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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Muggsy’s still got it

It’s been 15 years since Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues played professional basketball, but the NBA’s smallest player still knows how to bring in a big crowd. The stars of the day were the “MVPs” of Bogues’ nonprofit, Always Believe Inc., and guest speaker Kenny “The Jet” Smith, another retired pro (and UNC Chapel Hill standout in the 1980s) who now works as a sports analyst for TNT. Smith auctioned a visit to the set of his show to winning bidder and former Carolina Panthers player Steve Smith. NBA All-Star Eric “Sleepy” Floyd was on hand, too. (Where can I get a cool nickname?) But even these sports stars could not claim the limelight. That honor belongs to Bogues, easy to pick out among Floyd, Steve Smith and Kenny Smith, below.

Tables were still full at the end of a nearly two-hour luncheon Wednesday at the Harvey B. Gantt Center in downtown Charlotte to watch Bogues hand out awards and listen to his brief remarks. Recipients are:

  • Jessie Cureton, chief consumer officer for Novant Health (Robyn Hamilton, Novant’s director of corporate and sports partnerships, accepted on his behalf),
  • Reggie Isaac of Microsoft, which introduces children to computer science through its YouthSpark program,
  • Brian Lee of sneaker brand Reebok and
  • Mike and Wendy Kahn, owners of the Charlotte Checkers ice hockey team, who have given millions to benefit children and families in need, Bogues said.

Michael Kahn, upon receiving an award and a basketball mounted in a glass cube, said it was the first time he had ever been able to look a NBA star eye to eye. It’s difficult not to marvel at the 5’3″ star dwarfed by players who easily top him by a foot or even two. (See our photo collage, below) Bogues enjoyed a 14-year NBA career, scoring more than 6,800 points before retiring in 2001. Most notably for North Carolinians, the small player with the huge grin — and former Wake Forest University star — helped steer a newly-formed Charlotte Hornets in the late 1980s and into the 90s. Folks coming of age in that era (ahem) might also recognize him from his cameo in the 1996 cult classic movie Space Jam with animation star Bugs Bunny and the real-life Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley and Larry Johnson. What, you didn’t see it?! Jordan gets kidnapped by Bugs and friends in order to lead them in a basketball game against conquering alien forces … oh, never mind.

Today, Bogues runs Always Believe with his daughter, Brittney Bogues.Daughter and father stand together, left, in the photo, right. The organization, which helps at-risk youth, began before Muggsy Bogues’ retirement but when his mother died in 2001, Bogues said, he put it on the back burner. Things changed after Brittney finished college in 2009 and joined forces with her dad who said they hope to build an after-school center in Charlotte. This week’s luncheon was the first of its kind for the nonprofit. A video during the meal included testimonials from some of the children Always Believe has helped. “I was one of those kids,” Muggsy Bogues said. For him, “Basketball was a safe haven.” Bogues said many of the kids helped by Always Believe don’t have the same opportunities.

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