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Friday / April 26 / 2013

Height and Heart

Interview by Jericho Ilagan

Text by Earl Leonard Sebastian

He’s got skills, He’s got game, He’s got the hops. What he lacks in height, he has the heart to prove to the world that he can defy the odds and eventually make hoops history.

We are talking about Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, known more in league history as the shortest player ever to play in the NBA at 5’3”. He arrived in town for the Jr. NBA Basketball Program, in partnership with Alaska Milk Corporation. He is set to do a basketball camp April 26 to 28 in University of Philippines- iliman and SM Mall of Asia. He will also lead foreign and local Jr. NBA coaches in conducting boot camps for children ages 10-14.

In an interview with Philippines’ Jericho Ilagan, Ernest Leo Hernandez and Earl Leonard Sebastian with the basketball legend in Mariott Hotel, we got to know more about his personality, the challenges he faced throughout his life especially his vertical challenge, and how he managed playing in the NBA for fourteen years surviving the rigors of the professional league playing against athletes 1 or 2 feet taller than him.

To begin with, the Maryland native matriculated in Dunbar High School in Baltimore where he had for his teammates the likes of David Wingate, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis. When asked whether they can beat LeBron James and his high school friends and teammates from St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, namely Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, and Willie McGee, in a game, he simply said that Dunbar can easily crush them simply because all of them were fortunate to have played in the NBA.

Another question usually asked of him is what made him decide to join the NBA Draft despite his lack of height. He simply replied that he knew he had the skills and talent. What he lacked in height, he had the heart and guts. It was all about testing the waters. If he had not applied for the draft, he would have regretted the opportunity. He was prepared whether or not he would be drafted, simply because he knew that all would be according to God’s plans. Bigger and more physical players would be more challenging for him. Being drafted in the NBA was such a huge blessing for the fun-sized cager. He was privileged to play for the Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. Fans adored how passionate he was with the game, setting up his teammates and drives hard to the hoop challenging the giants down the lane. It was as a Hornet where he made an impact by establishing franchise records, namely minutes played, assists, steals and turnovers, and along with Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, formed a deadly triumvirate which was always a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. With career averages of 8 points, 8 assists and 2 steals, he has left a huge impact in the NBA given his height.

At present, he coaches the United Faith Christian Academy, a high school in Charlotte, North Carolina after a brief stint as coach of Charlotte Sting in the WNBA. As a coach, he imparts to his players the value of discipline, hard work, dedication, commitment and faith in God. He also keeps track of some of his players who are already playing in some dominant US NCAA Division 1 basketball programs, especially those who have the potential to make it to the NBA.

What’s nice about Muggsy Bogues is despite his stature, he gives motivational messages and inspirational answers to questions raised to him. Knowing that Filipinos can relate to him because of our height situation, it is not just simply about having the extraordinary talent, but also high basketball IQ, discipline and commitment. Time will come that one of our compatriots can make it to the NBA and the Philippines will be a basketball power in Asia. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is an epitome of a player that would do everything he’s got to overcome the adversities having that strong faith.

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