Tyrone “Muggsy Bogues” journey to the NBA seemed like an impossible feat, a feat more mentally tough than physical, always being told he was wasting his time as he was too small to play the game he loved. Muggsy had all the skills and abilities to compete with the best in basketball, but standing at 5 feet 3 inches no one believed in him, but there was one person that did, there was one person that had confidence in Bogues and that was Bogues himself. It’s simple you don’t get anywhere in life without believing in yourself first, then the rest will follow.
I remember coming home and telling mom how cruel the kids were. She would say, don’t worry about that, no one is an expert on your life. No one knows what your potential is. You have to believe in yourself.”
Mugsy Bogues was born on January 9th, 1965, in Baltimore, Maryland. He lived in Lafayette Court housing projects, in an area that was known for crime and gun violence. His mother raised him and his father was in and out of jail, while Mugsey was always around criminal behavior, that was the lifestyle Muggsy knew. When Bogues was just five years old he was shot in the arm, he thanks basketball to this day for saving his life and occupying himself with the game as he didn’t fall into that lifestyle.
Even if you weren’t doing anything wrong, trouble could still find you if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has vivid memories of being shot when he was 5 years old. A shop owner, irate that someone had broken his store window, grabbed a double-barrel shotgun and fired at Bogues and other kids playing in the street.
Tyrone Bogue’s nickname “Muggsy”, derived from the hard grit toughness he displayed on the outdoor courts during pickup games in Baltimore. Muggsy meant mugging people on the basketball court as you could imagine with his quickness and speed he was able to steal the ball with efficiency.
The Dunbar Boys
Muggsy Bogues’s career took off in Highschool in his junior year where his coach helped shape his game and exploit his speed and quickness as the smallest player on the court. He led a team that was considered one of the best high school teams to ever establish and dominate the basketball scene. Even destroying the number 1 ranked team in the nation at the time by over 20 points.
The Dunbar boys consisted of Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis who were first-round picks in the 1987 NBA draft. David Wingate, was a second-round pick the previous year. These players all played on the same team, and too many are the best team ever to play high school basketball. No team has ever had 4 players on a high school team that made the NBA.
Muggsy Bogues was considered the best player on the team playing the point guard position while ranking top ten nationally in assists and averaging 12 points a game, leading the Dunbar team to 29-0 and 31-0 for back to back undefeated seasons through 1981-1983 seasons. It was evident that the shortest player in NBA history knew how to play the game and in a big way.
(More on that story check out ESPN 30 for 30 Baltimore Boys, a look back at this incredible story.)
Despite the success of Bogues and the Dunbar team, Muggsy received only two scholarship offers from division one schools, which were Georgetown and Wake Forest deciding to go to Wake Forest immediately upon receiving the letter. Wake Forest knew what they were getting in Muggsy as a player:
The fastest player on the court, a floor general who is a natural leader, a hard nose in your face defender, a player who makes everyone around them better and more importantly he was an extension of the coach on the floor able to control the tempo and dictate the offense. Most people don’t know but Muggsy reported in an interview that he could dunk the basketball easily. He was also recorded having a 44 inch vertical. When asked why he didn’t dunk in games he said it was just too difficult to do so.
Up until this point in his basketball career, Bogues was about to face his toughest challenge yet, while his critics seem to double in size. He Struggled within his first season at Wake Forest barely getting any playing time while adjusting to the bigger and quicker game. Although this would be quite normal for a rookie to only play 10 to 15 mins a game but for a 5’3 who was borderline considered a little person. It wasn’t until his second year where Tyrone Bogues began to tap into his alter ego “Muggsy” like he use to playing on those outdoor basketball courts that he was familiar with in Baltimore.
From the second year on in 1984/85 season, Bogues production and numbers increased and was starting to look like a true point guard in the ACC, averaging almost 7 pts, 7 assists with 3 steals a game shooting 50% from the field. Wake Forest struggled to stay 500 during that season even with 2 future NBA stars on the team with Kenny Green and Delaney Rudd.
During his 3rd year in the 1985/86 season Bogues continued with his starting point guard role, averaging 11.3 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 8.4 Ast, 3 Stl a game, shooting 45 % from the field. Remarkable numbers for a player that is only 5’3, able to distribute the ball and make everyone around him better. With both Green and Rudd in the NBA, the team struggled again, even more, winning only 8 games all year.
Before his senior year, the possibility of playing in the NBA was going through his mind. The close relationship he had with his mother, was all the confidence a young man needed, she encouraged him to keep pushing forward and forget what everyone else thinks. If Muggsy could make it out of Baltimore off the streets playing for Waker Forest at a D1 School, he could do anything.
This was Bogues time to shine, in his senior year during the 1986/87 season Mugsy put up his best numbers yet averaging almost 15 points and 4 rebounds a game yes 4 rebounds, with 9.5 Ast and 2.4 Stl a game. Although another yet again disappointing season and not even making the National tournament. No social media back then no internet, you might be wondering how Muggsy even got noticed?
The thing about Muggsy on the court is that everyone notices him even though he is small relative to the other players, this actually worked out to his advantage getting recognition in that regard to how small he was and having the stats to back it up.
His statistics for a point guard in that era in the mid-80s was nothing short of incredible, the game itself is played much differently in college orchestrated around play calling and offensive sets.
Career Highlights and Awards
At the end of his Senior year in 1987, Bogues earned a First-Team All- ACC, at the time holding the assists record of 579 for his career with Wake Forest. He also received the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award which was the most outstanding player under six feet tall.
Muggsy was a dedicated and disciplined player on Wake Forest and wasn’t the type to make excuses, this eventually helped bogues to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team that won the FIBA World Championship in Spain in 1986, leading up to his senior year at Wake.
Tyrone Bogues played four seasons for Wake Forest and averaged a career 8.3 Pts, 6.6 Ast, 2.3 Stl, and if you are wondering about rebounds it was 2.4 while shooting 47 percent from the field. Those numbers are impressive for the 5’3 point guard from Baltimore. Wake Forest retire Muggsy Bogues number 14 into the rafters with the likes of Tim Duncan and Chris Paul.
In 1987 Muggsy bogues declared for the draft, many believed he wouldn’t be drafted but Bogues heard it all before and with the 12th pick of the 1987 NBA draft the Washington Bullets select Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues.
Also drafted in that class was David Robinson, Kenny Smith, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Reggie Miller, and Mark Jackson. All had exceptional careers in the NBA and were drafted within the first 18 picks.
Muggsy Bogues was and continues to be the smallest player to ever play in the NBA…….
Mugsy Bogues on hearing his name by the late great David Stern…….
“It felt like the whole world was lifted off your shoulders,” Bogues says. “You felt like, ‘I have arrived.’ “