Tonight one of my favorite things from my childhood returned. 12 years ago the Charlotte Hornets left Charlotte. Not a full two years ago Michael Jordan – American Hero and Majority Team Owner (okay, maybe not the hero part) – announced he’d be bringing the Hornets name and colors back to Charlotte. I, like every kid who worshipped Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, or Alonzo Mourning was nothing short of ecstatic. I just watched the Charlotte Hornets wearing purple and teal play basketball on my television, with color commentary provided by former great Dell Curry. That is a real thing that happened in my living room in 2014.
It was strange, and cool. Look, I’m not dumb. I don’t expect miracles. Last November I paid about $10 to sit in the nosebleeds and watch virtually the same team play the worst live game of basketball I’ve ever seen. The Bobcats were terrible. A couple of years ago I watched them play the worst NBA season in the history of the league. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. But, as with all sports, life moved on and was only slightly affected by it.
I know the Hornets could very well end up being terrible too. I’m not dumb, but right now, in this moment they’re undefeated. They played opening night and they didn’t lose.
For a woman who was once a little girl convinced that Muggsy Bogues was the only superhero she needed to know, being a Charlotte fan finally feels good again.
I never promised every post I wrote would be perfectly organized into one big story. Sometimes a girl just has to write about her day. Right now, as cheesy as it may seem to non sports fans, I’m too excited about the return of the Hornets to focus on much else. So I’m going to bail on this post now and just leave one of my favorite childhood stories right here. (originally posted in October 2013)
I don’t blame my brothers for the many lies they told me as a kid. In fact, I’m impressed by their creativity. I don’t think I was particularly gullible when I was young. I prefer to think I just really trusted my big brothers. They are four and six years older than me so there’s a certain amount of worldly experience and knowledge they’ll always have ahead of me. As a kid, I trusted that to a fault.
The house that was my first home had a playroom. The playroom had an original Nintendo. The boxy gray one with the gloriously simple controllers. They used to let me play Super Mario Brothers with them. Correction: I thought they let me play Super Mario Brothers with them. Mario was the game to beat in the early 90s. Really, why would my brothers want their annoying little sister making that more difficult than it already was? So they’d hand me a controller, set the game on one player, and tell me I was controlling the mushrooms. The mushrooms: the computer controlled bad guys who were trying to kill Mario. I wish I was making this up because I don’t think it says much for my intelligence (although I was 5 or 6 at the time). I remember being confused when I’d hit A and the mushroom wouldn’t jump, but I never got frustrated enough to stop playing. I can’t be mad about this now, because it was kind of genius. I had the joy of thinking my brothers wanted me to play with them. They had the satisfaction of knowing I wasn’t going to ruin their game.
I could probably tell you a thousand other lies my brothers told me when I was a kid. There was a short period when I thought that maybe I really had been a happy meal prize and they really had wanted the toy instead.
There were several instances when one or both of them convinced me our dog liked to be ridden and I just needed to hold her collar a little tighter. “It’s safe! It’s fun!”
There were plenty of times when they pushed me to ask for something they wanted because I was the baby and it would work. Actually, this one wasn’t really a lie… it’s just good business.
I don’t mean to call my brothers liars. I just mean they were talented little sister manipulators. Like I said, I don’t blame them.
Before this goes any further you need to know something about me: I was a Muggsy Bogues superfan as a child. I thought the little guy wearing the #1 for the Charlotte Hornets was worthy of his number. He was the greatest (for what it’s worth, Muggsy is the Hornets’ career leader in minutes played, assists, and steals… but I digress). I get the irony of my Muggsy passion now. I’m 6’1″ and my childhood basketball hero is 5’3″ and weighed in somewhere around 140. At the time, I was somewhere around 50 lbs and whatever height is just an inch or two above average for a 6 year old. When I played basketball it was with my older, taller brothers. I was a little kid among giants. I got Muggsy. I understood his struggle. I admired his skill. And I was six, so I thought he had a really cool name. His name… is what ultimately got me.
For Christmas 1993 I asked for twin cabbage patch dolls. Apparently that wasn’t actually a thing at the time. I don’t know where I got the idea that it was. Lucky for my parents all cabbage patch dolls (the baby ones) pretty much looked the same. They just grabbed a couple in different colored outfits and gave them to me as twins. I didn’t know the difference. I was happy.
Sometime Christmas day, around the first changing of the doll diapers, I noticed a signature on each of their butts. That is, apparently, a thing cabbage patch dolls just have. It’s weird, but whatever. When I discovered it I was old enough to know the blue writing said someone’s name, but too young to read cursive.
“Can you read this to me?” I asked my brothers.
I trusted I’d get an honest answer from the 6th grader. Or the 4th grader, who was pretty new to cursive, would try to help me figure it out. They saw a signature and an opportunity.
“Muggsy Bogues” my brother said. I swear. Almost immediately he told me it read “Muggsy Bogues”.
Forget that the signature clearly began with an X. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t learn cursive for another two years and they knew it.
Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever been as excited about anything as I was the day I found out Muggsy Bogues had, for some unknown reason, signed the left butt cheek of each of my cabbage patch dolls. I told everyone. I mean everyone. I took those dolls up and down the street. I let those dolls sit at the base of our basketball goal while I practiced my granny shots. I was inspired. I didn’t question why Muggsy would take the time to sign my dolls. I just understood it to be true.
When school came back around I took those dolls to show and tell. I’m pretty sure that’s where the whole thing started to fall apart. Some mean kid tried to ruin my fun, telling me there’s no way Muggsy signed those dolls. I guess I questioned it a little. I probably wondered for a few minutes about why Muggsy would’ve signed them anyway, but I believed that more than I believed my brothers would just make something like that up. The truth is I never really stopped believing it until third grade when I learned how to read and write in cursive.
Xavier Roberts. That’s the real name on the butts. Roberts was an art student who created the cabbage patch dolls that swept the 80s and 90s. I guess that’s pretty cool. You could argue he’s #1 in doll making, which is… a lot less exciting than basketball. I’m told the dolls with his signature are worth something now. I looked them up on ebay and found I could get around $125 for mine (if I had any idea where they were). Maybe I’ll dig them out of an attic someday and make a little cash. I just can’t help but wonder how much more I could get if they just said “Muggsy Bogues”.