Muggsy Bogues: How Fearlessness and Vision Led to NBA Greatness

Muggsy Bogues: How Fearlessness and Vision Led to NBA Greatness

Allison Kugel: What’s the difference between you and the tens of thousands of guys who loved playing basketball, loved the game, but thought, “I’m just not tall enough, so it’s not going to happen for me. Why bother?”

Muggsy Bogues: I think as a small guy, I accepted what I was and who I am in terms of how I need to play the game. I think a lot of us as undersized players, play the game a little differently. But some try to play the game like the bigger players. But I knew my best abilities and what came with [my size], in terms of making guys around you better and being able to be an extension of the coach. It was about, defensively, just being a pest.  Make sure they have to work to get the basketball across the half-court because the Point Guard is the guy that really starts it all. If you can disrupt him and make it difficult on his behalf at the beginning, it gives you a better chance of being noticed and being out there. I understood the game. A lot of people didn’t really understand the IQ level I had on that basketball court, but my peers did. I think that separated me from a lot of the small Guards that tried to pursue this game and try to make it to the highest level, which is the NBA.  

Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about the power of belief. I read your memoir (MUGGSY:  My Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball, Triumph Books), and your childhood was no bed of roses. You had many challenges. You are one of those people who understood the Law of Attraction and the power of belief well before it was a part of our cultural zeitgeist. Where did that come from?

Muggsy Bogues

Muggsy Bogues: Growing up in the city of Baltimore, I think the trauma that I went through, being shot at [age] five was a part of it. When I used to go onto the basketball court and hear all the negative words, like, “You’re too small. Why are you pursuing this game?” It really had a major impact on my confidence. After that traumatic experience [of being shot], I didn’t think anything was devastating, and it definitely wasn’t words. It just gave me the confidence and the belief to pursue what I was dreaming, and what I believed in. Luckily, I met Mr. Leon Hardwick, who gave me the information on how to navigate [the basketball court], and how to play the game. Preparation then allowed me to continue to believe in myself and gave me the confidence to not worry about my height. I just didn’t care what they thought. I let that negative energy go in one ear and out the other. I stayed on my path and on my journey, just believing what I wanted. I knew that if I had confidence in myself it would rub off on others. 

Allison Kugel: Do you know who the actor Michael Rappaport is?

Muggsy Bogues: Yes. He sent me his book (laugh).  

Allison Kugel: I love what he says about you. He was on The Rich Eisen Show talking to your former Charlotte Hornets teammate, Rex Chapman, about you and he said, “Muggsy Bogues is one of the iconic players. He’s 5’3” and he played in the league for I think 15 f*cking years. Why is Muggsy Bogues not doing TED Talks and motivational speaking? Because when you think of outside-the-line thinkers and someone with a powerful brain that overcame things, it’s Muggsy Bogues.”

Muggsy Bogues: I really appreciate him saying those kinds of words [about] me. It all comes from just believing, and as we talked about, believing in yourself. I make sure when I’m speaking to kids, and I do a lot of speaking engagements, I always want to let them know that it starts within. It starts with them. When you look at yourself in the mirror and don’t like that reflection, you really need to love it, because that is what God has created. We all get a special gift, and we all need to understand and hopefully find that special gift that God has created. I always tell the kids, and anyone I come into contact with, “It starts with you. It starts with confidence. If you don’t have it, it’s very difficult for anybody to believe in what is inside of you, and what you are trying to spill out.

Allison Kugel: Do you believe that we all plan our lifetime before we incarnate into this life? Do you subscribe to that at all?

Muggsy Bogues: In some ways, I think we do. Subconsciously, the things that we think and the things that we believe, we start taking action behind them. Those actions lead to that thought or that subconscious seed that has been planted for you. I always believed in that and I always go with that, because that is something that you can’t second guess. God sees us before we have it and before we even think it. A lot of folks go to school and get good grades, and you get a job outside of what you go to school for. You wonder, why is that? It comes back to that thing that is set for you, that you have not even envisioned for yourself yet.  

Allison Kugel: Yes! I hear there were only two players in the league who you had trouble guarding. Do you know who I’m going to say?

Muggsy Bogues: Who? I’m curious…

Allison Kugel: It was actually Rex Chapman who said, “The only two players Muggsy had trouble guarding were Gary Payton and Magic Johnson.”  Is that true?

Muggsy Bogues: Magic was one of them. I’ll give it to Gary, too. Gary was a handful, because of the way he played the game. But it was more or less Magic, because Magic liked to pass and because of his size, at 6’9”.  I had the ability to play a bigger guard and plan well with his back toward the basketball, because normally they are not accustomed to playing that way. Magic was totally different. He had the ability to see guys in his peripheral [vision] from behind his head, and he caused me a lot of problems. And there were a lot of battles between Gary and I, so I can understand why Rex went with Gary as well.  

Allison Kugel: Your sister, Sherron, you credit her with introducing you to the game of basketball. Tell me about that.  

Muggsy Bogues: She was my biggest [supporter] and my older sister. She was small-statured as well, and she was fearless. She played all sorts of sports. She played baseball and football, as well as basketball. By me being small and seeing her tenaciousness and her competitiveness, going out there and competing against the boys, it made me want to go out there and play, and be fearless as well. Seeing how she was having success out there gave me that feeling that if my sister can do it, I can do it. That is what really introduced me to basketball and made me want to get out there and pursue it. When I played, and when I continued to climb that ladder and play in college and the NBA, she was always at the games hollering for me behind the bench, “Shorty,  shoot the ball!” I loved her for that because that is where you get your true criticism from, the ones who love you.  

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