By Tom Talbot
In every man room or basement sports bar there’s always a key large item or two to be displayed. Many times it’s a jersey in a full-size shadow box.
Recently, I purchased a couple of jerseys of my favorite players from my youth. One is a Charlotte Hornets throwback Muggsy Bogues jersey, which was a timely purchase now that the Charlotte Hornets name is back after a trip to New Orleans and back to Charlotte as the “Bobcats.”
Basketball has always been my favorite sport to play, and being a small guy myself, I always rooted for the 5’3” point guard with the ridiculous vertical leap and ferocious defense. He’s one of the only NBA guys I’m taller than. How this guy competed with the likes of Jordan, Bird and Magic is beyond awesome.
I also bought an old-school A.J. Duhe Dolphins jersey, my favorite player growing up who had a three-pick performance against the Jets in that AFC Championship game in 1982 known as the “Mud Bowl.” I still have to mail that one out, but I’m leery after hearing of new postal regulations.
Every now and then I take a chance with something larger than a photo or card. Jerseys are easy to ship in a small plastic mailer. Lately, after witnessing the poor job Sharpies do on jerseys, I went with a medium point black paint pen. It’s more of a risk because the signer might forget to give it time to dry, but the upside is a beautiful bold signature that won’t fade over time.
My brother has a few signed jerseys where the Sharpie is fading worse than a plastic-coated China baseball.
As I was searching for photos to send along with the jersey, I came across a couple of really cool photos of Muggsy battling Michael Jordan. For those who don’t print much at home, you have to do a Google search for “large photos to print a quality 8-by-10.”
Along with the photos of Jordan/Muggsy, I kept running into the same article. The story goes something like this: Jordan would really put other players down with smack talk to gain an edge. That’s no surprise. But when Jordan played Charlotte in the playoffs in 1995, Bogues was spotting up for a crucial jump shot when Jordan shouted at him, “Shoot it, you ------- midget.” The stories went on to say that Muggsy never recovered after that day, and it ruined the rest of his career.
I’m not buying it, especially after reading his book. He grew up in a tough area and was ridiculed and told he was too small all his life. Eight years into his career and Jordan is going to ruin his accomplishments with name calling? No way.
But I did ask Muggsy in our letter directly. He didn’t answer the question. He did sign one of the photos “Thanks for your support.”
Muggsy grew up in the housing projects in Baltimore and went 59-0 in his junior and senior years in high school. He went on to star at Wake Forest and played for a handful of NBA teams. In his rookie season with the Washington Bullets, he was paired with 7’7” Manute Bol. He signed a great picture of the duo for us.
I mailed out the jersey and three photos to Bogues and added $4 in stamps on the return envelope. This is where it gets funny.
About three weeks later I get a message on my phone from the Post Master General in our town. He said he had a suspicious package for me with no return address. I called him back and explained we send out requests all the time for autographs. Apparently, there are now regulations that you can’t mail packages weighing more than 13 ounces with stamps anymore. That means trouble for your self-addressed return packages.
The majority of guys responding are not going to go to the post office to mail your items back. The package was delivered to my house the next day. In the future, I will try to print out postage from home and just guess a week later for the return label.
The jersey was signed perfectly across the #1. Bogues also signed the front of the jersey on the “1.” Now I’m in a bit of a quandary as to what side to frame. Typically, one frames the back of the jersey with the person’s name and number. But the front of this jersey is cool because it has a large tag at the bottom with the Hornets logo and the season that particular jersey was worn. I will probably still go with the back.
Bogues also signed all three photos with the paint pen, which came out nice. He even returned the paint pen. This almost never happens. Bogues is the best. Now if I could just get Spud Webb to sign something through the mail. I do have several of his autographs I have purchased, but no bar-worthy jersey.
Muggsy went on after his NBA career to work in real estate and was the head coach of the now defunct WNBA Charlotte Sting. Currently, he is the head coach for the United Faith Christian Academy boys high school team in Charlotte. With the team switching back over to the nickname of the Hornets, Muggsy was named the ambassador and helped out in the rebranding efforts of the team.
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