Hard Work Over Height: The Shortest NBA Players in History


| LAST UPDATE 10/20/2021

By Felicia Brown

When it comes to basketball, most players tend to tower over the rest of us, standing at over six feet tall. But for a select few NBA legends, their height wasn't in their favor. Check out some of the shortest players in NBA history.

Allen Iverson: 6'0" (1.83m)

Listed at six feet tall, Allen Iverson's considered one of the NBA's shorter players, believe it or not. This legend's best known for his incredible speed, average points scored per game, and his lack of fear on the court.

Allen Iverson Shortest NBA PlayersAllen Iverson Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Mansoor Ahmed

Iverson was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the first-round pick in the 1996 NBA draft. He later played for the Denver Nuggets and a few others. Today, Iverson's known as an 11-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion.

Kemba Walker: 6'0" (1.83m)

Kemba Walker's another NBA player to be considered short with his height listed at 6'0". However, in 2019, he revealed, "My real height came out a few weeks ago, and I'm 5'11". Regardless, Walker's considered an incredible player, ever since his legendary days playing for the UConn Huskies.

Kemba Walker Shortest NBA PlayersKemba Walker Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Streeter Lecka

He led the team to victory during his junior year, but left UConn early to pursue an NBA career, and signed with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011. He was the first rookie from his draft class to sign a multi-year shoe deal with Under Armour. Currently, he plays for the Boston Celtics and was named an All-Star player last season.

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Terrell Brandon: 5'11" (1.80m)

Terrell Brandon's another player who doesn't appear short to the average person, but he certainly wasn't the tallest on the court. He was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 11th pick of the 1991 draft but didn't get much playing time at first. After a few years, though, Brandon became an asset to the team.

Terrell Brandon Shortest NBA PlayersTerrell Brandon Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Jerry Holt/Star Tribune

The 1995-96 season was monumental for Brandon, as he became a starter, averaging 19.3 points and 6.4 assists each game. The star point guard was eventually traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Minnesota Timberwolves. By the time he retired, Terrell had averaged 13.8 points and 6.1 assists per game.

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Ty Lawson: 5'11" (1.80m)

As the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets during his first season in 2009, Ty Lawson was a force to be reckoned with from the start. He brought incredible talent to the court, especially in the 2013-14 season when he played the best ball of his entire career.

Ty Lawson Shortest NBA PlayersTy Lawson Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Thearon W. Henderson/Contributor

Lawson averaged 17.6 points and 8.8 assists per game during that season. He eventually left the Nuggets to play for the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and a few other teams. After his NBA career came to an end, Lawson continued playing in China, where he still refused to let his height impact his game.

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John Lucas III: 5'11" (1.80m)

From the moment he first stepped onto his high school's basketball court, it was clear that John Lucas III was destined to make it big, even though he would be one of the shorter players. He thrived while playing at Baylor University and then transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he continued to dominate college hoops.

John Lucas III Shortest NBA PlayersJohn Lucas III Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Hannah Foslien

After playing in college, John went undrafted in the 2005 NBA draft but eventually signed with the Houston Rockets. He'd been called up from the Tulsa 66ers, making him the first Tulsa player to get brought up from the NBA Development League. John bounced around many teams but finished his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Craig 'Speedy' Claxton: 5'11" (1.80m)

Craig Claxton, better known as Speedy Claxton, was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000, after a successful few seasons at Hofstra University. But things didn't go as planned for Speedy; He missed his rookie season because of a knee injury, and he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs.

Speedy Claxton Shortest NBA PlayersSpeedy Claxton Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Icon Sports Wire

The 2005-06 season was his time to shine, as Claxton played for the New Orleans Hornets, averaging 12.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, and he played a total of 71 games that season. Considering he only started three games, Claxton showed pretty impressive stats and was a talented shooter for a 5'11" player.

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J.J. Barea: 5'10" (1.78m)

J.J. Barea was the seventh Puerto Rican player to join the NBA when he signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. Standing just under six feet tall, Barea was one of Dallas' top three-point scorers and was ranked eighth in assists, making him a crucial part of Dallas' 2011 title team.

J.J. Barea Shortest NBA PlayersJ.J. Barea Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Jonathan Bachman

He was the first to admit that he used to laugh when the game announcer said he was six feet tall; "Me and about 20,000 other people in the arena knew that was a lie," Barea joked. "I'm 5'10" on a good day." And evidently, most of his days on the court were good days, as Barea took the NBA by storm.

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Brevin Knight: 5'10" (1.78m)

Between 1997 and 2009, Brevin Knight played for nine different NBA teams, starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers and ending with the Utah Jazz. This 5'10" point guard played his best overall season for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2005-2006, when he averaged 12.6 points and 8.8 assists each game.

Brevin Knight Shortest NBA PlayersBrevin Knight Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Ronald Martinez

Clearly, he didn't let his height impact his game, even though he was quite a bit shorter than most of the other men on the court. Knight revealed, "It just allows me to get around the court maybe a little bit easier, sneak between some guys, try to get as many steals as possible."

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Damon Stoudamire: 5'10" (1.78m)

Being on the shorter end for the NBA, Damon Stoudamire "doesn't care who you are or how big you are - he just keeps pounding away at you," said Toronto point guard Alvin Robertson. Damon set the record for most three-pointers scored by a rookie during his first season with the Toronto Raptors at the time.

Damon Stoudamire Shortest NBA PlayersDamon Stoudamire Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Otto Greule Jr

Damon was a top scorer during all three seasons he played in Toronto, and then he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he continued to dominate. Stoudamire went on to play for two other NBA teams and averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game by the end of his career.

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Avery Johnson: 5'10" (1.78m)

Avery Johnson, better known as The Little General, dominated the college basketball world, setting an all-time NCAA record for an average of 13.3 assists per game. However, after graduation from Cameron University, the 1988 NBA draft didn't go very well for him, as most teams didn't select Johnson because of his height.

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Getty Images via The Sporting News

So, he started off with just temporary contracts for multiple teams until he had his big break with the San Antonio Spurs in 1994. After winning the NBA championship in 1999, Johnson had undoubtedly made his mark in this city and proved that his height could never hold him back.

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Chris Garner: 5'10" (1.78m)

Another NBA player standing at 5'10," Chris Garner had a rocky start to his career. After playing at the collegiate level for the University of Memphis, Garner didn't get much playing time as the Toronto Raptors' backup point guard during his first few years in the NBA.

Chris Garner Shortest NBA PlayersChris Garner Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Tommy Cheng/contributor

After the 1997-98 season in Toronto, Chris switched to the CBA for two seasons. He then played one season for the Memphis Houn'Dawgs in the ABA. Even though he wasn't the tallest player on the court, this baller never stopped working hard and eventually reached great success.

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Khalid El-Amin: 5'10" (1.78m)

Before entering the NBA, Khalid El-Amin was an absolute legend during his days of playing for the UConn Huskies. He may only be 5'10," but he led his team to victory in the NCAA tournament. After college, he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and was chosen over numerous players who were quite taller than him.

Khalid El-Amin Shortest NBA PlayersKhalid El-Amin Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via City-Press

In 2002 Khalid moved overseas, playing over 10 seasons with international teams. While playing in Ukraine in 2006, Khalid won the league championship and was named MVP. "He's just a hard-nosed, gritty, aggressive player," said Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Fox. "He didn't let his size get in his way."

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Tyus Edney: 5'10" (1.78m)

After his glory days playing for UCLA, Tyus Edney began his NBA career in 1995 when he was selected by the Sacramento Kings during the second round of the draft. He played in Sacramento for two seasons before moving to the Boston Celtics and eventually the Indiana Pacers.

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Getty Images via Jonathan Daniel

Until Nate Robinson came into the spotlight, Edney was the shortest man to ever play for the Celtics, but clearly, his height didn't hold him back. Even after his time came to an end in the NBA, Edney continued to thrive while playing for various European teams.

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Andre Barrett: 5'10" (1.78m)

Starting his career as a free agent, Andre Barrett signed with the New York Knicks in 2004. However, the Knicks decided not to keep Andre after a few weeks, so he was traded to the Houston Rockets and later the Orlando Magic. He continued to bounce around the NBA throughout his career.

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Getty Images via Regina Hoffman

Barrett concluded his NBA reign with the Chicago Bulls and finished with an average of 3.3 points and 2 assists per game, after playing 67 NBA games total. But he didn't give up the game for good; Andre continued playing for another club and succeeded during his time with the Austin Toros.

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Michael Adams: 5'10" (1.78m)

5'10" point guard Michael Adams didn't have the smoothest transition from college hoops to the big leagues. After signing with the Sacramento Kings during the third round of the 1985 draft, Adams only played 18 games and was eventually released from the team.

Michael Adams Shortest NBA PlayersMichael Adams Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Focus on Sport

He moved from team to team until signing with the Denver Nuggets, where Michael had his best season. Despite his height, Adams scored an average of 26.5 points and 10.5 assists per game as Denver's starting point guard during the 1990-91 season. Overall, he finished his career averaging 14.7 points and 6.4 assists each game.

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Tremont Waters: 5'10" (1.77m)

After a successful few years playing at Louisiana State University, Tremont Waters was selected by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2019 draft. The team was drawn to him because of his high-scoring games and impressive defense, so they had high hopes for the 5'10" rookie.

Tremont Waters Shortest NBA PlayersTremont Waters Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Adam Glanzman

While he hasn't had much playing time with the Celtics just yet, Tremont's shown a great deal of potential in college ball and the NBA G League. At 22-years-old, Waters is only at the beginning of his NBA career, so he'll hopefully have a lot more in store for the future.

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Chris Clemons: 5'9" (1.75m)

During his college basketball career at Campbell University, Chris Clemons scored enough points to rank third in NCAA history. He scored an average of 24.8 points per game, standing at only 5'9". However, Clemons went undrafted in the 2019 NBA draft but spent the summer playing for the Houston Rockets on an Exhibit 10 contract.

Chris Clemons Shortest NBA PlayersChris Clemons Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Kim Klement/Pool

Houston was greatly impressed by what Chris brought to the court, so they proudly welcomed him to the team for the following season. During his first game with the Rockets, Chris scored 16 points, making Houston incredibly proud. He's currently the shortest player on the team, but clearly, that hasn't stopped him.

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Kay Felder: 5'9" (1.75m)

Some might think that being under 5'9" is a disadvantage in the NBA, but Kay Felder used his height to his advantage during his successful career. Many college teams passed on Felder because they thought he was too short to be on the court, but he eventually proved them wrong.

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Getty Images via Jason Miller

He signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2016-17 season and was eventually traded to a few other teams in the league. He later went on to play professionally in China, and despite his height, "Kay gets into you, making contact, and then he can use his jumping ability," said former NBA player Austin Carr.

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Calvin Murphy: 5'9" (1.75m)

Even with a height of 5'9," Calvin Murphy was a shooting machine and spent his entire NBA career playing for the Houston Rockets. He truly dominated the court during the 1977-78 season, when he averaged 25.6 points per game, making Houston incredibly proud.

Calvin Murphy Shortest NBA PlayersCalvin Murphy Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Focus on Sport

After retiring from the NBA in 1983, Murphy was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame that same year for his 13 unbelievable seasons. Calvin finished his career with an average of 17.9 points and 4.4 assists per game and indeed proved to be an unstoppable point guard.

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Nate Robinson: 5'9" (1.75m)

After being selected as the 21st overall pick during the 2005 draft when he signed with the New York Knicks, Nate Robinson had his NBA debut. He played in New York until 2010, then moved on to the Boston Celtics, followed by a few other NBA teams later in his career.

Nate Robinson Shortest NBA PlayersNate Robinson Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Jonathan Daniel

This unbelievable point guard might only be 5'9," but he's learned to use his height to his advantage. "Taller guys don't think as fast on the fly, like shorter guys because everything that we do comes to us faster because we're moving so fast, and we've got to duck the trees," Robinson revealed.

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Tyler Ulis: 5'9" (1.75m)

When Tyler Ulis entered high school, he was only 5'3," but already, he showed incredible potential as a basketball player. By his junior year, he grew five inches and went on to play for the University of Kentucky, where he continued to thrive, leading to his NBA debut.

Tyler Ulis Shortest NBA PlayersTyler Ulis Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Christian Petersen

Tyler was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2016 and made an effort to never let his height impact his performance. "Seven footers get drafted based on their size. Guys like me and Isaiah (Thomas), guys like that are drafted off what we produce, what we've done on the court day in and day out," Ulis explained.

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Isaiah Thomas: 5'9" (1.75m)

While this NBA Star's considered one of the shorter players in the league, at 5'9," Isaiah Thomas has thrived as a point guard, despite his height. He's played for the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, and a few other teams throughout his successful career.

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Getty Images via Tom Pennington

Thomas was selected for the All-NBA Team in 2017 and has been unstoppable ever since he entered the court. He even joked about his height, saying, "I'm a little guy... So unless you're a huge basketball fan, you're probably not going to recognize me around town."

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Yuta Tabuse: 5'9" (1.73m)

5'9" Yuta Tabuse was the first Japanese-born player to appear in an NBA game. He started off playing professional basketball in Japan but left in 2003 to play for the Dallas Mavericks in the summer league, and then the Denver Nuggets' training camp. Yuta finally had his big break in the NBA in 2004.

Yuta Tabuse Shortest NBA PlayersYuta Tabuse Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Lisa Blumenfeld

He signed with the Phoenix Suns and played an incredible first game, scoring seven points in 10 minutes. Tabuse was released after four games, so he went to the L.A. Clippers but was quickly waved. Not only was he the first Japanese-born NBA player, but he was also one of the shortest players in the league, making history.

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Charlie Criss: 5'8" (1.73m)

Charlie Criss was one of the few 5'8" men to play in the NBA, so he had big shoes to fill to compete against his much taller teammates and opponents. He played college ball at New Mexico State University but didn't make his NBA debut until his late 20's and was considered pretty old for a rookie.

Charlie Criss Shortest NBA PlayersCharlie Criss Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Focus on Sport

After a few years in the CBA, Charlie signed with the Atlanta Hawks and debuted his eight-year NBA career. He was the shortest active player at the time and averaged 11 points and 108 steals per game as a rookie. Criss was eventually traded to the San Diego Clippers, and then the Milwaukee Bucks, where he helped lead his team to victory.

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Keith Jennings: 5'7" (1.70m)

In a sport that's made up of mostly incredibly tall athletes, Keith Jennings was shorter than most at 5'7". But this didn't stop him; He was a two-time All-American player in high school and showed extraordinary potential. Jennings was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1992 and had a phenomenal rookie season.

Keith Jennings Shortest NBA PlayersKeith Jennings Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Simon Barnett

As the newbie on the court, Keith averaged 8.5 points in 17 minutes per game for over eight games during his first season. After playing 164 total NBA games, Jennings traveled overseas to play on international teams, mostly in France. No matter where he played, this baller never let his height stop him from scoring.

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Greg Grant: 5'7" (1.70m)

Greg Grant wasn't always on the path to professional basketball; In high school, he spent his afternoons working in a fish market and playing basketball. When it came time for college, he wasn't offered any scholarships, so he started off playing for a division three school. "Maybe they thought I was too small," Grant recalled.

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Getty Images via Stephen Dunn

He eventually transferred to The College of New Jersey, where he gained the attention of multiple NBA scouts and was then drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1989. After one season, he was traded to the New York Knicks, along with a few other teams, and finished his career with the Denver Nuggets.

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Spud Webb: 5'7" (1.70m)

Anthony Jerome Webb, better known as Spud, never failed to impress the crowd with his slam dunks, despite his height, which is only 5'7". He played on the high school basketball team, but no colleges were interested in him. But Spud was determined to make it big, so he went to Midland Junior College and played basketball.

Spud Webb Shortest NBA PlayersSpud Webb Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Tim Defrisco

After becoming a key player there, Spud transferred to North Carolina State, and then he signed with the Detroit Pistons in 1985, but they released him shortly after. So, Webb finally made his NBA debut with the Atlanta Hawks. Spud's commonly remembered in the NBA for his victory in the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest.

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Monte Towe: 5'7" (1.70m)

Before Monte Towe was a highly-respected college basketball coach, he was one of the NBA's shortest yet most memorable players. Towe played for North Carolina State University, where he led the team to an NCAA championship and started 86 consecutive games. "No one was more competitive," said his former teammate Gary Stokan.

Monte Towe Shortest NBA PlayersMonte Towe Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Mark Junge

"Monte was one of the most competitive players I've ever played with ore against," he added. Former North Carolina State coach Norm Sloan described Monte as "the sawed-off point guard who was the heart of our team." He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1975 but later transitioned from playing to coaching.

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Earl Boykins: 5'5" (1.65m)

As the second shortest NBA player, Earl Boykins had his work cut out to establish himself on the court. He played college ball at Eastern Michigan University and had the second-highest scoring average of 26.8 points per game, and EMU eventually retired Earl's jersey number as no other player could compare.

Earl Boykins Shortest NBA PlayersEarl Boykins Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via The Sporting News

He couldn't lock in a long-term NBA contract at first, so Boykins bounced around until the Denver Nuggets signed a five-year contract in the 2003-04 season. He was later traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Charlotte Bobcats. Earl's level of confidence and lack of fear set him apart from other - often taller - players.

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Tyrone Curtis 'Muggsy' Bogues: 5'3" (1.60m)

Tyrone Curtis Bogues, better known as Muggsy, was the shortest man to ever play in the NBA. Growing up, Bogues had a love for basketball, but he always felt the need to prove himself because of his height. Clearly, his determination paid off, as he played at Wake Forest, and "it changed my life completely," he revealed.

Muggsy Bogues Shortest NBA PlayersMuggsy Bogues Shortest NBA Players
Getty Images via Doug Pensinger

He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1987, and the rest was history. Muggsy will forever be seen as an NBA legend, and he proudly ended his career with the Toronto Raptors in 2001. "A guy my size wanting to pursue a game that was supposed to be meant for the big guys," said Muggsy. "That was a special, special moment."

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