If you’ve ever watched even a snippet of an NBA game, you’ll quickly notice that it’s a sport dominated by those with exceptional height. While the average American male is 5 ft. 9 in. tall (1.76 m), the average NBA player is a staggering 6 ft. 7 in. (2 m). Even so, from time to time, you’ll spot a player with average, and even below average height, dribbling between the other sky-scraping players. Here are 5 of the shortest basketball players to dribble their way to the NBA, proving that on the court, size doesn’t matter.
Isiah Thomas- 6’1” (1.85 m)
While Thomas is the tallest player on this list, the, now retired, Detroit Pistons point guard was definitely shorter than his fellow teammates. His college basketball coach, Bob Knight, would refer to him as “Pee Wee” because of his relatively short stature. That may have been true, but Thomas would eventually become a 12-time NBA All-Star, who is recognized as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and also an also an inductee of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Allen Iverson- 6’0” (1.83 m)
Iverson, also known as “The Answer”, was a true all-star. In high-school he was both a talented football and basketball player. When he decided to pursue basketball in college, he quickly made a name for himself becoming a record-setting shooter, and a skilled defensive player earning the title of Defensive Player of the Year both years he attended. He could do it all. Iverson played in the NBA for 14 seasons as both a point guard, and a shooting guard. He was one of the most proficient scorers in NBA history, averaging 26.7 points per game ranking him 7th all-time. He is a 11-time NBA All-Star, who won two All-Star game MVP awards (2001, 2005), and was NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2001. All his accomplishments got him inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a 2004 Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist. At only 6 ft tall, he paved his way to become a basketball LEGEND.
Anthony “Spud” Webb- 5’7” (1.70 m)
Basketball scouts recognized Webb’s talent, but because of his height, predicted that he’d play for the Harlem Globetrotters, or one of the European Leagues. They were obviously wrong, as he had a successful 12 season-long career in the NBA, playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic. Throughout his career the “Spud” played 814 games, averaging 9.9 points per game, and registering 8,072 points and 4,342 assists. He was known for his extraordinary vertical jump of 42 in (1.06 m). His most memorable achievement; however, was winning the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, despite being one of the shortest players in NBA history.
Earl Boykins- 5’5” (1.65 m)
Following Muggsy Bogues, in the ranks, Boykins is the second-shortest player in NBA history. As a teenager, Boykins played high school basketball at Cleveland Central Catholic High School. Averaging 24.6 points per game, he was ranked the best Cleveland-area high school basketball player of the 90s. As an NBA player, Boykins appeared in 10 different jerseys, playing for 10 teams in his 14-year long career-. He played for the LA Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets), Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), and the Denver Nuggets (2003-2007), the team with which he experience the most success. After his retirement he became the head coach for the Douglas County High School varsity basketball team.
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues- 5’3” (1.60 m)
Mugsy is the shortest player to ever play in the NBA, but he used every bit of his 5 ft. to its fullest. During his 14-seasons in the league he played point guard for 4 different teams. Bogues blocked an impressive 39 shots throughout his NBA career, including his most memorable one on Patrick Ewing who is 7’ ft (2.13 m) tall . Muggsy reportedly had a incredible 44-inch (110 cm) vertical leap, but his hands were too short to grip the ball to complete a one-handed dunk . He’s ranked the 16th all-time assists leader. After he retired he too continued his career in the sport, as the head coach of Charlotte Sting in the WNBA. Despite Bogues’ short stature, he was able to dominate on the court, becoming an NBA super star.
Mel Hirsch – 5’6″ (1.68 m)
At 5’6” (1.68) tall, Hirsch was the shortest player to play in the NBA until Muggsy Bogues was drafted to the league over 40 years later. He still holds the record for the 3rd shortest player in the league after Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins. He played the position of point guard for the Boston Celtics in the Basketball Association of America (which would later become the NBA). Before his debut as a pro player, he was he a stand-out college basketball player and a US Army Air Corps Navigator. Sadly, Hirsch died from leukemia, in December 1968, at the young age of 47. Although he only played 13 games in the 1946-2947 season, he gets an honorable mention for breaking the glass ceiling, by showing the league, and the world, that they should not overlook the players on the lower side of the measuring stick.