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The 1987-1988 NBA season wasn’t a particularly noteworthy one for the Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) in terms of results. The team’s record stood at 38-44 at the end of the season, which was good enough for a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division. They lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Detroit Pistons, two games to three.
But there was something incredibly unique about the Bullets’ 1987-1988 season that has gone down in history, long after many of the other stats have been forgotten. During that season, the Bullets simultaneously had both the tallest and the shortest players in NBA history on their roster.
At only 5 ft 3 in (1.5 m), former Wake Forest star Muggsy Bogues joined the Bullets as the twelfth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. Bogues, who played point guard, was 16.5 inches (42 cm) shorter than the average NBA player and 28 inches (71 cm) shorter than his Bullets teammate Manute Bol. At 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m), Bol was the tallest player in NBA history at the time, though Gheorghe Muresan, who would also join the Bullets in 1993, equaled Bol’s incredible height.
Beyond the jokes and marketing gimmicks that accompanied the league’s tallest and shortest players being teammates, Bogues and Bol formed a genuine friendship off the court. Their extreme height discrepancy was far from the only difference between them, with Bol hailing from Sudan and Bogues born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Years after Bol’s 2010 death, Bogues still remembers his former teammate fondly, recalling that “he just had such a spirit within him that it really resonated amongst the team as well as the organization.”
The tall and short of it:
- ”I think (the Bullets) started to try to use me and Manute as a novelty act because of the height differential. But luckily for Manute and I, we were comfortable in our own skin,” Bogues told the Charlotte Observer.
- Muggsy Bogues spent just one season with the Bullets before he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1988 NBA expansion draft. He played for Charlotte until 1997, then spent two seasons with the Golden State Warriors and two seasons with the Toronto Raptors.
- Bol had been drafted by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1985 draft as the 31st overall pick. Bol was traded to the Golden State Warriors in 1988, and he would also play for the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat before the conclusion his NBA career in 1995.