The very mention of NBA tends to conjure up images of tall, strapping men leaping to astonishing heights to dunk a basketball. But try telling this to Tyrone 'Muggsy' Bogues and he only smiles.
Former NBA star Tyrone 'Muggsy' Bogues interacts with school kids during a basketball clinic yesterday
For, at 5'3", Bogues is the shortest man ever to have played in the America's National Basketball Association (NBA). In fact, despite being at an obvious disadvantage, the point guard went toe-to-toe with the best in the business for a remarkable 14 seasons, finishing his career with 1369 steals, 39 blocks, 1433 turnovers, 6726 assists and 6858 points.
It is easy to compare the diminutive Bogues with footballer Lionel Messi and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, both of whom despite being short, have scaled great heights in their respective sports. However, Bogues says that at no point did he feel his height was an impediment.
"It is what it is. I just understood the game of basketball. A lot of people looked at the height as a disadvantage but I looked at it as a guy who happens to be 5-foot-3 playing a game of basketball. So, my mindset and approach was to try and learn a game as best as I possibly could.
"I was never intimidated by the taller rivals. I started off playing the sport as a four or five-year-old. And with each level that you go up, you gain a little more confidence and start to believe in yourself, especially if you play against guys who are supposed to be the best and have some success against them," Bogues told MiD DAY yesterday.
He adds that qualities like teamwork and sportsmanship are more important than being tall in basketball. Bogues, who played for Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors before retiring in 2001, also believes that Indian basketball players can make it big in NBA.
"There can definitely be an Indian player in the NBA some time soon. I mean never say never. I'm living testimony of it. Even though India is not known for tall athletes, don't get discouraged with that. Great things come in small packages," said Bogues.
On his second visit to India, Bogues has spent the last two days teaching a group of nearly 300 kids the fundamentals of the sport. "I've been trying to teach them some fundamentals like how to dribble, shoot and play defence. It's important for kids to be away from the computer and get them active on the field. The experience (of teaching them) has been wonderful. The kids have been great," Bogues said.