quote, etc…

One interesting category is for the Most Overrated / Underrated Dunker by Alexander Wolff.  This of course refers to dunking a basketball which has become that sport's “homerun."  The Overrated Dunker award was not a surprise.  It was awarded to “the Chocolate Thunder,” Daryl Dawkins, who was not only an overrated dunker, but an overrated player;  an NBA center who the Philadelphia 76ers realized they had to upgrade to win a championship (which they did in the form of Moses Malone).

More interesting was the Underrated Dunker Award which went to the person Wilt Chamberlain considered to be a better dunker than anyone.  Images of  "the best dunker ever” probably don’t conjure up a slight, 6’2” white guy, but that is exactly who Herb White of the Atlanta Hawks was.   Chamberlain recalled,  "You know, there was a white boy who played for Atlanta around 1970. Never got off the bench, but in warmups he could dunk better than anyone I've ever seen.” 

Known as “the Elevator from Decatur” Herb White so impressed Hawks players during a workout prior to White's senior season at Decatur, that coach Richie Guerin invited him to a tryout.  The Hawks made him the 133rd player taken in the draft that year (1970, 8th round) and he made the team as a backup to a more famous rookie, Pete Maravich.  White and Maravich were roommates on the road and were reportedly drinking buddies.  White would put on a dunk show in pre-game warm ups and once received a standing ovation from the New York Knicks crowd at Madison Square Garden.  He and Claude English (another prolific dunker) of the Portland Trailblazers faced off in 1971 and English conceded after White did a 360 dunk with two balls.  White left the NBA after that single season due to an ankle injury and then continued to play professionally in Mexico and Europe.

RetroCards honors Herb White with a 1970-71 card complete with that groovy Hawks jersey with the curvy blue and lime green striping.  Coming soon.

The Sports Illustrated article can be found here.