Muggsy Bogues: Not Too Small to Ball

At 5-foot-3 Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues is the shortest basketball player in NBA history.\nMuggsy made a name for himself in the NBA and proved that even if he was the shortest one on the court he could compete at the elite level and be the leader on the floor.

Selected 12th overall in the 1987 NBA draft by the Washington Bullets, Muggsy was acquired by the Charlotte Hornets the following year in the expansion draft.\nAlongside players like Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, he helped lead the franchise to their first playoff appearance in 1993.

From a young age Muggsy encountered doubters who constantly told him he was too short to play basketball. Muggsy heard them, but he refused to listen.

Muggsy was part of an undefeated championship team at Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland with former NBA stars Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Reggie Lewis, and went on to play college basketball at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The point guard explains that it’s important for young athletes to be fearless and have thick skin.

"When you're fearful and you care about what other people think, it limits you and it stops you from reaching your potential," he says. "Mainly I just understood that I had a gift of playing the game of basketball. I really didn’t care about what people thought, I think that really carried over and allowed me to become who I am. When you have that belief—I don’t care about what anybody is thinking, and just focus on what you’re trying to do, that carries you a long way."

Although his self-confidence helped him to overcome many obstacles, Muggsy also credits his strong support system, which consisted of his family and his coaches for his success. He had a close network of people who believed in him and continued to support him in his basketball aspirations. One of his biggest supporters was his mom, Elaine Bogues.

As a youngster Muggsy would often return home after playing basketball with the neighborhood kids and tell his mom that they had made fun of him. Elaine always believed in her son and encouraged him to follow his dreams. "She always said they don’t know how big your heart is—just keep going out there and do what you do."

Muggsy worked hard at the game he loved and refused to listen to people who said he was too short to play basketball. He put in the time and effort necessary to strengthen the components of his game that would make him more of a threat; such as his ball handling skills, lightning quick passing, and his tenacious defense.

Muggsy’s opponents were always weary of him on defense because he usually pressured the ball-handler the length of the court the entire game.

Big men rebounding in the post knew not to bring the ball down low because Muggsy was always there ready to make a steal. Muggsy ranks as the Hornets all-time franchise leader in assists and steals.

"My style of play is just not known, and a lot of folks just aren’t comfortable with that," he says of his defensive strategy. "I just realized the way I had to play, that’s just the way I had to do it in order to be successful. I had to get up and not let my opponent have any cushion. Not let him feel like he could just go out there and run his offense and run his team. I had to try and distract him as much as I could."

During his NBA career Muggsy consistently had one of the best assists to turnover ratios in the league, an important stat for a point guard who handles the ball the majority of the game. He had amazing court awareness and was always able to set his teammates up in the best position to score. When Muggsy retired from the NBA he ranked 16th among the all-time assist leaders.

His story and career are incredibly inspiring but Muggsy continues to be an active part of the community and give back in hopes of providing kids with the same opportunities he was blessed with. He runs an annual summer basketball camp in North Carolina and is the head coach of the basketball team at United Faith Christian Academy.

"I love kids, I always want kids to believe that they can reach whatever potential they have or whatever goal they set for themselves," he says. "I try to teach them a little confidence, and give back to these high school kids what my coach gave me—how to be a student athlete, how to conduct yourself as a young man going through this part of life."

Small in size but huge in heart, Muggsy left a permanent impression on a league dominated by six- and seven-footers. He continues to be an inspiration to youngsters everywhere that with hard work, perseverance and determination, no one is ever too small to accomplish their dreams.

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