Do what you want, not what you’re told

“Don’t let people tell you what you can or can’t do with your life. Do what you want to do. You can be whatever you want to be!”  This was the inspiring message of former Charlotte Hornet basketball player Muggsy Bogues to students at Harding University High School.

“If I listened to people that said I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Bogues told the students. “I never doubted myself in playing basketball because of my height. Everyone else doubted me.”

Bogues spoke at Harding through a partnership between his charity, Always Believe, and Everfi, an education technology company focused on teaching, assessing, badging and certifying students in critical skills.

Students in Sallie Davis’ African-American history class have been using the Everfi program 306 African-American History. Through the online lessons, students learn about the struggles of African-Americans. Bogues came to Harding to tell the students about his struggles and that it takes perseverance to achieve your goals.

“I loved Muggsy’s vibe in the classroom,” said Davis.  “The students were attentive and truly listened to his life story because most of my students can personally relate. I think so many of my students have heard the words ‘no’ or ‘you can’t’ for so long that they have started to believe that it truly is their reality. His speech re-sparked their want to become leaders, scholar and professional and not take no or can’t when someone else is talking about their future.”

Bogues, who grew up in urban Baltimore, was shot at the age of five. He told the students he didn’t have the “Leave It to Beaver” childhood, but he persevered. Hetold the students that he was always being told he couldn’t make it in basketball because of his short stature.

“I like that Muggsy Bogues grew up a lot like me, but never let his situation or surroundings define him,” said sophomore Stephanie Johnson. “He knew what he wanted from his life than to live in the projects, so he made sure that he worked hard and never took no for answer. That is how I live my life. I will go to college and become someone who can say, ‘Yes, I am from the poor section of town, but I am a successful woman!’”

Despite a tough upbringing and being only 5 feet 3 inches tall, Bogues went on to attend Wake Forest and play basketball. After graduating with his bachelor of arts, he was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1987. After playing one year in Washington, Bogues was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the expansion draft. He settled in Charlotte and stayed here when he went on to play for other teams in the NBA.

“It’s great to understand who came before us,” said Bogues. “This program is very, very important. Everfi provides information that is important. Information is the key. The more information we obtain the better it will be for you. Academics are the key. It is the most important. Sports are short term. It should be a backup plan because it will end.”

Bogues’ message of don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do wasn’t lost on the students.

“Muggsy inspired me to be in charge of my own destiny,” said sophomore Maiya Brown. “My surrounding will not define me and I will not accept anything less than the best for me and my surroundings.”