Foot for foot, inch for inch, Charlotte Hornets legend Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues is one of the best basketball players ever. The undersized underdog star would use every inch of his 5’3 frame and 44-inch vertical to block 7’0 Patrick Ewing, or his speed advantage to snatch the ball from NBA Hall of Famers before they could even plant their pivot foot. Bogues was the little pest your favorite players would discover was a big problem too late.
Unfortunately, Bogues was never selected to a single NBA All-Star team in his 14-year career. Still, he does enjoy how today’s players get an added level of fan engagement in the voting process:
“It’s great today because the fans are more involved. Partnering with Google makes it so much easier and accessible for them to find out about the team, as well as the players, and they can kind of put that player in a position where they can start,” Bogues told The Shadow League.
With the NBA All-Star weekend returning to Charlotte, North Carolina for the first time in 28 years from February 15-19, The Shadow League spoke with one of the definitive pillars in Charlotte’s basketball culture.
The Baltimore native spoke about how the current All-Star voting system would have benefited him in his career, who he thinks LeBron James should cast from the NBA in the Space Jam sequel and clears up the myth about Michael Jordan’s infamous on-court diss.
The Shadow League: The NBA All-Star Weekend is returning to Charlotte for the first time in 28 years. What do you remember about that 1991 NBA All-Star Weekend?
Check Out the best plays and moments from the career of one of the most dynamic players in NBA and Charlotte Hornets’ history, Muggsy Bogues! About the NBA: The NBA is the premier professional basketball league in the United States and Canada.
Muggsy Bogues: Well, back in ’91, we were a young city. We were just getting to really understand what NBA basketball was all about. We came in in ’88. Having the All-Star game come so soon –within three years– was a treat for the city. It was spread out. This upcoming 2019 All-Star Weekend is going to be unbelievable because everything will be in close proximity and centrally located. Everything is located downtown. It’s so accessible to get to everything. The people are so hospitable. We got a star in the making in Kemba Walker that could possibly take part in that. So we’re really excited about it.
TSL: When did you know you were a fixture in Charlotte.
Bogues: It happened so quickly because I went to school in North Carolina. I went to Wake Forest, which was only an hour and a half away from Charlotte. When I got drafted by the [Washington] Bullets, going back to a neighborhood where I grew up in the D.C. area, practically in Baltimore’s backyard, I thought that was going to be it. Then got a call saying that it’s a possibility that you may be going to Charlotte, North Carolina and joining an expansion team. My mind was kind of you roaming around there for a little bit, I wasn’t too secure with it.
But, once I got the opportunity to visit Charlotte, got introduced to the people of Charlotte in terms of the professional ranks and found out their thought process and how they felt about me, it felt like it was a match made in heaven. Myself and Dell Curry were young. Rex Chapman was young. We were mixed in with a lot of the older veterans and Kirk Rambis and Kelly Tripucka. We felt like this was the best opportunity for us to showcase what we were capable of doing, and it lasted for me for nine years.
TSL: Let’s go back. It’s the 1996-97 season. You were injured most of the previous season, and you’re coming back from the 1996 lockout. Space Jam came out the November of that season. If the rules were like they are now, then, would you have made the 1997 All-Star Game?
Bogues: I definitely would have been in. Social media is unbelievable these days. Folks know about a lot of players today. I got snubbed back in the ’93-’94 season, but that’s neither here nor there. But, again, where the game is, and how social media plays a big part in it, the game’s accessibility is instant now. It’s not delayed and then you hear about it. I’m quite sure I would have had more favorable voting on my behalf. Everybody loves the underdog.
TSL: One of the biggest differences between this generation of NBA stars and your generation, which the All-Star Game really exemplifies, is this idea of superstars teaming up. During your time, did you ever hear rumblings between players about guys thinking of super teams?
Bogues: No. Guys had a different thought process back then, They didn’t want to join, they wanted to beat whoever thought they were the man on their team. You know we had a lot of superstars back then on each team. [Chicago] Bulls with Michael [Jordan], Atlanta [Hawks] with Dominique. [Boston] Celtics with [Larry] Bird. You just keep going down the list. [Los Angeles] Lakers with Magic [Johnson] and Detroit [Pistons] with Isaiah [Thomas]. They wanted to beat those guys. They didn’t want to join that fraternity with them. That’s how it was.
Today, guys feel that they need to link up and join one another in order for them to have the success that they are looking for. But, we always had a big three on teams way back then. We were just a little reluctant in terms of how to move from team to team because of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. A lot of things have changed. So, it allows the players to become a little more in control of their destiny.
TSL: Speaking of social media, you were part of two back to back lockouts between the 1995-1996 and the 1996-1997 seasons. How would that have played out on social media? A lot of those players were frustrated.
Bogues: It probably would have played out ugly, because the average fans wouldn’t have known what it all entails. They basically just saw millionaires on strike. It’s not a win-win situation for that. Fans think, ‘We go to work every day, and you’re going to hold out when you’re making all this money.’ But, they don’t know the behind the scenes stuff of what made us lock out in the first place. I think social media would’ve played a 50/50 role.
TSL: As a player who played when someone making $40 million playing basketball wasn’t imaginable. Do you think the amount of money the players get now affects how motivated and dedicated to their craft they are when they’re making money you can retire on in two years?
Bogues: Well, that’s the growth of the league. Look at the guys that played in the ’70s, and the ’60s before us. They were making $55,000. Then the TV package allowed the league to grow and then the revenues started to become a little more lucrative. As you keep going forward then it became more of a partnership. With the CBA, the players saw that it was a means to try to get this thing on the balance. Of course, we had the lockouts, but we were able to get through those and come to a common ground to where we all felt like this is a partnership. It’s not that we’re employed by you, it’s a partnership.
We’re all in together. Let’s see how we can come to the table and make it fair for each and every party involved. That’s what they did. We’re running through the roof now, because of what [Executive Director of the NBA Players Association] Michelle Roberts, as well as Chris [Paul] and them have done. They’ve been working with [NBA Commissioner] Adam [Silver] and the league and has really come a long way, in terms of a partnership, and I think they understand it. That’s one reason why the salaries are where they are.
TSL: So, you don’t think that large of a salary has any effect on a player’s passion?
Bogues: For one, when these guys played the game it started as a hobby. These guys got a passion. Now, you got the opportunity to play for a lifestyle to change the narrative of your family. It’s no different from anybody going to work. Everybody go to work each and every day in a different frame of mind. Some days you just don’t want to go that day. It’s no different from the players.
TSL: So, let’s put you in the director’s chair. LeBron is doing a sequel to Space Jam. You were in the original Space Jam, so tell me: who from today’s roster of players would you cast in the roles yourself, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Johnson?
Space Jam – Basketball Jones clip
Bogues: I have no clue. Well, if you have LeBron as Michael. You’d probably have [Kristaps] Porzingis as Shawn Bradley. Probably [Andre] Drummond as Patrick, Draymond [Green] as L.J., and either Isaiah Thomas or Nate Robinson as myself.
TSL: Ok, now I need you to do answer some myths. Rumor has it, you dunked in a December 1991 pregame. Is that true?
Bogues: I’ve dunked before.
TSL: Ok, so what’s your most memorable dunk? Pain me the picture of a memorable Muggsy Bogues dunk.
Bogues: I don’t have a memorable dunk. In practice I’ll get a tip ball come off I’ll throw it in. I’m in practice, just messing around. I never dunk in a game. I never even tried to attempt a dunk in a game because two is two for me. I’m not the one about trying to be embarrassed or whatever, but I never really you know focused on that. A dunk? If I was able to get it. Hey, cool. But, if not, I had a 44 inch vertical, so God gave me enough blessings.
TSL: I have to ask. In a game, did Michael Jordan curse you out and say, ‘Shoot the ball you —
Bogues: Little midget? Michael was always talking about this and that. He may make a comment or something about ‘shoot the ball.’ He might have said ‘midget’ or whatever. But, it never affected me, it’s part of the game. I’ve had a lot of worse things said to me than ‘shoot the ball, you little midget.’ I guess social media thing kind of ran with it. At one point somebody said that ‘He ruined your career.’ I’m like, I was playing for six more years.