Ever been told you can’t follow a dream because of something that’s a part of your makeup? It sucks, doesn’t it? Most people tend to give up at this point, but not the NBA players we are about to talk about. They make the list of the top 10 shortest NBA players of all time.
Traditionally, basketball is a tall person’s game. Players in NBA history have been as tall as 7 foot 7 inches, with 6 foot 7 being the average height. Therefore, any short player must have some spunk and a great deal of determination to succeed in the basketball world.
Regardless of the unspoken height rule, several players have defied the odds and gone on to build careers in basketball. Here’s a list of the ten shortest NBA players of all time!
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues at 5 feet 3 inches is the shortest NBA player ever
“Muggsy is a spark on offense and a real pest on defense. There is no higher compliment.”Spudd Webb, Retired NBA Player
Muggsy is officially the shortest NBA player of all time. Although he stands at the height of only 5’3″, the energetic player still managed to make a lot of strides in the NBA and even retained a spot in the movie Space Jam with Michael Jordan.
Muggsy began playing basketball in his neighborhood in Maryland as a teenager. Here, his friends gave him his nickname “Muggsy,” because he was so good at defense it seemed like he was mugging them off the ball.
After finishing at Wake Forest University in 1987, he was drafted as a professional player in the NBA. He went on to play an impressive 14 seasons, and his most notable position was playing guard for the Charlotte Hornets.
He was also teammates with the tallest NBA player in history. The late great Manute Bol was 7’7! At 5″3, Muggsy and Manute were a sight to see together on the court. When standing beside each other you could definitely see the polar opposites in sizing.
“Despite being the shortest basketball player in the nba, muggsy had what it takes to make an impact.”
Earl Boykins – 5’5″
“He told me he was so small growing up that he learned to dribble by using a tennis ball.”John U Bacon, Sports Writer
Boykins is 5’5 in height, but this did not slow him down in any way. Growing up, Earl was so good that Iowa university offered him a scholarship but took it back, probably because of his height. The incident did nothing to discourage the 5’5 player. Instead, Boykins went on to play for the Eagles team at Michigan University. He finished as the second-highest scorer nationally.
Record breaking skills
Even with his impressive record, he still did not get drafted into the NBA immediately. Eventually, though, he got to play for the Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, and Houston Rockets as one of the leagues shortest NBA players.
Boykins went on to win several awards. This was to be expected; after all, he was an incredibly fast player who could dunk with both hands. He was also named the 2009 EuroChallenge champion.
Melvin “Mel” Hirsch – 5’6″
“If Brooklyn had two or three more Mel Hirschs, the outcome might have been different, for Hirsch… was all over the floor, sneaking in for rebounds and intercepting an occasional pass.”The New York Times
5’6 foot Mel Hirsch joined the NBA in 1946, where he played for the Boston Celtics. Before this, Mel had played in Brooklyn College, which he graduated from in 1943. After graduation, Hirsch became a navigator in the air courts. As a part of the US Army, he played for the squadron’s officer’s basketball team.
When he joined the Basketball Association of America – now known as the NBA – in 1946, he played a total of 13 games in the first year. He was a pioneer in the game of basketball, and at that height, he proved to anyone that came after him that being tall isn’t everything!
Anthony “Spudd” Webb – 5’7“
“A satellite who could practically leap into orbit.”North Carolina State University
Spudd has put his mark on basketball through his jaw-dropping athletic ability. He inspired many young kids who lacked height that they can keep their hoop dreams alive through hard work. Spudd played a total of 814 games in the NBA! He played the game for several teams, including the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is also the shortest player to become the NBA slam dunk champion, which he won in 1986.
After retiring as a player, Webb continued in his passion, becoming president of basketball operations for the minor-league affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. Despite his short size, the NBA appreciated his footwork and perseverance not to let his shorter size affect his mental game.
Gregory “Greg” Alan Grant – 5’7“
“He’s a spark plug, a guy who can come off the bench and get the crowd involved and change the flow of it.”Jim Lynam, Manager
Grant was selected as the 52nd overall pick for the NBA draft in 1989. After being picked by Phoenix Suns in 1989, he played for the Philadelphia 67ers as a point guard in 1991.
One of Orlando’s shortest picks
He went on to sign with Orlando Magic in 1994. He is still fondly remembered for his high energy that he brought on the court. Although he is on the shorter end of most NBA players, Grant succeeded in making an impact on the court.
Louis “Red” Klotz – 5’7“
“Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Harlem Globetrotters have always had a dance partner, but I’ve always been dancing backwards.”Louis Klotz
Red joined the Baltimore Bullets in 1947. Fans remember him as a slightly-framed short man that had a mop of red hair. He played as a point guard for the NBA team before buying the Philadelphia Sphas in 1952. His new team, which he renamed the Washington Generals, has competed and gone on tour with Harlem Globetrotters for over 50 years.
A short NBA player with red hair
Louis will always be known for his combination of red hair and being on the shorter side of NBA players. Although Klotz wasn’t the tallest (or even medium sized) player on the court, it did not stop him from dominating in basketball and giving his best.
Interestingly, the Washington Generals have lost over 1300 games against the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1995, 24 years after they last won a game, Klotz changed their name to the New York Nationals for good luck, only to change it back in 2004. Louis Klotz is most famous as an ambassador of basketball and for spreading the love of the game.
Wataru “Wat” Misika – 5’7“
“It was an era of unlikely heroes, an epoch of special warriors in American history. Wataru Misaka was one of those who stepped up to be counted.”Mike Tupa, Sports Editor
Wataru was the first Asian-American to play in the NBA. He played for the Utah Utes at the University of Utah, then went on to win the 1944 NCAA championship. After serving two years in the army, he returned to the university and, with his team, won the National Invitation Tournament Championship. Eventually, he joined the New York Knicks in 1947, playing as a point guard. He was also added to the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Monte Towe – 5’7“
“He brought that attitude, that fight, that never-say-die attitude.”Dave Thompson, Basketball Player
After Towe joined the National Carolina State University in 1972, he attempted to enroll for the basketball team. Although he got in, his captain thought that he would be eaten alive. This proved to be wrong because, by 1974, he had helped his team to a national championship win!
Although Monte only played for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA championship between 1976 to 1977, he is celebrated for his brilliance on the court. He has since spent most of his career coaching several college teams to compete at professional levels.
Keith “Mister” Jennings – 5’7“
“I always felt that I played bigger than I was… I actually felt it was easier for me to play against bigger guys because I played inside and did not mind trying to battle for a rebound.”Keith Jennings, NBA Player
Keith Jennings has had a very colorful career. From immense criticisms to being on multiple international teams, Mister has given the basketball world a lot to talk about. Keith joined the Warriors as a point guard from 1992 to 1995. He also played for multiple international teams in different countries, including France, Russia, Germany, Spain and Turkey. After retiring from an active career, he went on to coach several teams in Tennessee and Virginia.
Charlie Criss – 5’8“
“Charlie is dynamite! When he gets on the court, things happen.”Hubie Brown, Retired Hall of Fame Coach
While Criss is not the only 5’8 player that has graced the courts of an NBA game, Criss’s story is exceptional. After he graduated from the University, Charlie got into the Continental Basketball Association, where he was the Most Valuable Player, twice voted. However, his dream was to always play in the NBA.
Being one of the shortest only boosted his motivation
Because Charlie did not give up, he joined the NBA in 1977 – seven years after he had graduated college. He was nicknamed the NBA’s smallest and oldest rookie, but that only fueled his passion!
Other 5’8″ NBA players include Willie Somerset and Don Martin.
These vibrant, albeit, small powerhouses are famous for making it in a tall man’s world. It is safe to say they have changed the approach to recruiting players for basketball. Now, aspiring talents and talent scouts do not underestimate players simply because they are not over six feet tall. Which of these short players is your favorite?