In our exclusive interview, former NBA star Muggsy Bogues talks former teams Charlotte, Toronto and Golden State, and reflects on his 14-year career.
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What do you think of the playoffs so far?
It’s been pretty interesting. No one expected Phoenix to be where they are with the Pelicans, but injuries cause a lot of things to not go your way. So you gotta give credit to the Pelicans, the way they been approaching this series. Boston, as well, really took it to Brooklyn, you’d have thought that would’ve been a lot closer, but things materialised in a different way to give Boston the win. So nothing too out of the ordinary, but it’s been really interesting to watch.
Which teams have caught your eye?
Golden State is really playing good basketball. The elevation of Poole and what he’s bringing to the table night in and night out. Denver got a good win to avoid the sweep, but Golden State ain’t going anywhere and the way they continue get bodies back and get players to take it to another level. It’s been quite impressive.
Which players have caught your eye?
Of course, Embiid has been dominant throughout the season and through the playoffs. You’ve got to give him a lot of kudos for that, being so consistent and possibly winning that MVP race. But [Tyrese] Maxey has really stunned the league and taken a lot of pressure off of James [Harden]. I think that marriage of Maxey in Philadelphia could be very interesting going forward.
Who do you think is going to win it all and why?
It’s hard to pick that one team and say they’re going to win at all right now because things will continue to materialise in terms of injuries and each matchup causing a different outcome. But just from an eyeball standpoint right now, you gotta give the edge to either Golden State or Milwaukee, the defending champs. Even though Middleton went down, Giannis has just become so dominant in all regards, at every step, every category. Seeing that kid continue to put the franchise on his shoulders is a wonderful thing to see.
What do you think of the season that Charlotte had?
I think they had a pretty decent season. I really did, even though they came up a little short. It was derailed by Hayward’s injury. I think that put them in a tough situation. But we had a lot of good play and a lot of guys stepped up. The elevation of Miles Bridges, taking his game to the level that he was able to, and as well as with LaMelo Ball. The future is really bright there with those guys. PJ Washington as well, also seeing what’s going to happen with Montrezl Harrell. With Oubre there as well, I think they got some pieces, a good core to continue to build from. I know they just let go of their coach, which was sad to see. I think the next person who comes in really has to create some great culture, I should say, in order to be able to keep these guys going in the right direction.
What do you think of LaMelo Ball?
I love Melo. I love his elevation of his game. Being able to be that player, make guys around you better, is always a great asset to have. He’s a young player who’s got a lot more room to grow, but getting that that label of being an All-Star in his second year in the league will do a lot with his confidence. And being around those type of players, it puts you in a class and gives you an understanding where you want to stay. So hopefully, that’s something that he understands, which I think he does, and he will continue to work on this offseason to get even better. I think people were surprised the way he shot the basketball this year, he really stroked it well, gained a lot of confidence. So now, for me, it’s about him understanding how to control the tempo of the game, because he’s got the ability to do that. When the game slows down a little more for him in his head, he’s able to pick and choose the times where he can speed up and then slow down when it’s needed.
What do you think Charlotte need to go to the next level?
Well we got to get some more pieces. I think having another scorer, an experienced scorer besides LaMelo, and having the health of Gordon Hayward is key. Also somebody who can protect the rim. Those three pillars, with another scorer, a big guy and health with Hayward, we can be right there with everybody. You know, I really do, I really believe we can be right there with everybody. Considering the season that we had this year, but again, some of the injuries that came upon us.
What did you think of the Raptors season?
It’s been a very positive season. No one expected Toronto to do much of anything, but the way they have performed, the emergence of their new Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, the play of VanVleet, another All-Star this year, and Siakam. Those guys are competitive. They got championship pedigree still in that organisation, and they’re just not going to go out quietly. Coach Nick Nurse and his guys are warriors, they’re fighters, and they’re gonna give it all they have, in order to make sure that they’re going out swinging.
What do the Raptors need to get back to that Championship winning level?
There are people in Toronto that know exactly what needs to be done, in order to continue to be in that conversation has been one of the elite teams. One of the biggest pieces going forward is Scottie Barnes, Rookie of the Year. Building forward and going forward, I think they feel good about themselves. Every team who wins that championship, people kind of give them that little cushion to get back to that throne again. Even though they feel like they want to be there every year, it’s tough to get back, it’s really tough to get back. You’ve got to continue to do your homework and put the pieces in place that you feel are going to get you back to where you ultimately want to be.
How much have you enjoyed watching the Warriors during this era of success?
I’ve been watching and enjoying it tremendously. That’s what an organisation does, especially the best ones, they just don’t get complacent. They don’t just sit back and let things go by the wayside. They are a championship pedigree organisation where they were fortunate enough to win three under the current regime that they have right now. So they’ve felt that, and they know what it feels like and what it takes. They feel like they’re still in their prime and they want to get back there. As I said, the elevation of Jordan Poole, he’s put them right back in that conversation. Being able to have those guys all on the court and being able to share that one ball, I mean it’s a beautiful thing to witness.
How do you think you’d fare in today’s game?
Well, I believe I’d fare well today’s game. I’m quite sure every NBA player feels that way, if not they wouldn’t have even made it to the NBA. That’s just the mindset of confidence you have within yourself. But looking at the style and looking at the rules of the game when we played and how we played it, it’s a lot more free, a lot more open, not as physical. The skill set in some of these guys is off the chart in terms of the shooting ability. The lane is wide open, you can’t hand check. So, I think I’d have fared well in this era.
What traits did you need to succeed in the NBA?
Skills. There’s no other recipe within that besides skills. That’s what it all comes down to. The criteria is you’ve got to have the skillset to be able to play on that platform.
Was there ever a point where you didn’t see yourself making it?
No, I never saw myself not making it. I always saw myself being amongst the best at each level that I played, from elementary to high school to college and of course the NBA. I believed I belonged on all those stages so that was a confidence that I always had within myself and it never wavered.
Do you think your record of being the shortest player in NBA history will ever be beaten?
I hope in my lifetime that I see someone that’s come with that same mindset, the belief that they can accomplished anything at the height that they are, hopefully 5’2″, if not 5’3″. It would be remarkable to see that young man being able to accomplish those type of goals.
You had a coaching stint in the WNBA with the Charlotte Sting. The league has been getting more coverage in recent years, but do you think the women’s game is getting enough respect?
I think it needs to go even further. When the best basketball players in the world have to go overseas to make a great living, as opposed to staying in your own country, that resource and these avenues should be more addressed. Hopefully they can continue to keep addressing those issues where these young women can feel deserving of the play that they display out on that floor every day. We got so much talent on that floor. I mean, they’re dunking the basketball these days. They’re no longer just fundamentally sound, these are athletes that play at the highest stage. They also represent more than just the game of basketball. They’re mothers, they’re nourishers, and activists in the community. I think they should be given just as much attention as the guys.
How does the level of play now compare to when you coached?
It’s getting more coverage, but the skillset, the levels of play continue to elevate, just like the male side of it does. These young ladies have some extraordinary talent that we’re now witnessing out there. I’ve been able to put that on stage and get organisations, partners and sponsors involved in it. When I was coaching 15 whatever years ago, it was a short stay, because the owner of the Bobcats at the time was not too interested in women’s side of basketball and they dispersed the team. So, it’s good to see other cities picking it up now. Vegas is now a part of the WNBA and you got other cities that are doing a great job of marketing their brand and the game probably is at its highest it has ever been.
Who’s your all-time NBA starting five?
You got Magic. I’d put my man the late Moses Malone on as my centre. I got Tim Duncan as the forward, and of course MJ over there at the two-guard.
Who is your all-time NBA starting five that you played with?
I have Moses again as my centre. Zo [Alonzo Mourning] as a forward, LJ [Larry Johnson] as the three, and I’ve got Dell Curry as my shooter.
Who is the best player you ever played against?
Who is best player you ever played with?
Who is best coach you ever worked with?
I worked with a lot of great coaches. I always give my high school coach that honour because that’s where it all started.
And who are your top five players in the NBA right now?
Steph and Chris Paul. Of course, KD and LeBron have skill sets, but I love the upcoming talent, I like Ja Morant, those kids that are now putting on a show like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown. Those guys are becoming something special for the league and I love that elevation of their games and becoming almost, the face of the league. And, of course, I have to mention Giannis. Giannis just set the stage for it all.