[The late Paul Baker was a proud Baltimorean who fell in love with basketball as a kid in the 1940s and 1950s. Though short of stature, “the Bake” was famously brash and a shrewd observer of basketball talent, both as a coach and a scout for the NBA Bullets. In the late 1990s, Baker self-published a fun book titled Moments in Time: A Broken-Field Run Through a Lifetime of Baltimore-based Sports Stories.
It includes a chapter on Muggsy Bogues. The chapter is mostly Baker’s scouting report on Baltimore’s shortest superstar, typed up in the spring of 1987 as Bogues entered the NBA draft. Baker’s report, which he probably sent to an NBA director of personnel or two, offers a ringing endorsement of the 5-foot-3 point-guard. For Baker, who spent many summers instructing the up-and-comers at Five-Star camps, he’d watched Bogues blow like a mini-twister through every playground, camp, and gym in his career path. Nobody could stop Muggsy, and, as a little guy himself, Baker loved watching it. This book chapter, in Baker’s brash style, was his loud “I told you so” 11 years later.]
Tyrone Bogues transferred to Baltimore’s Dunbar High School from Southern High School. In 1983, the 5-foot-3 guard led the Poets to an undefeated season and the mythical high school national championship, as voted by USA TODAY and other publications. The team was loaded with so many great players that their glow only made the tiny Bogues even more of a mystery.
Was the short guy really that good? He couldn’t be that quick, could he? Playing for and sparking this once-in-a-lifetime team actually dimmed Muggsy’s star. Very few major colleges were interested in him, and the only looks he got were from schools that wanted his highly-coveted Dunbar teammate Reggie Williams. Bogues made visits with Reggie, and Wake Forest signed the tiny guard with Williams on the come. Georgetown, however, blessed Williams’ grades, leaving the Deacons holding the Bogues.
I had seen Tyrone too many times to be fooled. I knew from the beginning that he would be a force wherever he went. At Wake Forest, he became a national phenomenon as he proved to be among the finest point guards in the history of the ACC. Still, when it came to consider his chances for an NBA career, the naysayers again came out of the woodwork. I stood by my original opinion and wrote the following analysis in the spring of 1987, a few weeks before the NBA draft:
Kenny Smith but North Carolina is probably the best guard in college hoops today. He will be on everyone’s All-America team and should be a first-round NBA choice. But will he make it in the NBA? If so, will he last? What kind a career will he have? Is he strong enough to take the pounding? Will he be drafted by the right team?
When the answer is yes to all of these questions, you have a surefire pro. Despite all their expertise and experience, I doubt if most NBA directors of personnel can make anything more than an educated guess. The key in the case of Kenny Smith and any high draft pick is: CAN HE DO THE SAME THINGS AGAINST PRO COMPETITION?
At 5-foot-3, 140 pounds, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is such a player. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues will play in the NBA. He will do his thing with a minimum of adjustment. Directors of NBA Personnel take heed:
- He dribbles the ball from endline to endline—under control and with a purpose—quicker than any player I’ve observed in over 40 years of close basketball observation.
- He cannot be pressed, and no one can force him to pick up his dribble. He is a moving chess piece that dictates the pace and tempo of any game.
- He can do his thing against the Celtics, in a World Cup title game, in the ACC, and in an NBA championship series.
- His thing is: dribbling up the floor after a made or missed shot, full speed and under control, into the heart of whatever defense has gotten back, and then dishing off for easy chippies or wide-open shots. A one-man fastbreak, who is constantly coming at you.
- For 8 to 12 minutes, he could dominate the flow of any NBA game and make his teammates more effective. In the case of his present Wake Forest team that is young and limited, Muggsy’s style only forces his mates into situations they normally cannot handle.
- He is an intimidator. A player who forces opponents to change their game. Opponents are usually instructed to: 1) Get rid of the ball when he’s guarding you; 2) Hold the ball over your head when he is in the area; 3) Try to take him low for a post-up. On the other end, it’s “get back quick,” “loosen up and don’t let him penetrate,” and “pick up the open man.” All of the above are reactions to a 5-foot-3 ball of fire. The opponents must adjust to him. In his own way, Bogues intimidates.
- He is completely fearless, and no one playing today can force him to change his style.
- He has super-quick, Mongoose reactions, and even the best ballhandlers are very wary of him.
- Defensively, Bogues makes his man do the following: 1) Pick up his dribble further out on the floor; 2) Pass the ball sooner than he wishes; 3) Turn his back in order to dribble; 4) Worry more about him than the game.
- Pound for pound, Bogues is stronger than most college players and has been known to “tear” the ball out of the hands of larger players as he comes up unannounced from the blind side.
- If the ball is loose, it is usually his.
- All of these defensive traits are also constants, regardless of the level of competition.
- I have observed Spud Webb, Johnny Dawkins, and Pearl Washington (in a Five Star summer camp game) lose their composure when confronted head to head by Bogues.
The crowd will be behind him every night. They will be non-partisan where he is concerned. They will come out in droves just to see him. He is the perfect role model for the underdog. Tyrone Bogues will become a cult figure in any NBA city.
He is the consummate team player. He makes the other players better. He keeps the other players loose. He intimidates the opponents and makes them tight. He never stops hustling. He makes things happen. He is exciting. He is a performer as well as a competitor. He is a—PLAYER.
Tyrone Bogues made me look like a prophet, as he exceeded even my wildest expectations. Currently, he is in his 11th NBA season. He developed into a solid shooter and an excellent foul shooter. His assist-to-turnover ratio is one of the best in the history of the NBA.
Muggsy Bogues has it opened up the possibilities for the little guy. Because of him, the NBA now has an open mind.