In today's NBA, the average height is 6'7". What's somewhat surprising is that players have continued to get bigger, stronger, and more skilled. The average height in the NBA twenty years ago (2003), though, was still 6'7".
We're not here to talk about height, though. Today, we're talking about the lack thereof. Not only have there been several undersized guys to play in the NBA, several of them had rather noteworthy careers.
Here are the shortest players to ever play in the NBA.
The Shortest Players Ever to Play in the NBA
1. Muggsy Bogues - 5'3"
Muggsy Bogues, born Tyrone Curtis Bogues on January 9, 1965, is a retired American basketball player who played in the NBA from 1987 to 2001. Despite his height, Bogues was a talented point guard and an excellent ball-handler, known for his speed, quickness, and passing abilities.
Bogues was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended Dunbar High School, where he played basketball alongside future NBA stars Reggie Williams, Reggie Lewis, and David Wingate. After a successful high school career, Bogues went on to play college basketball at Wake Forest University, where he set the NCAA record for career assists (the record has since been broken).
In 1987, Bogues was selected 12th overall in the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards). He played for the Bullets for four seasons before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 1991, where he spent the majority of his NBA career. He also played for the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and Dallas Mavericks before retiring in 2001.
Throughout his NBA career, Bogues was known for his impressive defensive skills, setting the record for the most steals by a player under 6 feet tall. He was also a fan favorite for his underdog status and his ability to compete at the highest level despite his height. After retiring from the NBA, Bogues went on to work as a coach and mentor, helping young players develop their skills and achieve their goals. His career was anything but small.
When looking back at Muggsy, one question that always seems to come up is, "Could Muggsy dunk?" Ironically, Bogues was asked that question back in 2000, to which he responded:
“I tipped one in college and dunked in high school. I can still touch the rim. I’ve always been a guy who has been able to get off my feet. I’ve still got a little hop to my game.”
So, for the record, Bogues never dunked in an NBA game. However, according to the man himself, it sounds like he certainly had the ability.
Muggsy has also written two books that I'll have to check out. The first was published in 1994, while the second came out in 2022. I loved The Boys of Dunbar, which was about Muggsy's high school team and made our list of best basketball books.
2. Earl Boykins - 5'5"
Earl Boykins played in the NBA from 1998 to 2012 at just 5'5". Despite his height, Boykins was a skilled point guard and a prolific scorer, known for his quickness, agility, and ability to get to the basket.
Boykins was born on June 2, 1976, in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Eastern Michigan University, where he played college basketball. After going undrafted in the 1998 NBA draft, Boykins signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Nets but was released before the start of the season. He then played briefly in the Continental Basketball Association before being signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999.
Boykins played for several NBA teams throughout his career, including the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, and Houston Rockets. He was known for his ability to score off the bench, and in 2004, he set a record for the most points scored in a game by a player under 6 feet tall, scoring 32 points for the Denver Nuggets against the Detroit Pistons.
Off the court, Boykins has been involved in various philanthropic and charitable endeavors, including founding the Boykins Basketball Academy, a youth basketball camp that teaches young players the fundamentals of the game. He has also been involved in community outreach programs and has worked to promote education and literacy in underserved communities.
Since retiring from professional basketball, Boykins has remained active in the sport, working as a coach and mentor to young players. He has also worked as a television analyst and commentator, providing insights and analysis on NBA games and players.
3. Mel Hirsch - 5'6"
Mel Hirsch played in the NBA during the 1946-47 season at 5'6". Despite his height, Hirsch was a skilled point guard, known for his quickness, ball-handling, and passing abilities.
Hirsch was born on March 17, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Brooklyn College, where he played college basketball. After graduating from college, Hirsch served in the US Army Air Corps as a Navigator.
He played in 13 games for Boston for 1946-47, averaging 1.5 points per game.
4. Monte Towe - 5'7"
Monte Towe is a retired American basketball player and coach. He played college basketball at North Carolina State University under coach Norm Sloan, and he is best known for being a key member of the school's 1974 NCAA championship team. Towe was listed at 5'7" (1.70 meters) tall, making him one of the shortest players in college basketball history at the time.
After graduating from North Carolina State in 1975, Towe played professionally in Europe before returning to the United States to pursue a coaching career. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Appalachian State University before joining the staff of his alma mater as an assistant under Sloan. Towe was part of the coaching staff that led North Carolina State to another NCAA championship in 1983, this time as an assistant to head coach Jim Valvano.
Towe went on to have a successful coaching career, serving as a head coach at several colleges, including the University of New Orleans, Louisiana Tech University, and Florida Gulf Coast University. He also worked as an assistant coach for several NBA teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Hornets.
Throughout his career, Towe was known for his high basketball IQ, his ability to develop players, and his dedication to the game. He remains a beloved figure in the North Carolina State basketball community and is considered one of the school's all-time greats.
4. Wat Misaka - 5'7"
Wat Misaka played in the NBA during the 1947-48 season. He is considered a pioneer in the sport, as he was the first person of Asian descent to play in the NBA. Misaka stood at 5'7" (1.70 meters) tall, making him one of the shortest players in NBA history.
Misaka was born on December 21, 1923, in Ogden, Utah, and attended the University of Utah, where he played college basketball. He was a key member of the Utah team that won the NCAA championship in 1944, and he later served in the United States Army during World War II.
After completing his military service, Misaka was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947. He played in three games for the Knicks during the 1947-48 season, averaging 2.7 points per game. Despite his limited playing time, Misaka was a trailblazer in the sport, breaking barriers and paving the way for other players of Asian descent to follow in his footsteps.
After his brief stint in the NBA, Misaka went on to have a successful career in engineering, working for various companies and organizations throughout his life. He remained involved in basketball, serving as a coach and mentor to young players and staying active in the sport through various organizations and events.
Misaka passed away on November 20, 2019, at the age of 95. He will always be remembered as a pioneering figure in basketball history, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of players.
4. Red Klotz - 5'7"
Red Klotz was an American basketball player, coach, and owner who is best known for his role as the founder and longtime coach of the Washington Generals, the team that famously played against and lost to the Harlem Globetrotters for many years. Klotz was also a standout college basketball player and played briefly in the NBA before turning his focus to coaching and ownership.
Klotz was born on October 31, 1920, in South Philadelphia, and attended Villanova University, where he played college basketball. He was a key member of the Villanova team that won the 1941 NCAA championship and later played for the Philadelphia Sphas, a professional basketball team.
In 1947, Klotz was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) of the NBA. He played in 10 games for the team during the 1947-48 season, averaging 2.3 points per game. Klotz later turned his focus to coaching and ownership, founding the Washington Generals in 1953. The Generals famously played exhibition games against the Harlem Globetrotters, serving as the "opponent" team for the Globetrotters' famous tricks and stunts.
Klotz remained involved with the Generals for many years, serving as the team's coach and owner and helping to establish the team as a fixture in basketball culture. He also had a successful career in business, working in the packaging industry.
Klotz passed away on July 14, 2014, at the age of 93. He will always be remembered as a colorful and beloved figure in basketball history, known for his passion for the game and his dedication to his team.
4. Keith Jennings - 5'7"
Keith Jennings is best known for his collegiate career at East Tennessee State University, where he became one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in school history, despite standing 5'7".
Jennings was born on December 2, 1968, in Jenkinsville, South Carolina, and attended East Tennessee State University from 1986 to 1991. He was a standout player for the Buccaneers, earning multiple All-Southern Conference honors and leading the team to several NCAA Tournament appearances.
During his college career, Jennings set numerous school records and became known for his lightning-fast speed, quickness, and ability to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. He finished his college career with 2,474 points and 799 assists, both of which remain ETSU records to this day.
After graduating from college, Jennings played professionally in Europe and Asia, earning multiple MVP awards and championships. He was also a member of the Golden State Warriors from 1992-1995.
Today, Jennings is considered a legend at East Tennessee State University, and his impact on the school's basketball program is still felt to this day. He remains one of the most beloved and celebrated players in school history, and his legacy as a pioneering figure in the sport of basketball lives on.
4. Greg Grant - 5'7"
Greg Grant is best known for his time as a point guard in the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Grant was known for his quickness, ball-handling skills, and ability to score in transition.
Grant was born on August 4, 1966, in Trenton, New Jersey, and attended Trenton Central High School before playing collegiately at the University of Utah. He was not highly recruited out of high school, but he quickly made a name for himself at Utah, where he led the team in scoring and assists in both his junior and senior seasons.
After going undrafted in the 1989 NBA Draft, Grant signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns. He spent his rookie season primarily as a backup point guard, averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game. Grant then played for several other teams over the course of his NBA career, including the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Grant's best season came in 1991-92, when he played for the Knicks and averaged a career-high 9.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. He also set a Knicks single-game record with 20 assists in a game against the Miami Heat.
After his NBA career, Grant continued to play professionally in Europe and Asia before retiring in 2004. He later worked as an assistant coach for several NBA G League teams and college programs.
Today, Grant is remembered as a skilled and tenacious player who made the most of his relatively small stature. His impact on the sport of basketball, both as a player and coach, is still felt today.
4. Spud Webb - 5'7"
Spud Webb is best known for his incredible leaping ability and his surprising victory in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986. Despite standing at just 5'7" tall, Webb was a dynamic and exciting player who could play both point guard and shooting guard positions.
Webb was born on July 13, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, and attended Wilmer-Hutchins High School before playing collegiately at Midland College and North Carolina State University. Despite his small stature, he quickly made a name for himself as an explosive and athletic player who could out-jump much taller opponents.
After going undrafted in the 1985 NBA Draft, Webb signed with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent. He quickly became a fan favorite due to his acrobatic dunks and his ability to make plays on both ends of the court. In 1986, he surprised the basketball world by winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, defeating several taller and more high-profile players in the process.
Webb continued to play for the Hawks for several more seasons before being traded to the Sacramento Kings in 1991. He also played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic before retiring in 1998.
After his playing career, Webb worked as a basketball coach and mentor, helping to train and develop young players. He also served as the President of Basketball Operations for the Texas Legends, a minor league team affiliated with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
Who is the shortest player in the NBA right now?
It's actually a tie between Dallas Mavericks guard McKinley Wright IV and Memphis's Kennedy Chandler. Both stand 5'11". Some sites also list Minnesota Timberwolves guard, Jordan McLaughlin, at 5'11". Others have him at 6'0".
It should be noted that Jacob Gilyard, who stands only 5'9", signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies with one game remaining in the regular season. He actually played 41 minutes in that game, as Memphis rested their primary roster for the playoffs. He has been inactive in the Grizzlies' first round series against the Lakers.
Who has the smallest feet in NBA history?
Earl Boykins has the smallest feet in NBA history, size 9.5. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Tacko Fall and Shaq both wear size 22.
Who is the shortest player to dunk in an NBA game?
Spud Webb at 5'7".
Who is the shortest men's player ever in NCAA Division One?
Darnell Rogers, who played at UMBC
Which team has the smallest arena in the NBA?
The New Orleans Pelicans play at the Smoothie King Center, which seats only 16,867 fans for regular season games. The United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, is the largest NBA arena, with a seating capacity of 20,917.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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