Bol & Bogues, An NBA Experiment
A decade before they were reincarnated into the Wizards, the Washington Bullets drafted the two tallest and shortest players in NBA history and paired them for a season.
Other than providing for a colorful sideshow, the synergies failed to raise the team's octane.
The 1970’s were the Bullets’ golden era- six division accolades, four conference titles, and the franchise’s first and only championship trophy in 1978.
But a few years after reaching glory, the team settled into a slump. Searching for talent, the Bullets took a chance at the 1985 draft by picking up Manute Bol, a 7’7” (2.31 m) Sudanese native, the first African to join the NBA and the tallest ever at the time.
Standing like a gangly mythical figure, Bol was a blocking specialist with an 8’6” wingspan and a 10’5” vertical reach, higher than the basket hoop.
In his first season with Washington, Bol averaged six rebounds per game (rpg) and set a rookie record of 397 blocks (avg. 5 bpg). He snuffed an astounding 15 attempts in a single match against Atlanta.
At retirement, Bol would be the only NBA veteran who blocked more shots than he scored.
Two years later, the Bullets gambled with another draft, 5’3” (1.60 m) point guard Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, the shortest player to ever land on an NBA roster.
His stature resembling a jockey more than a basketball athlete, Bogues was a speed artist who made his way through the world of giants by exceling in steals and assists. He was ACC career leader in those categories and a member of the U.S. team when they won gold at the 1986 FIBA World Championship.
For a single season in 1987/88, the unlikely yin-yang duo with the greatest teammate height difference in the annals of professional basketball, hit the court for curious possibilities.
Bol averaged 2.7 bpg and 3.6 rpg; Bogues came in at 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Not withstanding Bogues’ first year of playing, the overall team performance was underwhelming. The Bullets ended up posting a 38-44 losing season and were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Though the pair couldn’t produce championship fuel, gate receipts were reported to increase when Washington was on the road. Seeing shots swatted like flies and balls swiped like candy from the best on the court was an unprecedented fan experience.
At season's end, Bol and Bogues departed for other teams but not without leaving behind memories of their unique vertical combination.
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HOCKEY May 26, 2000 The New Jersey Devils top the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 at the NHL Eastern Conference Final. The Devils overcame a 3-game deficit to take the series in the 7th match, with Patrick Elias netting the winning goal of the tournament. New Jersey would go on to face the Dallas Stars at the Finals and win the Stanley Cup 4-2, with games 5 & 6 going into 3 and 2 overtime periods, respectively.
SOCCER May 23, 1990 Italy’s Milan beat Portugal’s Benfica 1-0 at the Euro Cup Final, the continent's most prestigious club competition. The winning goal came from Frank Rijkaard in the 68th minute. Rijkaard was one of three Dutch players who fielded a front for the Italian team, with the others being Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten. It was Milan’s 2nd consecutive victory at the Euro Cup and 4th overall since the tournament began in 1955.
BASKETBALL May 16, 1980 The Los Angeles Lakers become NBA champions after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. It was the 7th national title for the West Coast team who were last crowned in 1972. Rookie Magic Johnson took home the MVP Finals award, scoring 42 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Game 6. It was the first NBA Finals that used the 3-point line, which was introduced that season.