Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Muggsy Bogues

I've been thinking a lot about Muggsy Bogues lately. He was an NBA player in the late 1980's and 1990's, who was noticeable even among fantastic players such as those who played on 1992's "Dream Team": Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton, Christian Laettner and Clyde Drexler. (Dang those guys were good!)

Bogues played for 14 years in the NBA, mostly for the Charlotte Hornets, although he had shorter stints for other teams, too.

It was fun to watch Muggsy as he dribbled the ball so low it was impossible to steal. His ball-handling and passing skills were phenomenal. And he was *fast* - one of the fastest players up and down the court.

Muggsy ranks 16th among all NBA players ever in career assists (6,726 of them), and 32d in single season assists (867 in the 1989-1990 season), according to databaseBasketball.com, making that list among such giants of basketball history as Magic Johnson, John Stockton, and (one of my current favorites, a Phoenix Suns player) Steve Nash.

He didn't block many shots -- only 39 in his entire career, according to Wikipedia (compare that to Mark Eaton's 456 blocks in a single season in 1984-85!). But hey, that's not surprising, considering that he also holds the record as the shortest NBA player ever.

At 5'3" and approximately 136 pounds, he was the smallest fellow ever to dominate the NBA.

Here's a video showing the 10 shortest NBA players ever.

Since retiring, Muggsy has worked in real estate and briefly coached the Charlotte Sting in the WNBA. He also runs basketball camps for kids.

Why the obsession with this retired NBA player?

I find him inspiring.

It's an understatement to say he was good at basketball. It's also amazing that he was able to succeed in this sport of giants. Most kids his height in high school and college would not even have thought about trying out for the basketball team, and many others would have given up when faced with a gym full of kids who were a foot or more taller. And of those his height who did try, most simply didn't make it in high school or college, much less the pros.

But he apparently had much talent and loved the game, and was willing to put in the hard work necessary to become one of the best at it, despite the huge and obvious odds against him. I love that!

So far, my daughter displays a similar perseverence and lack of fear. I wrote last school year about her junior high school's basketball teams. There are three teams: the 6th grade team, and the 7th and 8th grade "A" and "B" teams. Last year she played on the 6th grade team. They played against many schools with teams of sixth through eighth graders -- which meant they spent most of the season playing eighth graders. I was impressed by her team's perseverence in the face of many losses to teams at least a foot taller. They just kept trying, and improving their skills, and playing their best.

This past summer, while visiting her grandparents in the Washington, DC, area, my daughter attended a basketball camp run by Gheorghe Muresan [footnote 1], who played for the Washington Bullets/Wizards in the mid-1990s.

I think the basketball camp may have helped, but I also have to credit my daughter's own perseverence and skill: this year she made the 7th and 8th grade "A Team" for basketball at her school! She is one of the few 7th graders on the team, and once again she is the shortest kid on the team - most of the girls are a foot or so taller than her. So far in practice, she doesn't take many shots, but she is a point guard and is great at spying the open player to pass to, so she scores many assists.... just like my hero Muggsy.

I don't know whether her interest in basketball will hold up through the years, and I have no illusions that she'll be the next great WNBA star or even a high school star. It could happen, but more likely it won't, given her tremendous height disadvantage.

But for now, I'm excited to watch her play with such enthusiasm and skill. I love her "no worries" attitude and self-confidence, and the fact that she has such fun playing, as the short kid in the land of giants.

She'll play in her first game of the season on Friday night. I can't wait!

* * * * *
Footnotes (because I'm a lawyer and I love them):

Footnote 1 (Providing You With Interesting But Irrelevant Trivia): Gheorghe Muresan is one of tallest players ever to play in the NBA, at 7'7". According to Wikipedia, Muresan is tied with Manute Bol for the "tallest NBA player ever" honor.

Manute Bol played with Muggsy Bogues for the Washington Bullets in 1987, making for some interesting photo ops with the tallest and shortest players (ever!) in the NBA, respectively.

Sadly, Manute Bol died this past summer at the young age of 47.


B.E. Earl said...

I was a big fan of Muggsy when he played. And Spud Webb when he played. And Nate Robinson right now.

Basketball isn't a game for underdogs, yet there they are. Few and far between, but every once in a while they come around.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the tall guys like Bol, Muresan and Mark Eaton. Instead of talent in little bodies, they had big bodies with little talent. Or talent that needed to be awoken.

In the case of Mark Eaton, he a big guy at 7'4" who was working as an auto mechanic when he was discovered. He went to college in his early 20's and struggled. But by the time he made it to the NBA with the Utah Jazz, he was a formidable defender and capable scorer. He still holds the record for most blocks per game for a season and a career. Amazing.

Hurray for the little guys! And for the guys with just a little talent who made it anyway!

Tom said...

You had me at Muggsy Bogues. I love the NBA and am impressed when I come across knowledgable female fans of the sport like yourself. Bogues was a talented player, but what really stands out for me is 16 years in the NBA. That's impressive for a player of any height, let alone the shortest. Good luck to your daughter with the sport.

B.E.Earl- Great points about Eaton and big men.

LOLA said...

I remember Muggsy and Spud. I used to talk about them to try to inspire kids who thought they couldn't do something. You just never know what might happen if you work your butt off. Good for your daughter! I'm so glad she's playing.

Mr. Condescending said...

EXCELLENT post! I loved watching him and even though I've never been short (although I would be for NBA standards) I ve always found him and spud webb inspiring. Did you see when spud webb won the slam dunk championship?