Standing at just five foot three inches tall, Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues holds the record of shortest player in the history of the NBA. Don’t let his height fool you though. Anyone who grew up watching the NBA in the eighties and nineties knew the longtime Charlotte Hornet had game.
Muggsy could do a lot on the basketball court. But could he dunk?
Bogues was always grouped in with another short player of the eighties and nineties, Spud Webb, who at 5’7” could soar through the air for gravity-defying dunks. Not that dunking at his height is expected – many players taller than Bogues and Webb couldn’t even touch the rim (I see you, Steve Nash) – but because of the Spudd comparisons, the question was always asked.
The answer? According to Muggsy, himself, yes. Let’s take a closer look at the situation and see whether or not we can track down an actual dunk by Bogues in an NBA game.
But first, a little history on the NBA’s shortest player ever.
Muggsy Bogues: Background
Bogues was born in the projects of Baltimore, Maryland, and was the youngest of four children. The gift of height was never a part of the equation for Bogues – his mother stood at 4’11” and his father was only 5’5” tall – but he still excelled in athletics from a young age. Muggsy’s childhood was tough, but he managed to stay out of trouble in order to play sports – he also wrestled and played baseball – and made a name for himself on the court.
In his last two seasons in high school, Bogues’ Dunbar Poets high school team went 60-0 and were ranked #1 in the nation. After high school, Muggsy played at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC. His time at Wake was very successful and when he left the school after four seasons, he was the ACC’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
Before entering the NBA, Bogues played for the Rhode Island Gulls in the United States Basketball League (USBL). He became a fan favorite, not only because of his unassuming height but because he averaged 22 points and 8 assists for the squad. He was selected 12th overall in the 1987 NBA Draft to the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards). As a rookie, Bogues played with 7’7” Manute Bol, leading to some funny publicity shots for the team.
In 1988, the NBA added the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat as new expansion teams. The Bullets kept Bogues unprotected from the expansion draft and he was picked up by the Hornets where he would play for the next decade. Bogues quickly became a fan favorite in Charlotte and played well for the franchise. Led by a young core of Bogues, Larry Johnson, and Alonzo Mourning, the Hornets went from terrible to fringe title contender in a couple of seasons.
From 1989-1995, Bogues finished in the top ten in assists. When Bogues left the team in 1997 – due to an organizational shift and a nagging knee injury – he was the NBA’s all-time leader in assist to turnover ratio, meaning he was both a great playmaker and also took care of the basketball.
Bogues then jumped around between Golden State and Toronto for the next five seasons before retiring in 2001. When Bogues hung up his sneakers, he was ranked 12th all-time in assists. But the real feat is, at just five foot three, how many basketball fans’ hearts he stole. He was especially popular among younger NBA fans. Kids could relate to him and when they saw someone so small on the court, it made the NBA dream attainable to them.
Muggsy Could Dunk?!
Now that we have a good grasp of the Muggsy Bogues story, let’s get back to the question at hand: Could Muggsy dunk? In a 2000 interview, Muggsy was asked if he could really dunk, and here was his answer:
“I tipped one in college and dunked in high school. I can still touch the rim. I’ve always been a guy who has been able to get off my feet. I’ve still got a little hop to my game.”
While Bogues mentioned his athleticism, he never threw one down in an NBA game.
Why is that important to mention? Well, because there are a lot of guys who can dunk with perfect conditions and no one guarding them. Being away from the NBA’s bright lights brings a sense of comfort that makes everything more “doable” on the basketball court. This isn’t a nitpick, though. The fact that a 5’3” person could get up as high as Muggsy could is impressive in any setting, and mentioning he never dunked in a game is just setting the record straight.
So, how do we know he could dunk then? Do we just take his word for it? The proof that I point to is his vertical measurements. Bogues’ vertical jump is measured at 44 inches, giving him more than enough hops to throw it down. It may not be with the power of Shaq or flash of Vince Carter, but a dunk is a dunk.
The Shortest NBA Dunkers
While Spudd Webb gets all of the credit for being the ambassador of the short-guy dunk, there have been many since him that could throw it down with authority.
Nate Robinson – 5’9”
Nate Robinson has been in the news recently for his boxing failures. His basketball past, however, is much more impressive and that includes his dunking prowess. Robinson is the first three-time Slam Dunk champion in NBA history. While that accomplishment isn’t going to place Robinson in the Hall of Fame, the fact that a 5’9” player holds that record speaks volumes for Nate’s athleticism.
Will Bynum – 5’11”
While you may never have heard of the five-eleven guard out of the Georgia Tech, Bynum wowed crowds with some of his thunderous dunks. Bynum started in the NBDL where he won the league Rookie of the Year Award before bouncing around the NBA for a decade. Bynum is just another sub-six-footer who defies the art of gravity one slam at a time.
While there isn’t any video evidence that Muggsy Bogues could dunk, I am going to take his word for it. The 5’3” hooper showed his athleticism in many other ways, both on and off the court, so why wouldn’t you believe him? Either way, Muggsy’s legacy will not be his jumping prowess, but it sure is cool to think the little guy could get up to throw it down.
Do you remember watching Muggsy Bogues play in the league? Let us know what you thought the first time you saw him in the comments!