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"When I played at the high school level and the college level, everybody thought I was cute, but I wasn't taken seriously," Muggsy says. "Then when I got to the NBA, I was a curiosity. People were wondering, Can he play? Or is he just a novelty act?"
The Bullets' front office must have been asking itself the same questions, because Bogues was left unprotected in the 1988 expansion draft. "I think they got caught up in all the criticism of making me their first-round pick; they started second-guessing themselves," Bogues says. "I think [drafting me] was a p.r. thing with them, and when the media said, 'He's so small, why did you draft him?', they washed their hands of the whole thing."
Dick Harter, who was Charlotte's first coach, had no more faith in Bogues than the Bullets had. "He was a very negative person," Bogues says. "I don't think Dick Harter disliked me; he just didn't think a five-three guy could play in the NBA."
Demonstrating once for reporters why he didn't bother to have Bogues front New York Knick center Patrick Ewing in a double-team defensive scheme, Harter dropped to his hands and knees—at mock Muggsy level—and asked, "Will a midget really bother Ewing?" When Harter was asked why Bogues had difficulty scoring against New York, he scrambled up onto a chair, held his arms over his head and said, "Try shooting over a building when you're only five-three."
Harter was fired in 1990 after a season and a half; under new Hornet coach Gene Littles, Bogues was installed as the starting point guard. And since Bristow took over after Littles resigned, Bogues has thrived in the new up-tempo offense, injecting it with equal parts adrenaline and attitude. "If you set up in a half-court offense, that's not Muggsy's game, and he's lost," says Bristow. "But if you run it up and down the floor, it doesn't matter if he's five-three or six-three."
Bristow would actually prefer to use Bogues as a sixth man, but it is fairly certain that any applicants for the starting job will have to climb over Muggsy Mountain. "He's got so much energy, he can accomplish everything he needs to in 22 minutes," Bristow says. "The trouble is, we can't find anybody who's better than him to play the 35 minutes."
Such praise is nice, of course, but Bogues is inclined to be suspicious of all tributes to his industry and to the size of his heart. "It's ability that keeps you in the NBA, nothing else," he says. "If I hadn't gained the respect of the other players, I would have come and gone by now, like a circus act."