LYNCHBURG, Tenn. – Like everyone else, Muggsy Bogues and Robert Horry can’t help but talk about LeBron. Like everyone else, they have their own thoughts about where James should play. But like everyone else, Bogues and Horry have to admit they have no idea what LeBron is going to do. Staring across from each other at a dinner in the Motlow House adjacent to the Jack Daniel’s distillery, the two NBA fixtures make their case.
“If he wants to win,” Bogues says, “he’s got to go to Houston. Join Chris and Harden. They were already that close this year.”
Horry pauses between bites to listen, then offers his rationale.
“Not LeBron,” Horry replies. “He can’t join anybody. He’s LeBron. He’s either got to build something in Los Angeles or stay in Cleveland and bring people to him.”
It’s a playful conversation, much more calm and steady than anything you’d see on Twitter or hear on sports talk radio, but Horry and Bogues can’t help themselves. LeBron is the talk of the offseason — even after being swept by the Warriors — and both former players have made it a priority to stay around the game as much as possible.
Bogues and Horry can’t see themselves leaving basketball, at least not permanently. Both have devoted plenty of time to their families and personal passion projects, but when you play a collective 30 seasons in the NBA, basketball is what you know and keep coming back to. Bogues holds youth camps in Charlotte and recently took on a position as an ambassador for the Hornets. Horry coaches AAU and is a Lakers analyst for Spectrum SportsNet. The pair frequently participate in NBA Cares events and travel to grow the game globally, whether that be in India, China, England, or elsewhere.
Answering the call is what brought Horry and Bogues to Tennessee the day after the 2018 NBA Draft to take part in the Jack Daniel’s NBA Legends Camp, where they went on a tour, met with master distiller Jeff Arnett, and coached up two teams during a skills competition in a repurposed church that now serves as the company’s rec facility (complete with a NBA-quality court).
Bogues and Horry gave the small town of Lynchburg star power, as anyone walking by (employees or otherwise) stopped, took pictures, shook hands, and whispered to themselves. Seemingly half the population of 600 was involved in some capacity over the course of the weekend, and while admittedly it was a different sort of experience from what Bogues and Horry are used to, they still seemed to enjoy themselves between family style Southern meals, tastings, and going one-on-one in their own skills challenge (Bogues won). The event was yet another test for the NBA as it continues to try to leverage those league partnerships for maximum effect.
As with anything else the NBA does these days, the question they want to answer is always the same: “How can we grow the game?”