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Muggsy Bogues offers conversation in ‘Muggsy’; Grant Hill offers contemplation in ‘Game’

Muggsy Bogues offers insight into his inner life in “Muggsy,” while Grant Hill contemplates what his NBA life could have been in “Game.”

Muggsy Bogues is best known for being the shortest player in NBA history at just 5’3”. But that factoid has too often overshadowed everything else about his fascinating life. From his childhood in Baltimore to his time on perhaps the greatest high school team ever; from playing at Wake Forest to teaming up with Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning in Charlotte, Bogues has lived a fascinating life full of triumphs. And now, he tells his life story in his new autobiography, “Muggsy,” co-written with Jacob Uitti.

Muggsy Bogues welcomes fans into his fascinating NBA life in “Muggsy”

Muggsy’s voice is evident throughout, and co-author Jacob Uitti does a wonderful job of communicating Bogues’ thoughts and memories clearly. In fact, it is this voice that is the book’s biggest selling point, as its conversational, laid-back tone can make readers feel like they’re just sitting in a room with Bogues as he recounts stories from his life. Few autobiographies are this welcoming.

And while Bogues was certainly a very successful point guard who put together a 14-year career, he was not a star player. This allows him to give a more relative everyman’s perspective as we see him navigate the NBA.

Near the end of the book, Bogues writes that he sometimes “felt like the Forrest Gump of NBA players in that I’ve been connected to so many important parts of the game’s history, from Malone to Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Carter, Chris Paul, and Seth and Steph Curry.”  And that is part of what makes Bogues’ book enjoyable — the look at these other players he crossed paths with over the course of his career. He has witnessed and partaken in so much NBA history that his book is a treasure trove of run-ins with greatness. Additionally, his sense of joy and gratitude to have lived the life he has comes through on every page.

The main issue with Muggsy is that, as enjoyable as it is to spend over 200 pages with Bogues, it often feels a little slight. Hoops fans looking for a pleasant and easily digestible memoir from a 90’s icon will be delighted with Muggsy. However, those hoping for a more thoughtful or revealing work about life as an NBA player should look elsewhere.

Grant Hill contemplates what could have been in “Game”

Despite being a Naismith Hall of Famer, Grant Hill’s career still carries with it a faint whiff of “what if?” In 2000, Hill signed with the Orlando Magic following five consecutive seasons as a member of the All-NBA Team as a Piston. However, due to a series of ankle and foot injuries, Hill only played 47 games over the next four seasons, and the hoped-for dynamic duo of Hill and Tracy McGrady was never able to reach the heights they could have.

It is these struggles, captured so eloquently and thoughtfully, that form the heart of Hill’s new autobiography, “Game.” In these sections, one can see the torment and confusion that haunts an athlete as they find themselves unable to do the tasks they have devoted their lives to performing. It also doubles as an interesting look at how medical treatment has evolved in the NBA since the time of Hill’s initial injuries, from a model more focused on treating particular issues as they arise to one that is more holistic and preventative.

Not all of the book is as interesting though. For example, roughly a third of the book is devoted to Hill’s time at Duke University, where he won two titles and appeared in one more championship game. However, this section cannot help but feel overlong in light of how well-covered those teams have been and how little Hill is able — or more likely, willing — to add to the team’s story. This typifies too much of the book as a whole.

Grant Hill has always come across as a very thoughtful person. However, in his memoir, that thoughtfulness almost seems like a liability as, too often, it equals a sense of reservation. It feels like Hill is holding back, and his insights and thoughts are often not revelatory enough to make up for that. The upshot of this is that there is a consistent tone that will make readers feel as if they are privy to an NBA legend’s reflections. Nevertheless, this restraint is what keeps Hill from writing the great autobiography I believe he is capable of.

Neither “Game” nor “Muggsy” do much to set themselves apart from the many athlete autobiographies on the market. While fans of each athlete will enjoy reading their life stories and spending time with them, those who are not very devoted fans of these individuals or the NBA may be better off skipping these two books. They are both enjoyable enough on their own merits, but nevertheless fail to rise above the conventional tropes that so many similar books traffic in.

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