Muggsy Bogues Biography
Used Milk Crate as Basket, Used Contract Money to Hire Lawyer, Appeared Three Times in Playoffs
Professional basketball player, coach
By far the shortest player in the history of the National Basketball League, Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues became a fan favorite over his 16-season career from 1987 to 2001. Bogues's life and his exploits on the court were showcases for the possibilities of pure determination, for he overcame the damaging effects of poverty and sought his dream despite the prejudice against his height at the high school, college, and professional levels of basketball. Yet he mastered the position of point guard and was a constant threat with ball-control statistics that ranked among the best in the NBA. Bogues stood at five feet, three inches tall, but he acted as though he could dominate a basketball court full of seven-footers. "I always believed in myself," he told Hank Hersch of Sports Illustrated. "That's the type of attitude I always took out on the floor—knowing that I belonged, that with my talents, my abilities, there's a place for me out there."
Born Tyrone Curtis Bogues in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 9, 1965, he grew up in the city's rough east-side housing projects among drugs and gunfire. His father Richard, a dockworker, was under five-feet six-inches, and his mother Elaine was four-feet eleven-inches. The youngest of four children, Bogues saw his father go to prison on an armed robbery charge when he was 12. "I grew up as hard as you can get it," he told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Newman. "I wasn't proud of what my pops did, but I guess at the time he felt that was his only means of survival." The elder Bogues remained involved in his son's life, writing him encouraging letters about his sports efforts.
Used Milk Crate as Basket
Bogues grew up playing basketball on neighborhood playgrounds and surviving through sheer hustle even though he was often the smallest player on the court. Among his childhood playmates were future NBA players Reggie Williams and David Wingate. He and his friends practiced slam dunks with an open-bottomed milk crate hung on a fence. A coach named Leon Howard steered Bogues toward organized sports, and Bogues got another break when he was able to transfer from Baltimore's Southern High School to Dunbar High, a school with a top-flight basketball program. Dunbar star Dwayne Woods dubbed Bogues "Muggsy," telling him that his physical style of play reminded him of a mugging.
Though he was a star wrestler at Dunbar, Bogues was determined to play basketball, and he excelled. During his junior and senior years, Dunbar won 59 consecutive games and was ranked as one of the top high school teams in the United States. Bogues was voted the most valuable player on his team and then in the city's public school league, even though he was sharing the court with three other future NBA players (Williams and Wingate plus future Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis). Courted by several top colleges he enrolled at Wake Forest University in 1983, where he nearly foundered under the pressures of college life. Classes were difficult, and the school's affluent student body tended to look down on athletic scholarship recipients.
But Bogues stuck with his program, and by his junior year he had a basketball coach with a good idea of how to exploit his speedy style. He came into his own as a point guard, ranking in the top ten nationally in assists and averaging nearly 12 points per game. Bogues played on the U.S. national team that won the world championship in Spain in 1987, and his senior year at Wake Forest was equally distinguished. The school retired his jersey number after he graduated with an Atlantic Coast Conference record of 579 assists.
Used Contract Money to Hire Lawyer
Selected 12th in the first round of the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets, Bogues signed a contract worth more than $1 million over four years. In addition to a Mercedes automobile for himself, he spent money on a new house for his mother and on a lawyer who eventually succeeded in winning his father's release from prison. Bogues gained plenty of attention from sportswriters with his unique ball-handling skills—he could maintain a legal dribble so close to the ground that his knuckles dragged on the floor—and with his high-jumper-range 44-inch leaps on the court. But the Bullets were among the teams that did not know how to exploit Bogues's talents, and his playing time declined as the season went on. Though he played in 79 games he amassed only 393 points, for a total of under five points per game.
As a result, the Bullets didn't shield him from the expansion draft that occurred when the NBA added teams for the 1988–89 season. "I think they got caught up in all the criticism of making me their first-round pick; they started second-guessing themselves," Bogues observed to Bruce Newman. "I think [drafting me] was a p.r. thing with them, and when the media said, 'He's so small, why did you draft him?', they just washed their hand of the whole thing." Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, Bogues at first experienced more of the same. The new team was willing to exploit his novelty but not to put resources into developing him as a player, and he logged little playing time under coach Dick Harter, who called him a midget and publicly disparaged his chances of making it in the NBA.
Harter, however, was fired during Bogues's second season, and the next two Hornets coaches, Gene Littles and especially Allan Bristow, thought about how to build an offense around the obviously talented Bogues. Fast breaks, where ball-handling was at a premium and height mattered little, were key. But they wouldn't have helped if Bogues himself hadn't been able to step into his new role as starting point guard, making plays, identifying the relative strengths of his teammates in various court situations, and generally controlling the flow of the Hornets' game. By the mid-1990s, Bogues was routinely leading the Hornets and placing near the top of the NBA standings in assists. Bogues and his wife Kim married in 1991; they put down roots in Charlotte and raised two daughters and a son.
Appeared Three Times in Playoffs
Bogues raised his points-per-game average to ten in the 1992–93 season and helped lead the Hornets to their first-ever appearance in the NBA playoffs. They made the playoffs again in 1995. Bogues was sidelined by knee injuries for much of the 1995–96 season, but he bounced back the following year, leading the NBA with an assist-per-turnover ration of 4.34. That little-known statistic was actually a good measure of ball-handling skills. Despite his popularity with Charlotte fans, especially young ones, he was traded to the Golden State Warriors early in the 1997–98 season.
Injuries hampered the remainder of Bogues's playing career, although he had one more good season with the Toronto Raptors in 1999–2000, helping bring that team to the playoffs for the first time. He was traded after that to the New York Knickerbockers and then to the Dallas Mavericks, but never again took the court. Returning to Charlotte, he embarked on a real-estate career, but his crowd-pleasing qualities led him back into basketball: in August of 2005 he was hired to coach the Charlotte Sting of the Women's National Basketball Association although he only previous experience leading women's teams had come when he coached his daughters' squads at basketball camp. The Sting at the time had the worst record in the WNBA, but it didn't seem likely that Bogues would be discouraged. As he had once told the children's magazine Highlights, "You can't dwell on what people think you can't do."
Bogues, Tyone "Muggsy," and David Levine, In the Land of the Giants: My Life in Basketball, Little, Brown, 1994.
Sports Stars, series 1, U∗X∗L, 1994.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 11, 2001.
Highlights, June 1998, p. 6.
Jet, August 22, 2005, p. 54.
Sporting News, November 8, 1993, p. S4.
Sports Illustrated, July 20, 1987, p. 20; August 12, 1993, p. 52.