By Brian Taylor
While getting ready for work this morning (at Spacely Sprockets of Maryland, where I’m Executive Vice President of Time Wasting and Fun Management), I got a glimpse of the Rockets-Knicks highlights from last night. One play that really stood out for me was “Lil Man Nate” Robinson smacking the air out of Yao Mings’ baseline putback. Everyone loves an underdog, and even more, they love to see big guys either get dunked on or swatted by smaller players. It looks like more of a challenge, and always gets the crowd out of their seats. Watching that clip got me hype today (no Starbucks needed homies) and it reminded me of the original “official little guy of the NBA”, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues.
Reppin’ the city of Baltimore (or “Charm City, Murdaland”, if you’re local) in the mid ’80’s, Muggsy played high school ball at Dunbar with the likes of Reggie Lewis, David Wingate and Reggie Williams. It was after high school at Wake Forest that Muggsy got noticed. Scouts were baffled at how a 5’3” guard could average double figures in points and still snag 4 boards per game. It was rumored that once against Dean Smith’s Tar Heels, he actually dribbled through a centers’ legs to get to the hoop. In the 1987 draft, Muggs got scooped up my hometown Bullets.
I’ll admit, 1987 was when I first really started watching/playing ball, and I even scratched my head at the thought of a guy that small walking amongst trees, but Muggsy held it down nicely in his rookie year with the Bullets. (Now mind you, this was a draft where a boatload of talent came out, Reggie Miller, Pippen, Kevin Johnson, etc). When he teamed up with 7’6” Manute Bol, I think most fans waited for a TV sitcom to break out, rather than anything positive basketball-wise. The next year, Charlotte and Miami were awarded teams by King Stern, the Bullets left Muggsy unprotected (typical) and the rest, as they say was history.
Once in Charlotte, Muggsy had a new team, new fan base (one that was closer to his college roots at Wake), and a new playing style, with an up-and-down, helter-skelter defensive style that kept other teams looking over their shoulder. It also helped that he had two frontcourt studs in Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. Pretty soon, the Hornets went from “Nice jerseys/Crappy Team” to “playoff upset specialists” when they shocked the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 92 playoffs.
Bogues was easily one of the NBA’s most popular players, and was always selected as an ambassador for the game, (remember his appearance in “Space Jam”?). Despite never having averaged more than 11ppg, Muggsy became the Hornets’ most revered player, due to his loyalty and the fact that he helped the franchise grow. He was a fierce on the ball/perimeter defender (take note Washington Wizards!), who used stealth to get steals. You couldn’t keep track of him because he was too fast, and too short to see on the court. If you were a sloppy ball handler, your pocket was getting picked. End of story.
After 10 years with the Hornets, Bogues was traded to the Warriors for Kentucky’s Tony Delk. In Oakland, Muggsy fought through injuries, the most grueling of which was his total lack of cartilage in one of his knees. He ended up in Toronto for a short time before calling it a career for good in 2001.
Currently, Muggsy his holding it down as the head coach of the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, keeping the Queen City Connection going strong. But if you want to see where Nate Rob got his swagger from, check out my man Muggs on the You Tube!