50 years young and a family man, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues stepped into the 50th-floor lounge unassumingly. He didn’t realize he was walking into a surprise birthday party, with a crowd of anxious family and friends around the corner. Even more surprising, he didn’t realize he was walking into a surprise wedding — his own.
With a pastor and their family and friends present, there at the top of a high-rise apartment building, Bogues and his ex-wife, Kim, renewed their vows and were married again on January 9, 2015 – some 30 years after they had first met and started dating.
They had met back in Muggys’s hometown when he was back at his old high school, before his NBA fame and retirement. Since retiring in 2001, Muggsy has coached in the WNBA, coached high school basketball, and been a team ambassador for the Charlotte Hornets.
His time on the Hornets is still well-remembered, with Bogues holding the franchise records for career assists and steals as of 2021. And he’s still famously recognized as the shortest player to have ever played in the league. But despite his NBA success, Bogues’ best memories playing basketball were actually long before.
A member of the Dunbar High Poets in Baltimore, Bogues’ and Coach Bob Wade’s Poets went 59-0 over two seasons in the early ‘80’s. With their dominance, they were unofficially crowned the best high school team of all time by many.
And rightfully so.
From 1981 to 1983, Dunbar High was the most powerful team in high school basketball. Boasting four future NBA players, the Poets took the life out of their opponents and their gyms.
The chemistry the team had was built years prior. And a trip back to Muggsy’s roots revealed the foundation for such a team. In ‘81-82, the Poets’ stars consisted of two pairs of close childhood friends.
Tyrone Bogues and Reggie Williams both grew up in the Lafayette projects in Baltimore. In an area where most kids don’t expect to live past 20, Bogues and Williams retreated to basketball. The sport became their safe haven, and the indoor recreation center their sanctuary.
Growing up, the two friends would always play on the same team together. They rarely played against each other, or wanted to. They always had each other’s backs – something Muggsy didn’t get elsewhere on the court because of his size. And it was that disrespect that drew Muggsy to basketball.
Always ridiculed and looked over, he found that the sport could earn him the currency of the land: respect. Shorter than his peers, all he had to do was steal the ball a few times or drive right past a guy, and they’d look at him differently.
The duo played a lot in rec leagues, and their main competition was the team from the Cecil projects. Across town, over at the Cecil Kirk Recreation Center, David Wingate, a future Charlotte Hornet, and Reggie Lewis, future captain of the Boston Celtics, were putting on a show.
Whenever Lafayette and Cecil went up against each other, the whole city would come and fill the gym. The house would be packed with hundreds of onlookers to see Bogues, Williams, Wingate, and Lewis go at it. Basketball became a source of pride for kids in the inner city. With families sometimes struggling to make ends’ meet, the one thing these kids could count on was a ball and a hoop, and their local rec league team tearing it up.
But what no one knew at the time – what no one dared dream – was that they were witnessing four future high school stars, future college standouts, and eventually, future NBA players.
Coach Bob Wade had found success as head coach of the Dunbar High Poets. A former NFL player, Wade implemented a military-like approach to his practices. Noticing that players would start to falter defensively in the second half, he would have his players hold bricks while doing their workouts and sprints. If anyone dropped a brick, everyone would have to start over. The goal was to build endurance, strength, and of course, character.
Wade wanted to establish hard-working habits that they didn’t get from their environment outside of school walls. The Lafayette projects were just a quick stroll away from Dunbar High, and Wade knew of the troubles and struggles that his kids faced on a daily basis.
Before he inherited his winningest teams, Wade would walk over to watch the kids in the area play. At the rec center, a certain, shorter, high-energy player drew his attention. Bogues, who was around 11 or 12 years old at the time, could keep up with all the older kids, despite the height disparity.
Wade could sense the talent in Muggsy and his friends, and he knew that all of these guys would be in high school around the same time. He hoped and dreamed that high school was his.
In 1981, they made his dream a reality.
Wingate, Lewis, and Reggie Williams all transferred to Dunbar, but Muggsy was held up a year in 1980. Bogues had to spend his freshman year at Southern High – an hour away from the Lafayette projects. Distanced both physically and figuratively, Bogues was itching until the day he could rejoin his friends.
The following year, in 1981, Bogues transferred for his junior season (high school for them was just three years). But the chemistry didn’t come right away.
With Bogues and Williams from Lafayette, and Wingate and Lewis from Cecil, the bad blood was on display right away. According to certain teammates, they said Muggsy was freezing them out in games. If he was on a fast break, he might have David Wingate open, but Muggsy was passing to his friend Reggie Williams instead. Coach Wade pounced on that, and preached teamwork and togetherness. They’d have to toss aside former rivalries and childhood differences.
They took Coach Wade’s words to heart. The team started looking out for each other, and ego no longer was an issue. After all, Muggsy was playing alongside guys he’d been playing with and against his whole life. They knew each other’s games well.
In the 1981-82 season, their biggest game came against the Camden High Panthers, the number-one ranked high school team in the nation. In five years, Camden had lost only one game at home.
When the small-of-stature Muggsy was announced in the starting lineup, the whole Camden High gym laughed and jeered. Even Camden star Billy Thompson was laughing along. Taking it upon himself to win this game, Bogues led Dunbar to a dominating victory, 84-59.
In a stunning turnaround, the same crowd that had been laughing at his size just hours before was now chanting his name.
“Muggsy! Muggsy! Muggsy!”
They even crowded him for autographs afterwards.
Dunbar won the Baltimore City Schools championship and went on to win the state title – finishing the year a pristine 29-0. David Wingate left for Georgetown at season’s end, and guard Gary Graham went to UNLV.
But college recruiting was no easy field. Many recruiters were known to be corrupt, especially as drug dealers started to sponsor basketball teams in the area. All of a sudden, there was a lot of money involved in high school basketball.
It’s rumored that Coach Wade laid a punch or two on recruiters who tried to do his players dirty. Wade was willing to do whatever it took to protect his players from the hostile, greed-infested environment outside of their gym.
His undying dedication to his players paid off.
The following year, in the 1982-83 season, Dunbar picked up right where they left off, and further solidified themselves as a national powerhouse. With more eyes now looking to Baltimore, Coach Wade had put together a national schedule, and the Poets rolled to a perfect 31-0.
Wiping out every opponent, Dunbar was so good that they felt their practices were more intense than actual games. They were ranked the top high school team in the nation throughout the season, and they won the state title again – Dunbar’s sixth title in eight years.
In one game against DeMatha, Muggsy went up for a layup, but was trapped by two defenders in mid-air. So, on the fly, he did a 360-degree turn and threw an alley-oop pass behind his neck. Reggie Williams caught it in mid-flight and slammed it home. The crowd exploded. They had to stop the entire game for a minute because everyone in the gym couldn’t believe what they had just seen.
During their run, Reggie Williams grew to be one of the best high school players in the country, and USA Today named him the High School Player of the Year. Muggsy was the spark that made the whole team go, and his infectious energy led their fast-paced attack. That year, Muggsy averaged eight points, eight assists, and eight steals per game as the offensive initiator and the defensive disruptor.
Finishing 59-0 over two seasons, those Dunbar teams were a force. In total, 12 Poets players went on to Division I basketball programs in college. Williams headed to Georgetown, Reggie Lewis went to play for Northeastern, and Muggsy attended Wake Forest.
After college, Wingate, Williams, Lewis, and Bogues were all drafted and migrated to the NBA.
Featuring four future NBA players, the Dunbar Poets from 1981-1983 have made their case to be the best high school basketball team of all time. Not many dispute it.
ClutchPoints was able to catch up briefly with Muggsy Bogues recently. His feisty and fast-paced style of play has no doubt influenced the league in the modern era.
Bogues told us he still watches the league today and is a fan. “I love the game today,” he said. “Each era has its uniqueness. Today’s players are skilled, large but agile…The game is faster today. I would say I don’t see anyone quite like the game I played but Patrick (Beverley) and Rondo are the closest.”
As the shortest player to ever play in the league, Bogues faced immense challenges at every level that he had to overcome. His advice to kids today?
“Above all else, believe in yourself and your dreams. Visualize it and stay on that path. You can’t let anyone dictate what you can do or who you should be,” Bogues asserted. “No one knows your passion or heart like you do.”
Indeed – if Muggsy had never believed in himself, if he had never visualized what he could become – he wouldn’t be the player and man he is today.
On that night in 2015, in that high-rise lounge overlooking the city, Muggsy walked into his surprise birthday party and unexpected wedding. His family and friends eagerly chanted his name.
“Muggsy! Muggsy! Muggsy!”
Just as a stunned crowd in a Camden High gym did almost 40 years earlier. At the time, they celebrated his on-court brilliance.
But the crowd that filled the Sky Lounge, now, celebrated him for his off-court character and who he had become as a person. They looked on with joy as Muggsy and Kim – who met him at a Dunbar alumni game – renewed their vows.
Muggsy Bogues was a legend in Charlotte Hornets’ franchise history, and the engine of the greatest high school basketball team to ever play the game.
But he was also, more importantly, a loyal friend, a proud father, and a loving husband.
And those are the legacies that last long after the shine of the hardwood fades away.