The Greatest Slam Dunk In Wyoming Hoops History
Before Larry Nance, Jr. was elected Mayor of Dunktown, before Josh Adams was posterizing opponents on the Sportscenter Top 10, a "White Tornado" swept over the old Fieldhouse in Laramie and delivered the greatest slam dunk in Wyoming hoops history.
The year was 1981 and the talented Pokes were led by 6'3" sophomore guard Mike Jackson.
In those days, only 32 teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament, including an automatic bid for the WAC Champion. Headed into the final week of the season, Wyoming was chasing conference frontrunners Brigham Young and Utah, who were led by future NBA All-Stars Danny Ainge and Tom Chambers.
Before the Arena Auditorium opened the following year, Wyoming played in the old Fieldhouse, which was nothing like the remodeled War Memorial Fieldhouse that hosts the UW wrestling and track teams today.
It was a dirt floor with a rickety old wooden court covered in dead spots, a few rows of bleachers and 5,000 rowdy fans who BYU coach Frank Arnold would later describe as "despicable".
On Thursday, February 26th, the Cougars and the Cowboys locked horns in an epic back-and-forth battle. Down by four points with a minute left, Wyoming cut BYU's lead to 2.
Then, the "White Tornado" struck. The Pokes were on a fast break when Mike Jackson got the ball on the wing.
Like Julius Erving and Michael Jordan, Jackson took off with one foot just over the free throw line. As the former Colorado State High School High Jump Champion soared, Danny Ainge attempted to undercut him in mid-air.
Instead, Jackson planted his left foot directly into Ainge's back and catapulted himself above the rim for a one-handed slam that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Ainge had the chance to end the game in regulation, but missed a wide-open shot at the buzzer. Wyoming went on to win 86-84 in double overtime; fans rushed the court and showered the bested BYU players with cups and newspapers.
Two days later, the Pokes outlasted Tom Chambers and Utah 53-50 to claim a share of the WAC title and a birth in the big dance. After winning their first round NCAA Tournament game, Wyoming lost a 67-65 heartbreaker to Illinois.
Jackson's dreams of an NBA career were shatttered in 1983, when he suffered a career-ending knee injury with just five games left in his senior season. Despite being drafted in the 4th round by the Kansas City Kings, Jackson chose to go pro in another sport.
"The White Tornado", as he was nicknamed by legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, is now the head professional at the Kendrick Golf Course in Sheridan. Prior to that, he coached boys basketball at Cheyenne Central High School and was a golf pro at the Cheyenne Country Club.
For the 5,000 Pokes fans in attendance on that February night nearly 36 years ago, Jackson will always be remembered as the man who turned Danny Ainge into a human trampoline and tore the roof off the old Fieldhouse with a towering slam dunk for the ages.