The stature of professional athletes is one of the easiest things to point out, especially in professional basketball when there are giants standing out there. But some players receive more jokes than they deserve, yet they are no shorter than the average person.
The average height of a man in the United States is about 5-foot-9. So just think. All of those NBA players you see on the court are likely as tall, if not taller, than you are. Any current player around that mark is extremely talented, even if they aren't perennial MVP candidates.
There is no way a player could reach the peak of basketball at such a stature without having endless abilities like hitting free throws consistently or being reliable in the playoffs. But it also goes to show just how big players in the National Basketball Association are when the shortest NBA players look like children, even though they are completely normal sized humans. Heck, the tallest NBA players even tower over NFL players and have grown substantially since the ABA days.
Just remember, if any of these players were to show up to one of your rec league games, they wouldn't even stand out as short. And they definitely wouldn't be picked on for their size. Without further ado, here are the shortest NBA players to ever step on the court, led by the one and only Muggsy Bogues.
Muggsy Bogues: 5-foot-3
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As the shortest player in NBA history, Tyrone Muggsy Bogues stood just three inches above five feet tall. No matter what era he played in, he looked tiny. But that didn't stop him from straight up ballin'.
During his 14-year career, Muggsy averaged 7.7 points and 7.6 assists. My favorite stat is his career average of 2.6 rebounds per game and his career-best 4.1 rebounds per game during the 1993-94 season with the Charlotte Hornets. One of the best pictures in league history has to be Bogues next to his Washington Bullets teammate, Manute Bol, who stood at 7-feet and 7-inches tall. Bol also played with Greg Grant on the Philadelphia 76ers. Grant stood just 5-foot-7.
He was drafted with the 12th overall pick by the Washington Bullets and was taken in the expansion draft by Charlotte the following season. He also spent time with the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
Earl Boykins: 5-foot-5
Easily the smallest player I have ever watched during my lifetime, Earl Boykins legitimately looked like a child compared to some of the taller players in the NBA. For a guy who is just a few inches shorter than the nation-wide average, Boykins always looked tiny and was the second-shortest player in league history.
During his 13-year career, Boykins played for 10 different NBA teams with his longest tenure coming with the Denver Nuggets for four seasons. He played over one-third of his career games in the Mile High City, averaging 12.1 points and four assists. He also played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.
Mel Hirsch: 5-foot-6
— Brooklyn College Alumni Engagement (@BkCollegeAlumni) October 22, 2021
Playing for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association of America during the 1946-47 season, Hirsch is just one of three players in the history of the league shorter than five feet and seven inches tall. Over 70 years ago, Hirsch probably wasn't all that short compared to most people.
Spud Webb: 5-foot-7
Just imagine Isaiah Thomas winning a dunk contest. It almost seems impossible, but Spud Webb was one of the best at dunking in the '80s when he won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Webb is one of the most famous players in Atlanta Hawks history, playing seven of his 12 seasons in Atlanta. He averaged 9.9 points and 5.3 assists during his career. He also played for four seasons with the Sacramento Kings as well as with the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Calvin Murphy: 5-foot-7
Probably the best small player in league history played his entire 12-year NBA career for the Houston Rockets organization after being drafted by and playing his rookie season for the San Diego Rockets basketball team. Calvin Murphy is the shortest player enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he averaged 17.9 points over the course of his career. He is third in franchise history in scoring behind Hakeem Olajuwan and James Harden.
During the 1977-78 season, Murphy averaged 25.6 points per game and followed that up with his only NBA All-Star Game appearance the next season.
Nate Robinson: 5-foot-9
Maybe the only little basketball player who was as electrifying as Spud Webb was Nate Robinson. During his 11-season career, he played for eight teams but most famously won three NBA Dunk Contests. His best season as a scorer came during the 2008-09 season with the New York Knicks when he averaged 17.2 points and 4.1 assists.
Robinson also played for the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans.
Shortest NBA Players: Best of the Rest
- Greg Grant: 5-foot-7
- Keith Jennings: 5-foot-7
- Red Klotz: 5-foot-7
- Wataru Misaka: 5-foot-7
- Monte Towe: 5-foot-7
- Charlie Criss: 5-foot-8
- Willie Somerset: 5-foot-8
- Dino Martin: 5-foot-8
- Kay Felder: 5-foot-9
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