The obvious advantage that height gives basketball players means that the NBA is nearly completely filled with extremely tall men. While 99% of American men are 6’4″ or shorter, the average height of an NBA player is 6’7″. However, there have been a small number of short players that have played, and succeeded, in basketball’s most competitive league. Here are the shortest players to ever play.
1. Charlie Criss, 5’8″
Charlie Criss is one of only 23 players to go pro in the NBA while measuring 5’9” or under. His feat is doubly impressive as he made his first pro appearance at the relatively old age of 28 for the Atlanta Hawks.
2. Spud Webb, 5’7″
While some of the players on our list were fairly low-key, Webb had a long and illustrious career. He played 814 games in the NBA, averaging 9.9 points a game from 1985 to 1998 and even became the shortest player to win the NBA slam-dunk contest.
3. Monte Towe, 5’7″
Being a 5’7” point guard meant that Towe faced a lot of scepticism in the mid-seventies. Guarding players that stood a full two feet over him proved no challenge, however, and he quickly became a key member of the Denver Nuggets before moving onto coaching.
4. Wataru Misaka, 5’7″
Wataru Misaka is probably the most remarkable basketball player you’ve never heard of. During WWII, the Japanese-American was in an American high school. He served in the US army in Hiroshima, facing discrimination from the natives for being an apparent Japanese traitor, earned a degree then became the first non-white player in the NBA.
5. Herm Klotz, 5’7″
Known for his bright red hair and small stature, Klotz earned a place on the Baltimore Bullets in 1947 before embarking on a basketball-building empire. He created the Washington Generals to play the Harlem Globetrotters from the Philadelphia Sphas.
6. Keith Jennings, 5’7″
Jennings joined the Golden State Warriors in 1992 with a rough-and-ready approach to stealing rebounds, playing until in the NBA until 1995. He then moved across Europe, playing for teams in Russia and France.
7. Greg Grant, 5’7″
Grant was another short player that managed to impress coaches with his dedication to the match. Over his long career he played for the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.
8. Mel Hirsch, 5’6″
Hirsch is the most elusive member of the short player’s club, with very little information surviving from the time when the NBA was still the Basketball Association of America. In 1946, after a stint in the armed forces, Mel Hirsch played 13 games for the Boston Celtics then quietly retired.
9. Earl Boykins, 5’5″
The NBA’s second shortest player ever earned his place by sheer determination alone. Playing the sport since the age of three, Boykins failed to get signed to a team after leaving college in 1998 but appeared through a number of short term contracts. Finally, in 2009 he earned his first permanent NBA spot and was signed to the Washington Wizards.
10. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, 5’3″
Muggsy earned the dubious honour of becoming basketball’s shortest player after finishing college in 1987, playing in an impressive 14 full seasons. Of course, his biggest achievement is his appearance alongside other basketball greats Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny in the 1996 film Space Jam.