Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues achieved a career in the NBA that spanned 14 seasons, during a time when the average career length for an NBA player was between 4 to 6 years. While in high school, Muggsy played with the Dunbar Poets. His team finished 29-0 and 31-0 during his junior and senior years, respectively. His team was ranked first in the nation by USA Today and he was voted MVP for his team. It was during that time that he earned his nickname from teammate Dwayne Woods, who said that his physical style of play reminded him of a mugging!
Muggsy went on to play college basketball at Wake Forest University, where he averaged 11.3 points, 8.4 assists and 3.1 steals per game in his junior year. During his senior year, he averaged 14.8 points, 9.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. He was also selected to play for the US National Team in the 1986 FIBA World Championship which won the gold medal.
Those achievements made him a first round draft pick (12th overall), when the Washington Bullets selected him in the 1987 NBA draft. So, he’s obviously a great basketball player, but what makes Muggsy so special? He is the shortest player to ever play in the NBA! Just how short is he? Muggsy measured in at 5’3″!
In his rookie year, Bogues was a teammate of Manute Bol, who stood 7′ 7″. They were the tallest and shortest players in NBA history at the time. Bol and Bogues appeared on three magazine covers together.
Despite his height, Bogues managed to block 39 shots throughout his NBA span including one on 7’0″, Patrick Ewing.
Bogues reportedly had a 44-inch measured vertical leap, but his hands were too small to hold onto a ball to dunk one-handed.
At his size, I can only imagine how many doubters and skeptics he had to deal with: “you’re too short for the NBA,” “you can’t compete at that level,” “try another sport.” This leads me to this week’s life lesson through sports and one of my favorite books!
In The Te of Piglet, Benjamin Hoff uses Winnie-the-Pooh characters to explain the concept of Te, the Chinese word meaning “power” or “virtue.” Further, Piglet is used to introduce the Taoist concept of “Virtue – of the small.” Even Pooh acknowledges, “It is hard to be brave, when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”
“In many ways, Piglet may appear to be the least significant of the Pooh characters. Yet he is the only one of them to change, to grow, to become more than what he was in the first place. And in the end, he does this not by denying his smallness, but by applying it, for the good of others. He accomplishes what he does without accumulating a Large Ego; inside, he remains a Very Small Animal – but a different kind of Very Small Animal from what he was before.”
Hoff describes the Taoist principle “Turn the Negative into Positive.” This is a principle well known in Taoist martial arts, where an attacker’s power is turned against him.
Similarly, he stresses the importance of self acceptance and giving up societies norms of what we should be. One of my favorite lines in the book is “When we give up our images of self importance and our ideas of what should be, we can help things become what they need to be.”
Whether or not, Muggsy was aware of these principles, he clearly mastered them. He did not let his size (or negatives) interfere with his true potential nor did he allow others to tell him what he was capable or incapable of. In my eyes, he is a true hero…someone who pursued his passion, and turned his negative into a positive. Despite what many would have considered a weakness or limitation, he managed to turn those in to strengths…through acceptance of what he had to work with.
You can visit Muggsy’s website here:
Muggsy and Manute highlights: