Happy Birthday | « Muggsy » Bugs, little big man | NBA


The Americans set the limit at 6 feet (1.80 m). Everything below is small. So what about Tyrone « Muggsy » Bugs? The micro-leader passed by Washington (12th draft pick in 1987), Charlotte, Golden State and Toronto is a Lilliputian in the kingdom of Gulliver. How much, doctor, is 5.3 feet? 1.60 m.

Alain Giresse, member of the magic square of the France team of the 80s, exceeds it by 3 centimeters. Ditto Matthieu Valbuena and Marco Verratti. 1.60 m is also 8 centimeters shorter than Spud Webb, described as « brilliant dwarf » when he won the dunks competition in 1986. It’s especially 71 centimeters shorter than the late Sudanese Manute Bol, taller NBA player (by size…) in the first half of the 90s. Except that talent is not measured by the yardstick but by that of the heart. And Tyrone Bugs’ one is huge.

« Tyrone is my toughest opponent », confided very seriously Kevin McHale, the former strong winger (2.08 m) of the Celtics and former coach of the Rockets.

Bugs have a secret? Yes: an explosive cocktail of will, speed and muscle. Swift and streamlined like a revolver bullet, Muggsy is unstoppable. His arm speed and incredibly low center of gravity are a nightmare for any point guard he defends on. Obviously, Muggsy has always been small. He learned very early on to compensate for his handicap.

“I quickly understood that I would not exceed five feet. My mother is 1.48 m tall and my father is 1.66 m tall. I also have a brother who is 1.68 m tall. It is the giant of the family! I’ve always been happy with my height, I never wanted to be taller. I don’t blame anybody. Neither to my parents, nor to God. « 

It’s true that with its track record, Bogues has no reason to blame nature. The business card is full, thank you for it. He was voted best player at Dunbar High School in Baltimore in 1983 in front of future pros like David Wingate, Reggie Williams and especially Reggie Lewis. That year, his high school was unofficially declared national champion after completing a season of 31 wins to 0 losses (29-0 the previous year).

The legend continued at Wake Forest, his university, where he was nicknamed « The human assist ». For his final year, he is averaging 14.8 points, 9.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 steals. He is even elected to the ideal team of the Atlantic Coast Conference. His records for assists and interceptions in college are higher than those of Michael Jordan or Mark Price. Wake Forest will honor him by removing his # 14 jersey.

World Champion against Drazen Petrovic

The legend of Muggsy crossed the Atlantic in 1986. In Spain, he conquered the world title with the USA. In Europe, it is nicknamed « the electric battery ». With the sparks that his game produces on the Croatian Drazen Petrovic or the Russian Valdemaras Khomitchus, it is a fireworks display in itself. Something to be respected forever. If you doubt Bugs’ greatness, listen to his Wake Forest teammate Ralph Kitley (2.10m): « He is so strong that I sometimes have the impression that he is looking down on me ».

The Washington Bullets therefore chose him in 12th position in the 1987 draft. He rubbed shoulders with Manute Bol during his rookie year. Together they will pose for three magazine covers. The Bullets’ mistake was not to protect him. Result: the following year, the Charlotte Hornets, who appear on the NBA map at the same time as the Miami Heat, recover « Little big man » during the expansion draft. In 1990, the fans of the Hornets elected him best player of the team (9.4 pts and 10.7 pds). Its popularity continues to grow. She is commensurate with her talent. Tyrone receives over 200 letters a week asking for photos, autographs, and even inspirational advice for success.

In 1993-94, he again exceeded 10 average passes (10.1 plus 10.8 pts). Bugs is anything but a gimmick. We do not ask him to go attack the basket. At 3 points, that’s not it either. His thing is passing and interception, playing with energy. In 1992, he achieved two exceptional performances by taking 13 rebounds against Milwaukee then… Milwaukee. Tyrone is an example that rubs off on the whole team. For their fourth season in the League, in 1991-92, the Hornets are in the race for the playoffs until mid-March. Rookie Larry Johnson seems to be carrying the five at arm’s length. But that’s when Bogues injured her ankle that Charlotte limps. His teammate Kendall Gill pays tribute to him: “We were orphans. When Tyrone is there and you see him putting pressure all over the pitch, you just want one thing: to emulate him. He pulls the team up on his own. « 

The little ball of nerves and muscles is a leader in mind but also in form. “When I arrived, we wanted to apply ourselves but it was going a little in all directions. I mounted the ball and after the first pass it was rubbish. Now there is a real collective. I can organize the game as best I can. No more selfishness. We don’t care who will score, only victory counts. « 

North Carolina was the original homeland of Michael Jordan. In the early 90s, it became Muggsy State. A « little big man » who will have achieved the feat of inflicting 39 blocks during his career with the pros, including one on Patrick Ewing on April 14, 1993.

“It’s impossible for me to go unnoticed everywhere I go. It is sometimes restrictive but I will not complain, so many people would like to be in my place. « 

The native of Baltimore becomes the idol of children who wear his jersey all across the United States. A real cartoon character. He has never exceeded 11.2 points on average over a season but his size brings him closer to the kids. His exploits in the kingdom of the great make them dream.

“When I was a kid, there were no local heroes in my neighborhood. Here, I am the small star of the corner. All the kids in the neighborhood come to greet me and play with my children. They feel close to me, it gives them confidence, they have the hope of accomplishing something much later. Differences – height, skin color, religion, social level – no longer matter to them. This is one of my biggest victories. « 

At the Hornets with the Mourning-Johnson duo

With Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson at the forefront and Muggsy Bogues at the helm, this Charlotte team which enjoys enormous popularity in the United States but also beyond the seas aims to become the franchise of the 90s. knows what happened. The 1997-98 season had barely started when the leprechaun transferred to the Warriors with Tony Delk in exchange for BJ Armstrong. Among the Hornets, Bogues will remain No. 1 for the number of minutes played, the number of assists, interceptions and turnovers. However, his two records of assists in a game (19 in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs) were erased by Chris Paul, another former Wake Forest, in November 2007 and April 2008 against the Mavs.

His NBA career ended in a bit of pudding. After two seasons in Oakland where he fell to 5 points, he spent two seasons in Toronto then passed through New York and Dallas without putting on his outfit. For a long time, his size will pursue him. Bogues is the smallest player to ever play in the League as Earl Boykins was 1.65m tall.

When he was appointed head coach of Charlotte Sting, the defunct WNBA team, in April 2005, he still had to raise his head: the smallest player in the group, Helen Darlings, is 1.70 m tall…

Seen in « Space Jam » (1996) where aliens stole the talent of five NBA basketball players (Larry Johnson, Barkley, Ewing, Shawn Bradley and therefore him), Tyrone was first the coach at United Faith Christian Academy high school. In Charlotte of course where Michael Jordan made him an ambassador for his franchise in 2014 when the Hornets erased the Bobcats from memories. Since then, we meet him from time to time at the edge of the field, as in January 2020, in Paris for the meeting between the Bucks and the Hornets. At his side, two legends: Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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