Many great players have walked the hardcourts of the NBA and made basketball the phenomenal ball sport that it is today. The world had seen the rise of basketball legends such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to name a few. With their incredible skill, explosive power, and towering heights, the basketball superstars set world records and performed miracles under the basket.
Every basketball legend has his story, all of which are incredibly awe-inspiring. But, this one player stands above the rest (no pun intended) when it comes to sheer will and determination. The man may not be as epically skilled as Jordan or as hulky as Shaq, but he had proven himself worthy of going up against the deemed gods of the NBA. And yes, we are talking about Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues.
A TROUBLED CHILDHOOD
Life indeed is a great teacher, and for Bogues, it took a tough one to discover his inner greatness. The NBA star hailed from Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in the Lafayette Court housing projects. Bogues himself noted that he had a very challenging and troubled childhood there.
Bogues recalled his childhood environment as bleak, where people’s life expectancy is below 20 years old. The mentality stems from the place’s notoriety for drug infestation, crimes, and gun violence. The then little boy was not an exception to the cruelty of fate. At the age of five, Bogues was almost a goner, after sustaining a shotgun wound, in an incident he referred to as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The young Bogues also witnessed a man beaten to death by a baseball bat, and the memory lingered as he grew up. He lost his father, too, to prison at the age of 12 for armed robbery charges. Almost at the same time, his brother, Chuckie, have started falling deep into substance abuse.
SPORTS WAS HIS SAVING GRACE
Basketball wasn’t the only sport that Bogues fell in love with growing up. Baseball, football, and wrestling became his saving grace while dealing with the traumatic incidents he had to endure to survive. In an interview, Bogues recollected how he and his friends divert their attention to sports and managed to resist the temptation of ‘easy cash’ and instant gratification.
He recalled, “Luckily, we have the game basketball and sports. Sports, you know, was really a mechanism that gave us a safe haven that we can really be comfortable at.” The man owes his sanity and decency to sports, claiming that it kept him and his friends off the streets, made their minds active in many different aspects of themselves, instead of thinking of quick yet illegal ways to bring food to the table.
Bogues excelled in almost all of the sports he played, but he was more outstanding as a basketball player and a wrestler. Playing basketball gave him a sort of hope, where he can do something good after all, despite his upbringing and tough neighborhood. The would-be shortest player in the NBA had no inkling that he would be building a career from his hobby.
SETTING UP HIS BASKETBALL CAREER
Bogues earned his nickname, “Muggsy,” a diminutive fictional character from the TV show, The Bowery Boys. His size and height became the source of people’s doubt and indifference toward his abilities. Nevertheless, the man continued his passion, for, in his mind, it is something that he wanted to do, and why should he let people stop him?
Nobody believed that he could achieve greatness in basketball, let alone go up against players a foot higher than him – nobody, except him and his mother. Despite the criticisms and name-calling, he received for his height, he persevered in the sport and played for Dunbar High School in Baltimore, leading his team to numerous victories. Later, colleges such as Virginia, Penn State, and Seton Hall offered him a scholarship to play college basketball.
He was already a force in college, playing for Wake Forest University, setting impressive records for steals and assists. He became instrumental in clinching the gold medal for the USA national team in the 1986 FIBA World Championship. His experience and resolution carved his path toward the coveted NBA arena.
A 5’3″ AGAINST THE GIANTS
When Bogue’s professional basketball career took off, it certainly shook the barriers and challenged the myth that only tall people can play in the NBA. People at that time didn’t expect much from a 5’3″ man. After all, he’s about to go toe-to-toe with 6-foot tall players in the league. However, the smallest NBA player proved everyone wrong after turning his so-called size disadvantage into a strength.
The man debuted his NBA career on November 6, 1987, playing for Washington Bullets against Atlanta Hawks. Bogues coincidentally teamed up with Manute Bol, the tallest NBA player at that time, making everything more interesting – the smallest and the tallest players playing for the same team. Despite being a rookie, Bogues led the team for steals and assists.
The man also played for the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and Charlotte Hornets. But, his stint in all the teams he played for was obstructed by his hamstring and knee injuries. Despite it, he still delivered those steals and assists. His most important plays were with the Hornets, though. With the Hornets, the world had seen his true potential as a player regardless of his height.
LIFE OUTSIDE NBA
After leaving the league, Bogue ventured into the real estate business and began his coaching career for the Charlotte Sting in the Women’s National Basketball Association. He also became the United Faith Christian Academy boys’ high school basketball team’s coach in 2011. On March 18, 2014, Charlotte Hornets named him Ambassador, and he participated in the team’s rebranding.
Bogues built his family with his wife Kim and his three children – 2 daughters and a son. His married life also met challenges which led to divorce; but, the couple remarried in 2015. The man continued to patch things up in his life, including helping his brother, Chuckie, recover from substance abuse.
Moreover, the family founded the Muggsy Bogues Family Foundation to assist kids and families like him when he was younger. The foundation provided scholarships and develop outreach programs for at-risk families. It also promoted youth empowerment and stability of resources, especially to those in dire need.