Muggsy Bogues in the NBA (Getty)Muggsy Bogues in the NBA (Getty) © Copyright

Pro tips from the smallest ballers

At 5ft 9in, Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas is the smallest player in the NBA. At 5ft 3in, Muggsy Bogues is the smallest NBA player ever. We spoke to them about making the grade in a world of giants

Isiah Thomas in the NBA ()



Do you think you are the fastest player in the league? How did you get so quick?

I’m not the fastest player in the league – there are a few faster than me. John Wall’s one. And a guy named Ish Smith, who plays for the 76ers – he might be the fastest with the ball in his hands. For me, being small, I’ve gotta be quick out there.

What did people first think of you when you entered the NBA?

Probably just a small guy who liked to score. That was probably it. I’ve changed people’s perception by being on a winning team now and learning how to get others involved. The point guard position is the hardest in the NBA, and learning how to run a team is one of the hardest things to do. Each and every day, I’m learning when to score and when to get team-mates involved.

What motivates you?

Just the doubt people still have. That motivates me each and every day to continue to work on my craft, along with knowing I have a lot of room for improvements, that I don’t know it all and that I’m not the best player I can possibly be right now. The motivation to reach my potential keeps me working.

Do you think your height has limited your ability to develop?

Not really. I’ve used my height to my advantage in my career. People always ask how I do that. In the NBA, it’s about space and opportunity, and I’m quick enough to get past defenders. I use my speed and strength to get to the hole and make baskets. On defence, I try to beat guys to the spot.

Any tips for other small basketball players out there?

First, you gotta just have a big heart. You can never back down from anybody, no matter what somebody says to you about how small you are. Second, you have to be strong, mentally and physically. You gotta be strong and be able to take a beating, especially in the NBA. I hit the ground a few times a game, and it hurts, but you have to continue to get up and continue to fight. It’s all about out-working the competition when you’re a smaller guy. 

Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues in USA legends of basketball (Getty images)



What do you feel you had to work on harder than other, bigger players?

I was always quick, but I had to learn to handle the ball as well as I could. The other thing I had to focus on most was defence, because people were trying to take advantage of things because of my size. To negate a lot of stuff, I made them think about things they didn’t want to think about, then I had to try to get the ball off them quickly.

You mean mind games?

Yeah, I was able to get into their heads by making them forget the fact I was small and think more about what they needed to do with the basketball. If they had to worry about those, then they didn’t think about my size. It was a side of the game which I quickly understood. People don’t realise how big that is, you’ve always gotta have some sort of edge, and know how to use it.

What advice would you give to people in the UK who are put off playing basketball because most players are so tall?

Learn the fundamentals of the game, that’s the most basic thing. Then after that, natural ability will take care of the rest. Once you pass a certain age, it’s probably too late to get really good, but if you’re a young kid wanting to be a sports player, pick up a ball, work with it a bit, invest time learning the game, and I guarantee you will enjoy it, regardless of size.


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