For most of the 1977-78 NBA season, 7'1" Marvin Webster was a
pretty decent center for the pretty decent Seattle SuperSonics.
He blocked shots, rebounded and scored a bit. He was the type of
player who fit in and played hard. "Then," he says, "something
This is an article from the May 5, 1997 issue
That something was stardom. During Seattle's '78 playoff run,
Webster emerged as a defensive monster, frustrating the likes of
Los Angeles Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Denver Nugget Dan Issel
and Washington Bullet Wes Unseld with 58 blocks and 289
rebounds. Though his team fell in the Finals to the Bullets in
seven games, Webster had lived up to his moniker: the Human
Now 45 and living in Metuchen, N.J., where he buys and sells
properties, Webster sees that 1978 drive as the best--and
worst--thing that could have happened to him. "Even though we
lost, it's a great memory, getting that far," he says. "I
remember the locker room after the final game--how the champagne
was on ice, guys with tears in their eyes. I loved being on that
team. I had no idea I'd be gone so shortly."
That's where the worst comes in. Soon after that championship
series Webster, who was a free agent, and Sonics president
Samuel Schulman started haggling about a new deal, but they
could not reach an agreement. Webster ended up signing a
five-year, $3 million contract with the New York Knicks, and in
October 1978 he again made SI's cover, under the headline CAN
MARVIN WEBSTER TURN THE KNICKS AROUND? Answer: He couldn't.
During his six seasons on some laughable New York teams, Webster
suffered not only fan abuse but also hepatitis and low spirits.
"Those were tough times," he says. "In New York, there's a lot
of pressure no matter what. I don't think the public knew what I
was going through."
After a brief stint in the CBA in 1986 and 15 games with the
Milwaukee Bucks in '87, Webster retired, citing damaged knees
and a bruised psyche. He spent three years doing "nothing
really--just living," he says, then taught physical education at
a church and sold big-and-tall men's clothing. While he no
longer plays competitively ("At the Y," he laughs, "guys always
ask me to be on their teams"), Webster lives vicariously through
his son Marvin II, a 6'10" freshman at Temple who redshirted
last season. "They call him Eraser Jr.," he says. "One day he
calls me up, says, 'Dad, everybody here knows who you are.' I
smiled. Not all former athletes admit it, but I will. It's nice
to be remembered."