Shortest players in NBA history and in 2021 NBA season
Who is the shortest NBA player ever? Who is the shortest player in the NBA in 2021?
In the NBA, the taller you are, the better chance you’ll have of making a major impact in the best basketball league in the world. But height isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to playing the sport at the highest level.
There have been some notable figures in the history of the game who have overcome their lack of size to defy the odds and inspire those of a similar build in later generations.
These are the ten shortest players ever in NBA history, whose skills stood tall when their height did not, as well as the shortest players currently playing in the league.
Shortest NBA players of all time
10. Monte Towe | 5ft 7in
The North Caroline State alum is credited as part of the duo who started the "alley-oop" move in the game of basketball, with legendary dunker David Thompson.
Towe would go on to win an NCAA championship and the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in college before being one of the rare players under 5ft 10in to be drafted. He was selected 57th overall in the 1975 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.
But Towe decided to play in the rival American Basketball Association (ABA) instead, spending one season with the Denver Nuggets in 1975-76 before the Nuggets joined the NBA the following season in the ABA-NBA merger. In Towe’s sole NBA season, he averaged only 2.5 points and eight minutes in 51 games.
After his playing career, Towe has spent years as a basketball coach at the collegiate level.
9. Wataru Misaka | 5ft 7in
As the first player of Asian descent to play in the NBA, as well as the first non-white player in the Association’s history, Misaka is his own icon regardless of whatever size he entered the NBA.
He etched his name into American sports history after being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947, back when the NBA was still known as the BAA (Basketball Association of America). Misaka accomplished this despite the discrimination and challenges he faced as a second generation Japanese-American and a two-year World War II soldier.
Misaka would go on to play only three games with the Knicks before being released. He returned to his home state of Utah, where he became an electrical engineer to live out the rest of his life in Salt Lake City. Misaka died in 2019 at the age of 95.
8. Louis Herman Red Klotz | 5ft 7in
An NBA champion when the league was called BBA, Klotz enjoyed a successful one-year season with the Baltimore Bullets.
The Bullets would go on to win the BBA title in Klotz’s sole year with the team, as he averaged an impressive 15 points in the regular season and six points in the playoffs.
Klotz is more famously known for leading the Washington Generals franchise that would play against the Harlem Globetrotters for many decades in real exhibition games and entertainment showcases.
7. Keith Jennings | 5ft 7in
Hardcore basketball fans, especially those out in the Bay Area, would be the ones who remember the 5ft 7in Culpeper County, Virginia mighty mite.
Jennings became a legend at East Tennessee State and earned the coveted Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in 1991, awarded to the best college basketball player under 6ft tall.
Despite going undrafted that same year, Jennings’ diligence would be rewarded by the Golden State Warriors signing him in 1992. He would go on to play 164 games with the Warriors, including a 23-point performance against the Denver Nuggets in his penultimate game in the NBA on April 22, 1995.
Jennings would turn down playing with the new Toronto Raptors the next season and decided to embark on a career in Europe.
That move across the Atlantic Ocean proved valuable for Jennings, who became a scoring champion and foreign MVP in the French League for Le Mans Sarthe in 1999. Jennings would go into coaching, and is currently the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Division II Lees-McRae.
6. Greg Grant | 5ft 7in
Grant won’t ever be a household name remembered for a notable college career at a Division I school or having a cult following in the professional ranks, but he carved out a respectable, well-travelled six-season NBA journey.
Grant was discovered off the local playgrounds of his hometown Trenton and dominated at Division III school The College of New Jersey. He would earn himself a draft selection by the Phoenix Suns with the 52nd overall pick in 1989. The pint-sized baller would play nearby at Madison Square Garden with the New York Knicks in the 1990-91 season, then would stay around the area with his next team in a two-season stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. Quick stops with the Denver Nuggets and the Washington Bullets were other NBA destinations in Grant's career, along with him deciding to play professionally in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Grant would later coach at his high school, Trenton Central, finishing a five-year period with a 100-32 record and, more significantly for him, a perfect graduation rate from all of his players.
5. Charlie Criss | 5ft 7in
The Valhalla, New York native had a very good NBA career that spanned eight seasons.
After going undrafted in 1970, Criss would battle to get to the NBA after excelling in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association. He would make his NBA debut in 1977 with the Atlanta Hawks and make an instant impact, having his career season as a rookie, averaging 11 points and four assists per game.
After his time with the Hawks, Criss would go on to play with the San Diego Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks before finishing his NBA journey back in Atlanta.
The Yonkers native, now 72, has enjoyed a post-NBA career as a Hawks TV analyst, a minor-league basketball coach and even time as a golf instructor.
4. Spud Webb | 5ft 6in
Beloved by many throughout the basketball world, Michael Anthony Jerome "Spud" Webb would become a timeless name in the sport with his height defying, incredible aerial ability.
Webb would showcase his 42-inch vertical leap in his star-making time in college with North Carolina State, following in the footsteps of another diminutive standout at the Raleigh school in Monte Towe almost a decade later.
Webb's headline acts in the ACC would lead to the Atlanta Hawks drafting him with the 87th pick in the fourth round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He would go on to play six seasons in the ATL before being traded to the Sacramento Kings, where he would play the best basketball of his career.
Webb averaged career highs across the board in his first season in the California capital, producing 16 points, 7.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.3 blocks a game. Throughout his entire 12-year NBA career, Webb would be one the league's best free throw shooters, ending up with a fine career average of almost 85 per cent from the charity stripe.
But despite his very reputable playing career with Atlanta, Sacramento, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic, Webb is primarily remembered for being the shortest man ever to both compete and then win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986. His participation surprised many, and he would wow his skeptics even more by defeating his Hawks teammate, and one of the greatest dunkers in basketball history, Dominique Wilkins.
3. Mel Hirsch | 5ft 6in
Not much is known about the 5ft 6in guard, but for over 40 years, Hirsch would have the distinction of being the shortest player in NBA history.
After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1943, Hirsch would go on to play for the Celtics for 13 games in the 1946-47 Basketball Association of America (BAA, the former name of the NBA) season.
Hirsch would die at just 47 years of age in 1968 after a battle with leukaemia.
2. Earl Boykins | 5ft 5in
Inspired by Muggsy Bogues’ exploits in the 1990s (more on him below), Boykins became the second-shortest player in NBA history in 1999. And, like the Charlotte legend, Boykins would carve himself a fine NBA career lasting over a decade. After a great collegiate career at mid-major Eastern Michigan university, Boykins overcame going undrafted in 1998 to play for 10 different teams in his NBA time.
After beginning his professional career with the Rockford Lightning of the defunct Continental Basketball Association, Boykins would then earn his NBA stripes with the likes of the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.
But it was with the Denver Nuggets were Boykins would have a solid home in the NBA, where he inked a five-year, $13.7m deal. The Cleveland native would have a career year in 2006-07, averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 assists and shooting 37 per cent from the three-point line for the Nuggets. After being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks the following season, Boykins would set new career highs from the three-point line at 42 per cent and 4.5 assists per game while averaging 14 points.
Boykins' last stop in the NBA came in March 2012 with the Houston Rockets.
1. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues | 5ft 3in
The iconic diminutive guard may hold the distinction of being the NBA’s shortest player ever, but his game stood very tall despite being just 5ft 3in. The jersey of the 90s Charlotte Hornets’ No.1 point guard is one of the Association’s most popular throwbacks. Bogues was not just a wonderful sympathy act, but a key player in making the Hornets one of the best teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference during the last decade of the 20th century.
Despite a difficult childhood in Baltimore, Maryland which included being struck by a buckshot at age five, Bogues would overcome many adversities to be a starting point guard his junior and senior years for undefeated Dunbar High School. His accomplishments at Dunbar would lead to a standout career at famed ACC school Wake Forest. Those amateur accolades led to Bogues being drafted second overall in the now defunct United States Basketball League in 1987 and then 12th overall in the NBA Draft the same year by his near hometown team, the Washington Bullets.
After one season with the Bullets, Bogues was made available for selection by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1988 NBA expansion draft. And the new North Carolina basketball team were more than glad to add him, as Bogues would become one of the franchise’s iconic players in his decade tenure in the Queen City. The 5ft 3in dynamo would play in four more NBA seasons, with his final stop as a Dallas Maverick in 2001.
Who are the shortest players currently in the NBA?
Facundo Campazzo | 5ft 10in | Denver Nuggets
D.J. Augustin | 5ft 11in | Milwaukee Bucks
Chris Paul | 6ft | Phoenix Suns
Ish Smith | 6ft | Washington Wizards
Kyle Lowry | 6ft | Toronto Raptors
Brandon Goodwin | 6ft | Atlanta Hawks