When an NBA player retires, teams are under no obligation to pay them any remaining money on their contract. But when the smallest NBA player at 5-3 Muggsy Bogues hung up his sneakers back in 2001, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban apparently didn't bat an eye before paying him the entirety of the remaining three years, and $3.6 million on his contract. A decade later, Bogues is still singing Cuban's praises.
During an appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" a few months ago, Cuban was caught pigeonholed by the host and panel as the greedy billionaire type. Whether it was deserved or not, any comment that Cuban made regarding tax laws or job creation was sloughed off as just another excuse from a rich guy, trying to keep his tax rate low. It was an uncomfortable watch, as Cuban was wrongly dismissed as no fan of the little man.
Well, thanks to a recent interview with SLAM, the littlest man in NBA history appears to be Mark Cuban's biggest fan.
In 1999, the diminutive free agent signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Raptors, to serve as a calming bench influence behind a rotating group of point guards in name only like Doug Christie, Alvin Williams and Dee Brown. Bogues came through with such a steadying hand (averaging just one turnover for every 29.4 minutes played) that the Raptors re-signed the 5-3 veteran to a four-year deal the following summer, despite also signing Mark Jackson as a point guard in the same offseason.
And despite the fact that Bogues, while a successful surprise in 1999-00, was 36 years old.
Predictably, he fell off the next season; and the Raptors dealt both Bogues and Jackson to New York for a future first-rounder midway through the campaign. The Knicks, perpetually in win-now mode, followed up by organizing a three-team deal that would hand New York Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley (two players that then-GM Scott Layden had drafted in Utah), sending Bogues to Dallas along the way.
And this is where Muggsy, as detailed by SLAM's Tzvi Twersky, gets to sing the praises of Cuban:
"I've never met Mr. Mark Cuban, but I tell people that I thank him more than life itself," Bogues, 46, said recently over the phone from his home in Charlotte. "I had three years left on my contract when my mom passed away, and I decided it was time to move on [from basketball]. I walked away from the game with three years left on my contract. He (Cuban) could have easily just have bought me out of my contract, but he went on and honored it and paid the three years out and never looked back."
"I was never able to thank Cuban in person for that, but I do thank him," said Bogues.
Another great find by Twersky. And, as he notes, the final balance came out to just over $3.6 million over three years, without Bogues ever once lacing up for the Mavericks. By retiring, Bogues forfeited every cent of that remaining contract, and yet Cuban continued to honor the contract Muggsy walked away from.
Would Cuban do this today? 2001 was only his second season as an NBA owner, and he was coming off Dallas' first playoff appearance in over a decade, and spending quite a bit back then. A few years later he would be (grudgingly and sorrowfully, it should be noted) waiving franchise cornerstone Michael Finley under the NBA's tax-saving amnesty program, and though he still works with a high payroll in Dallas, he has cooled off a bit.
But as Cuban found his way, Bogues was a notable beneficiary. Just something to think about, in whatever direction you want to take it, as the NBA and its teams let go of "non-essential" employees making far, far less during this lockout.
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