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TALL AIN'T ALL
Bruce Newman
April 12, 1993
The Charlotte Hornets' Muggsy Bogues—all 5'3" of him—is proof that size does not have to determine who reaches great NBA heights
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April 12, 1993

Tall Ain't All

The Charlotte Hornets' Muggsy Bogues—all 5'3" of him—is proof that size does not have to determine who reaches great NBA heights

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The Dilemma, As Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues sized it up, was that the pants to the dinosaur costume were too long, not that his legs were too short. He had seen plenty of pictures of real dinosaurs, and they all had stubby legs, like his own. At the very least it could be said that the 5'3" Bogues was anatomically correct on this occasion, pants or no pants.

The occasion was his son's birthday party, and the kids would begin to arrive at the house later that afternoon. That, in itself, was not out of the ordinary at the Bogueses' house in Charlotte, N.C. "Kids will knock on the front door all the time and ask me, 'Can Muggsy come out and play?' " says Kim, Muggsy's wife.

Most of the time lately the answer is, No, the Charlotte Hornets' starting point guard cannot come out and play. He is, after all, 28 years old. And at present he's trying to get some rest as the Hornets head into the last two weeks of the NBA season with a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in the five-year history of the franchise.

At week's end Charlotte was clinging to the seventh, and next-to-last, playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after recovering from a five-game swoon with victories last week over the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two Hornets clinging most tightly were Bogues and guard Dell Curry, the only players remaining from the team's original roster.

It was Curry who finally stepped in to fill the dinosaur pants last week at the birthday party for Tyrone II, Kim and Muggsy's two-year-old son, who has already begun to stand next to his father and cast appraising glances upward, no doubt wondering how many months he must wait before overtaking the old man. Even without a costume Bogues danced along with the kids at the party. Children who see him play for the Hornets are his biggest fans. "They think I'm a little kid out there," Bogues says. "I guess I'm less intimidating than a seven-footer."

"When kids see the other players, it's always 'Mr. Curry' and 'Mr. Mourning,' " Kim says, "but I have never heard a child call him anything other than Muggsy. They feel like he's one of them."

Bogues has brought the pro game down to a new level, and apart from opposing players whose legs he waxes on defense, folks seem pretty happy about it. He is wildly popular with Hornet fans, his teammates and even with referees, all of whom have a tendency to throw an arm around Bogues's shoulders as if he were their little brother. "A lot of times they try to rub his head," Kim says, "but Muggsy doesn't go for that. He says he's not a dog."

There are other things he is not. Unlike the Denver Nuggets' 5'10" Michael Adams, Bogues is not likely to set any records for three-point shooting. (Bogues shoots only 25% from three-point range.) He is not a dunker, as is the Sacramento Kings' 5'7" Spud Webb, who once won the Gatorade Slam-Dunk Championship. (Bogues has never dunked; his hands are too small to palm the ball.) What he is, however, is a player built so close to the ground that on his lightning-fast crossover dribble, Bogues sometimes scrapes his knuckles on the floor. What he is, too, is proof that tall ain't all when the game is played the way it is supposed to be played. What he is, is the Toulouse-Lautrec of point guards.

"People always say we'll probably never see another Larry Bird," Hornet coach Allan Bristow says. "But I've always felt we have a better chance of seeing another Larry Bird than we do another Muggsy Bogues. Nobody has ever done what Muggsy is doing. And you really don't get the full effect of Muggsy until you go up and stand next to him."

This happens all the time, of course, people sidling up to him in shopping malls, trying to cop a feeling of superiority, looking at Bogues and wondering how the weather is down there. In the entire 47-year history of the NBA, there has never been another player whose talent amounted to so much while his body amounted to so little. Charlie Criss, who played for Milwaukee, the Atlanta Hawks and the San Diego Clippers from 1977 to '85, and Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets, a veteran of 13 seasons from 1970 to '83, were Bogues's itty-bitty predecessors; but Criss was 5'8" and Murphy 5'9". And what will deconstructionist historians make of former Boston Celtic Nate (Tiny) Archibald, the patron saint of NBA little men? At 6'1", Tiny would tower over Muggsy by precisely the same margin that Celtic forward Kevin McHale, at 6'11", once loomed over Archibald.

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