Think football players are big? You ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve checked out the official heights of NBA players.
As of around 10 years ago (when teams were still measuring players in shoes), the average NBA player officially clocked in at a towering 6’7”!
But can shorter players be any good at basketball? And who are the shortest NBA players of all time?
It’s easy to see why height is a huge advantage in basketball.
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The net is pretty high up in the air. The closer you are to the net, the easier it can be to score, block and grab rebounds. There’s no mystery here.
But there have been plenty of short-statured guys to take the league by storm, zigging when everyone else was zagging, getting low and weaving around their lumbering opponents to rack up points, steals and assists.
The 13 Shortest NBA Players of All Time
Let's get into to the list, in no particular order…
1. Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues
You can’t have any list of incredible short athletes without including Muggsy.
Not only is he officially the shortest NBA player of all time, standing over a foot shorter than pretty much everyone else on the court — he was pretty damn good!
His low leverage helped him become a great ball stealer and passer. Over 14 seasons in the NBA, Bogues averaged a stunning 7.6 assists per game. For reference, a guy like Kawhi Leonard has averaged around 6 for his career.
2. Earl Boykins
Though he would have “towered” over Muggsy by a whole 2 inches, Boykins might grab the honor of being the smallest NBA player ever; he weighed only about 133 pounds in his playing days.
Despite his slight frame being a little out of place in such a physical game, Boykins is the shortest player in NBA history to ever score more than 30 points in a game.
3. Mel Hirsch
Hirsch held the honorable title of shortest pro basketball player ever for decades until Muggsy Bogues came along to take the throne, competing for just one season in the Basketball Association of America.
He may not have racked up many impressive career statistics, but he was an important trailblazer in what would eventually become the NBA.
4. Greg Grant
Playing at just 5’7” and about 140 pounds, Grant was a Division III standout at The College of New Jersey before being drafted by the Phoenix Suns.
A career journeyman, Grant posted up against players nearly twice his size for 9 years and 6 different NBA teams. Not a bad career for one of the smallest guys on the court.
5. Louis Herman “Red” Klotz
Red only played for one year in the NBA — no small accomplishment for a 5’7” guy — but it’s what he did after his primetime days were over that makes him noteworthy.
You know those jobber teams whose sole purpose is to play against (and usually lose to) the Harlem Globetrotters? They were (and are again, after a brief hiatus) called the Washington Generals, and Klotz was a founding member who played in the games until he was 68 years old — even winning once or twice!
6. Wataru Misaka
Wataru Misaka’s impact on the game of basketball was anything but small, though he stood at only 5’7”. When he was drafted by the New York Nicks in the 1947 draft, he became the first non-white player and first Asian player in the league.
Misaka only played in a few games and scored fewer than 10 career points, but he made his mark. Just a few years later, the first African American player debuted in what was then called the Basketball Association of America.
7. Monte Towe
Another 5’7” guy — what’s the big deal?
Well, not only did the sub-six-foot Towe carve out a multi-year career as a point guard, the dude invented the alley-oop!
That’s right. Along with teammate David Thompson, Towe came up with the now-legendary move to combat the ban on dunking at the time.
He may not have had a lot of height, but major props to Towe for his ingenuity.
8. Keith Russell “Mister” Jennings
Coaches and league execs doubted Jennings’ ability to play at the next level. As a result, he went undrafted and was forced to enter the NBA as a free agent.
He got his chance with the Golden State Warriors, and boy did he make the most of it.
Though his career only lasted a few years, Jennings will be remembered for his breakout performance in one of his final game appearances: 23 points and 10 assists, an outrageous stat line for an undrafted 5’7” point guard.
9. Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb
Oh, Lebron James made another highlight reel dunk? That’s cool.
Spud Webb won the whole NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986, and he’s only 5’7”!
Only two players under six feet have ever won (we’ll get to the other one soon), so it was a huge shock to the NBA world at the time when Spud busted out some truly insane moves to win in a landslide.
(The guy he beat, Dominique Wilkins, was a monstrous 6’8”.)
10. Calvin Murphy
Though standing at only 5’9”, Calvin Murphy was a beast on the court.
He set records with his free-throw percentage, averaged nearly 18 points per game and played for over a decade.
Not just “good for a short guy,” Murphy played his way into the Basketball Hall of Fame — the shortest player ever to do so.
11. Nate Robinson
Robinson came into the league as a first round pick and lived up to the billing for over a decade.
His long NBA career is impressive enough given he stands nearly a foot shorter than many of his opponents, but what’s even cooler is that Robinson sought out personal slam dunk training from the original himself: 5’7” Spud Webb.
In 2006, Robinson became the second player under six feet to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and is now a three-time champion.
12. Chris Paul
Six-foot tall guys like Chris Paul wouldn’t be considered short in too many places, but the basketball court is one of them.
He may not stack up height-wise to the real heroes like Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb, but Paul has authored an absolutely dominant career despite standing a head shorter than most of his contemporaries.
Here are a few noteworthy achievements: Nine-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 2006, led the league in assists four times, led the league in steals six times and currently shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
13. Allen Iverson
Before Iverson, the NBA world hadn’t seen anyone this short be this good.
Remember, Iverson’s six-foot frame puts him a good eight inches below the average player. But even the most vertically-gifted players in the league would be jealous of Iverson’s trophy case.
He won a coveted MVP award in 2001, was named to the All-Star Team 11 times and led the league in steals and scoring three and four times, respectively.
That’s what a short guy dominating the taller competition looks like.
Pro basketball is a tall man’s game, there’s no getting around it.
But shorter players have some interesting advantages when they’re quick, aggressive and willing to play bigger than their size.
And hey, if a 5’7” guy can win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, then there’s absolutely nothing that your height should ever hold you back from.
Who are some great under-appreciated NBA players under six feet tall? Tell us below!