How To Make It In America
Muggsy Bogues proved that success can’t be measured in inches.
SLAM: You attended Wake Forest for four years and really ripped up the ACC. How important do you feel going to school was for your game?
MB: I was a totally different player than anybody going to the League. My route was similar to most, but there were different things I was dealing with that most people aren’t. They were mainly dealing with if they were good enough; I was dealing with breaking that barrier of, “He’s small; he can’t possibly play on this level.” The things I had to go through as a player were very beneficial to me. I had to earn everything. I had to change mindsets of coaches.
SLAM: You must’ve been successful changing at that, though, because Washington did use its first-round pick on you in 1987.
MB: I remember the very first day I got drafted. Me and Mark Jackson sitting there, talking about where we would go. Possibly we could’ve gone to each other’s home; I could’ve went to New York, he could’ve gone to Washington. We wound up going to [our own] homes. I went to Washington; he went to New York. That was a great thrill in my career—the very first day I got drafted.
Playing with the Bullets, that was a great experience. Me, Manute [Bol] and Moses [Malone]: They both just brought me under their wings. Moses gave me the ins and outs of the game, to where I understood the business side of it as well as the basketball side. His main thing was that he didn’t want me to get caught in the hype of what the NBA was, and I learned that quickly. I was highly drafted and they promised me this and they promised me that, but at a certain point of the season you feel like it was more of an oddity and they were just trying to sell tickets. Then when the new team [Charlotte Hornets] comes up, they didn’t protect me in the expansion draft. I was bitter at the time, but now I thank them for allowing me to go to a place where I could blossom as a player.
My time with the Hornets, that’s when my career really began, when I started to let folks know kids like myself belong in the League. And we had some great times. Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Dell Curry… we came up short, but we had great success here in Charlotte. We sold out nine, 10 consecutive years. People really thought of us as a beloved team during the ’90s. I was playing with guys that not only had talent but had character. That’s what was so exciting.
SLAM: You’re remembered as “the 5-3 guy.” Do you think people sort of overlook that you’re top-20 in assists all-time and had a season where you averaged almost 11 points and 10 assists?
MB: My peers recognized me. You know, once you’re gone, you get swept away. I had a couple years where I averaged a double double and my team was at the top of the conference, so I got disappointed several times by not making the All-Star team. I look back and I see that, but it’s just how it is. Folks overlook certain things and they talk about the stuff that they want to talk about. It doesn’t bother me because I know the type of career I had. I know that guys hated to play against me, and my teammates always loved to play with me.
SLAM: Now that you’re a regular Average Joe, do you find that people react to your height differently?
MB: Yeah. A lot of folks who see you on TV, when they actually see your height, when you’re standing right next to them, that’s the thing that really blows them away. And they can’t really believe, like, “No way, are you really this tall?! Are you really this short?!” That gives them a true understanding, because they look at my stature and it’s just mindboggling for them. It’s kind of hard for them to even digest that I was out there doing what I was doing at that height.
SLAM: You coached in the WNBA for a few years and now you’re coaching high school and running clinics for kids. Do you hope to coach in college or the NBA one day?
MB: Yeah, I always have an interest in coaching. I almost had the opportunity to join the Bobcats’ bench, but that didn’t work out. I’m always looking and waiting for a call to come on somebody’s bench. I’ve always been a coach at heart. As a point guard, you’ve got to be a coach. You’ve got to know all the things and all the responsibilities that come as being the extension of the coach. Every coach I had trusted me with the ball in my hands. I understand where the ball needs to go, defensive schemes, how to come up with a game plan. My aspiration is to be an assistant coach, and possibly, one day, a head coach.