The Mavericks acquired iconic, diminutive point guard Muggsy Bogues well past his prime in a three-team trade involving the Lakers and the Rockets in the summer of 2001. Mark Cuban had owned the Mavs for just over a year, and Bogues never even came to Dallas as part of the deal.
The trade shuffled role players for aging stars who would live out their NBA days providing more assistance in helping mentor young players than gobbling up stats. It was more clerical than impactful on the basketball court. A dozen or more similar transactions are made every NBA season. No big deal, really, other than Glen Rice moving back into a starting role with the Rockets, where he would only play 20 games in the 2001-02 season due to injury.
But at the time, Bogues’ mother Elaine was struggling in her fight with cancer. She would pass away later that year. In his autobiography, “Muggsy: My Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball,” Bogues wrote:
“She was the first person to support me in my life, to love me, to shield me from the jokers, jocks, and jerks. She helped me at every crucial moment in my life. Then she was gone. I had no strength to play basketball.”
In a recent appearance on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast, Bogues recalled the trauma he was going through at the time he was traded to the Mavs. It starts at just over an hour into the interview with hosts Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes.
“Moms was going through her challenges, and for me, she meant everything,” Bogues recalled on the show. “She meant everything for me, and I just didn’t want to go out there and play no more. Once she was no longer part of this, I didn’t want to be part of it no more. ... I felt like, she saw my last game, and it wasn’t no more need for me to go play.”
The emotion of the moment was raw, even 21 years after Elaine’s passing.
When word got to Cuban, the owner of the team Bogues had no desire to play for, no meeting was initiated. No paperwork was filed to buy Bogues out, to waive the aging point guard or to try to move him in another deal. Bogues told SLAM Online in 2011 that to that point, he had still never even met Mark Cuban, but thanked him dearly for the $3.6 million gesture Cuban made.
When an NBA player retires, as Bogues did in 2001, the team he is signed with is under no obligation to pay him any further.
“I had three years left on my contract. I would have played 17 years [in the NBA instead of 14],” Bogues said on All the Smoke. “I got paid for 17 and played for 14. I’m thankful [to] Mark Cuban for allowing me to come off the books, and not allow them to go over the luxury tax, and he just paid me all the way through to 2004, so I truly appreciate that.”
Cuban gave Bogues $3.6 million out of his own pocket not to play over the next three years, to honor a contract Bogues signed with another team. It didn’t go completely unreported at the time, and sure, the Mavs did also benefit financially from the move when it was made, but it is a nice reminder of the kind of majority owner the Mavs are losing when and if the NBA ratifies the sale of the Mavericks to Miriam Adelson and her people at Las Vegas Sands.
Sure, Cuban is a loud voice, and you have a right to be annoyed by his antics if and when they annoy you. But one of his biggest strengths as an owner has always been that he keeps himself intimately connected both to the game of basketball as well as to the greater Dallas community. Bogues is one of the ones who came to know that all too well.
“I’ve never met Mr. Mark Cuban,” he told SLAM. “But I tell people that I thank him more than life itself. 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. [Cuban] could have easily just bought me out of my contract, but he went on and honored it and paid the three years out and never looked back.”
NBA fans from the 1990s will also remember Elaine Bogues from her appearance in one of a series of three 1995 TV commercials for Reebok. The mothers of Sam Cassell, Kenny Anderson, Glenn Robinson and Nick Van Exel were also featured in the series.