It’s difficult to digest or quantify what Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues did for the game of basketball. Sure, you can assess the record book -- he’s 18th on the career assist leaderboard, 16th in career assist percentage, 57th in career steals.
Look beneath the record book and you'll find that he had a 44-inch vertical leap, which is analogous to him jumping over himself. He could maintain his handle on the ball when it was millimeters from the hardwood, and keep it at machine-gun tempo while he did it. He took the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors to the playoffs for the first time, and paved the way for a number of athletes who didn’t fit the prototypical point guard mold. He opened a locked door in a profession that relishes height and, now, positionless athletes; Bogues could only play one, but he did it damn well. At 5 foot 3 inches, Bogues is the shortest person to ever play in the National Basketball Association. It’s only fitting that the biographical section of his website doesn’t mention height -- not even once.
He didn't ride the pine, either: Bogues holds the franchise record for minutes played as a Charlotte Hornet, with 19,768 minutes.
His larger-than-life persona was on display in the Warner Bros. motion picture Space Jam, alongside NBA demigods Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley.
His Hall of Fame résumé doesn’t scream its way off the page, but his life story does. Bogues watched his father go to prison. He grew up in a rough section of Baltimore, where being shot at wasn't at all uncommon. There were thousands of reasons why he should’ve failed along the way and yet he didn’t.
Muggsy Bogues became a basketball icon, and he helped me fall in love with the sport. What follows is our Q&A.
When did you stop going by Tyrone?
I stopped going by "Tyrone" when I was seven years old. Not many people call me anything other than Muggsy, because my dear late mother always called me "Tyrone.”
You grew up shooting and playing pick-up games on a not-so-traditional hoop, right?
I would take two milk crates and cut the bottoms out of them, placing them on either sides of the court, because the big boys wouldn't let me play at first. So I created my own court.
You grew up with your brothers and sister in the Baltimore projects. Your father gets charged with armed robbery when you’re 12. Did you just have to grow up overnight and become the quintessential man of the house?
I have two big brothers and an older sister, so I didn't have to carry that responsibility over growing up overnight.
Was your bond tight with your siblings and mother?
Yes, the bond was extremely tight with my siblings and mother. My siblings and I keep in touch almost daily now.
How did you keep in touch with your father?
I would keep in touch with my father via snail mail. He wrote to me from prison. Once I got to the NBA he was released from prison, so I saw him when he returned home.
Tell me about your high school career. What was it like playing on such a successful team so early on?
It was an unbelievable experience to play on such a successful team with my neighborhood friends who had the same goals and aspirations as myself. The goal was to escape the area we grew up in.
How did you stay straight-edge when you had virtually every reason not to? As someone who has grown up seeing some of the things you’ve seen, going through the things you’ve gone through?
The way I was able to stay focused throughout my 14 years in the league was based on my upbringing. Watching the players before me like Skip Wise, hearing the sad stories, and just not wanting to be another statistic.
Did playing alongside three future NBA players in David Wingate, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis put you in a unique situation regarding your preparedness for college and the pros?
Yes, playing along with David, Reggie and Reggie prepared me for college, but I think the most important person who played a role was Coach Wade. He taught us the fundamentals of success.