Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb is a close contest between two of the four shortest players in NBA history. Spud Webb was the better shooter but Muggsy Bogues was better on defense and got more assists. Ultimately, Muggsy Bogues was the better player and had better career stats.
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Brief Biography: Muggsy Bogues
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues had a much stronger basketball pedigree than Spud Webb. Muggsy starred for an undefeated Dunbar High School squad that featured three other future NBA players in David Wingate, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis. Bogues had multiple scholarship offers before choosing Wake Forest where he would become a star, getting his number retired after finishing his career as the ACC leader in both steals and assists.
With that pedigree, Bogues was actually drafted 12th overall in the 1987 NBA draft despite being 5’3” – the shortest player to ever play in the league. Bogues was picked by the Washington Bullets before moving on to the Charlotte Hornets in an expansion draft.
Bogues starred for the Hornets for nearly ten seasons before finishing his career with several other teams. Bogues was mostly known as a passer and pesky defender. While Muggsy Bogues claimed he could dunk, and there are reports of him dunking in warm ups, he never dunked in an NBA game.
Brief Biography Spud WebbEmbed from Getty Images
Michael Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb grew up in Texas and played on a junior college team there before getting a chance under coach Jim Valvano at N.C. State in the 80s. Webb did well in the ACC and was drafted in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons – one year before they took The Worm in round 2. The Pistons cut him quickly but Webb was able to catch on with the Atlanta Hawks.
At 5’6” Spud Webb was one of the four shortest players in NBA history. He played more than a dozen years in the league with his best years coming for the Hawks and the Sacramento Kings. Spud is most known for shockingly winning the NBA dunk contest in 1986 over teammate Dominique Wilkins. Spud dunked in games and was known for his crazy vertical leaping ability in addition to his size.
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Traditional Statistics
Webb was the better scorer and averaged more than two points more on offense than Muggsy. Meanwhile, Muggsy was the better facilitator and averaged more than two assists more than Webb did.
Neither player got much in the way of rebounds as you would expect. I actually left shot blocking out of this comparison as it seemed obvious: neither of them could block shots in the NBA. Both of them did block shots in the NBA, but neither did so regularly.
In both steals and turnovers, Muggsy had the advantage. He was known as a thief on defense and did better on a per-game basis of taking care of the ball as well.
Comparing Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb using traditional statistics shows that they were close in every category. If forced to choose based on these stats, I’d go with Muggsy because his two more assists actually led to four more points scored per game total while he had slight advantages in nearly every other category as well.
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Advanced Individual Skill Statistics
While the per-game stats can give a pretty good look at a player’s career, most modern, informed NBA observers use advanced stats to account for volume and pace and to get the best comparisons. We’ll use them to look at Muggsy and Spud.
Usage measures the percentage of a team’s possessions a player accounted for while on the floor. It tends to favor players who shoot over those who pass.
It is unsurprising that Webb’s usage % is higher than Bogues’ because Spud scored more. Neither is very high since a typical player would use 1 out 5, or 20%, of a team’s possessions on a completely balanced team.
True shooting % is like traditional shooting percentage but also accounts for 3-pointers and free throws. It is the best way to measure how good a shooter a player was. Muggsy Bogues was not the shooter that Spud Webb was.
Spud actually led the league in free throw percentage one year while finishing his career around 85% from the line. He finished at 31% from 3. Webb did not take many threes the first five years of his career before attempting just about 2 per game for a five year stretch in the middle of his career.
Muggsy Bogues shot decently from the line as well – finishing at nearly 83% from the line for his career – but he got to the line about half as often as Spud Webb did. Muggsy was not a 3-point shooter, averaging less than ½ of an attempt per game while shooting under 30% for his career.
Besides usage % and true shooting %, the other stats above all take a traditional stat, like steals, and attempt to adjust for pace and opportunities. In this case, none of them offers great insight to the competition between the two. Muggsy had more assists and steals, slightly more rebounds and slightly fewer turnovers. They line up nicely with the traditional statistics.
Using advanced individual skill statistics, the comparison between Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb is still quite close. We do see that Spud Webb was the better shooter and, through usage percentage, that he took more shots.
At the same time, Bogues still has slight edges in every other category and I would still give Bouges the edge at this point.Embed from Getty Images
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Overall Advanced Stats
All of these statistics attempt to capture a player’s overall contribution to their teams on defense, offense or on both ends. None of them are perfect but looking at several can give us a good idea of the overall impact a player had on his team.
Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was the first widely-used statistic of its kind. It tries to measure a player’s per minute contributions to his team while on the floor. The biggest weakness of the stat is its failure to account for things like positioning on defense which is not easily measured.
In this matchup, it is very close but Spud Webb has the tiny advantage 15.1 to 15.0. These players were obviously quite close.
Offensive and defensive rating measure a player’s contribution on each end of the floor per 100 possessions. You want a higher offensive rating and a lower defensive one.
The ratings for Spud and Muggsy do not surprise me: both made offenses better – Muggsy with passing and Spud more with shooting and passing.
It is slightly surprising that Muggsy’s offensive rating is better. He was known for controlling the offense and dishing out the ball but he did not score enough to have as much impact as this stat implies.
The defensive rating favors Muggsy as well but just barely. Muggsy was known as a bit of a terror on defense, but both players had obvious liabilities trying to guard NBA giants.
To put these numbers in perspective, the best defender I have written about is Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental had a career 96 defensive rating. In general I only write about unique players like Bogues and Webb or stars like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. So I have not covered the worst defenders in the history of the league or anything.
But among the players I have written about, Dominique Wilkins was by far the worst defender. His defensive rating was 108.
So, yeah, our guys Muggsy and Spud had some issues on defense which you’d expect. But, at the same time, this is one stat and I concluded when looking at the whole picture that Muggsy was decent at D overall.
Win Shares attempt to measure a player’s overall contribution to their team’s success. I am using win shares/48 to measure a player’s effectiveness per game played essentially.
I know from writing about players like Dirk Nowitzki and Dominique that having a long career can contribute to piling up win shares. In their cases, they both had a high number of defensive win shares at least in part from playing a lot over a long career. So I am using WS/48 to measure effectiveness in this article.
Muggsy comes out slightly on top in WS/48, but, again, it is close.
Box plus/minus is another catch-all stat like Win Shares or PER. One criticism I have heard about this stat is that it is likely to underrate pass-first point guards while overrating defensive bigs.
That is interesting because, while both Spud and Muggsy are pass-first point guards, Muggsy is even more so as discussed above. So the fact that Muggsy has a higher box plus/minus speaks to his success.
Overall, the statistics that try to capture players’ overall contributions to their teams slightly favor Muggsy Bogues over Spud Webb. PER is a virtual tie that slightly favors Spud, but everything else slightly favors the Dunbar legend.Embed from Getty Images
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Who Was Better on Offense?
In a very close contest, Muggsy Bogues was better than Spud Webb on offense. This could easily be a tie.
Muggsy was the better passer and better court general. Meanwhile, Spud Webb could shoot better and shooting is the key skill on offense. But neither was a world-beating shooter and both had trouble getting their shots off in the NBA.
Ultimately, when choosing between players who were 5’3” and 5’6” playing in the NBA, one would have to be a Steph Curry type shooter for that to be the difference between them. Neither was able to get off shots easily and many of their shots were contested drives to the hoops.
The shots they got that were not at the hoop were likely to be wide open. Spud Webb would make more of those, but not by some absurd margin.
The difference between two players this size on offense comes down to how they run the offense and Muggsy had the slight edge there.
While Muggsy had the better offensive rating, Spud had a slightly better offensive box plus/minus, so it really is very close and nearly tied on offense.
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Who Was Better on Defense?Embed from Getty Images
In the contest between Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb on defense, Muggsy is the clear winner. Both players had obvious limits on defense, but Muggsy was more feared by far.
Bogues got more steals in his career and was generally known as a true pest on defense. Vince Carter, who played with Muggsy in Toronto towards the tail end of Bogues’ career, talked about the Muggsy rule in practice: if you could not see him, you needed to pick up your dribble because it meant he was behind you and was about to steal the ball from you.
Spud Webb was no doubt quick and got his share of steals, but Muggys was almost ridiculous as the Vinsanity quote makes clear.
Muggsy not only had the better defensive rating, he had a much better defensive box plus/minus, got more steals and had the better reputation. On defense the difference between the two players is clear and favors Muggsy Bogues.
Muggsy Bogues vs Spud Webb: Who Was Better Overall?
Muggsy Bogues was better than Spud Webb. Both players had ridiculous NBA careers for players of their size. Muggsy was clearly the better player on defense while the comparison on offense is really close. Their career stats are close but mostly favor Muggsy Bogues. Despite being shorter at 5’3” to Spud Webb’s 5’6”, Muggsy Bogues was the better player.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.