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Welcome to the inaugural NBA Friday Flashback. For our first trip through the NBA annals, we’re going to look at the beginning of the 1987-88 season, when fate brought together two extraordinary guys you would find hard to believe were  of the same species.

In the 1987 NBA draft, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues was the 12th overall pick for the Washington Bullets. Playing at point-guard, Muggsy remains to this day the smallest player to have ever played in the NBA, standing at just 5 ft 3 inches.

Already entering his third year with the Washington franchise was Manute Bol, the Sudanese-born Center. Bol, standing at 7ft 7 inches, is tied with Gheorghe Muresan for being the tallest player in NBA history.

For only one season, with a difference of 28 inches between them, the peculiar pair turned the mediocrity ridden Bullets into something much more fascinating. Muggsy, at the best of times looked like a kid playing with adults. When he stood alongside Bol, things just got ridiculous.

Muggsy and Bol were both in the early stages of their careers and only averaged 20.6 and 14.8 minutes per game respectively. But when the two did take to the court together, it was tantamount to an optical illusion, with the extremely nimble Muggsy whizzing around at the same height of Bol’s giant, spider-like, and much slower legs.

The Bullets made the playoffs, but fell to the Detroit Pistons in the first round. The two men left Washington the following season.

Muggsy joined the Charlotte Hornets, where he spent 10 of his 13 years in the NBA. He established himself in the league by being one of the fastest players on the court, using his unique physique to steal the ball from opponents, and throwing some sublime passes. Blocking the 7 foot Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing, was one his more entertaining career highlights. Muggsy was always a fan favourite due to his resilience and work ethic. The determination he displayed in overcoming his short stature to play in the NBA as a starter, has seen him become an advocate for young hopefuls of all sizes.

Manute Bol became something of journeyman, moving teams six times in his NBA career. He remains the only player in the league’s history to have more shots blocked than points scored, having blocked 2,086 shots and scoring 1,599 points. In his fourth year in the league, playing with the Golden State Warriors, Bol was enticed by coach Don Nelson into shooting the three; a wonderfully amusing sight which delighted witnessing crowds. He unfortunately died of kidney failure in 2010 at the age of 47, receiving recognition and admiration for his charitable donations and political activism as much as his basketball career.

Here’s a short video of the two, which includes a priceless story from broadcaster Bill Raftery about kids asking Muggsy to come out and play:

Pundit Arena, Joseph Carroll.

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