Top 10 shortest players in NBA history
The NBA is seen as a big man’s game, but over the years many pint-sized players have found ways to make an impact. Who could forget the time 5'6" point guard Spud Webb won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, or the time 5'5" spark plug Early Boykins exploded for 32 points against the Detroit Pistons?
Here are the 10 shortest players in NBA history. They may have been short on height, but they were long on talent.
10. Charlie Criss
Teams: Atlanta Hawks, San Diego Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks
Years Active: 1978-1985
Criss shined for two seasons in the old Eastern Basketball Association before signing with the Hawks and earning the distinction as the NBA’s shortest active player. The 5’8” guard then spent eight seasons in the league, and averaged greater than 10 points per game in two of them.
9. Monte Towe
Team: Denver Nuggets
Years Active: 1976-1977
Towe won a national championship at NC State and was a third round draft pick the following year with the Nuggets, who were then an ABA franchise (they joined the NBA the following year). Towe then spent more than 30 years as a coach within the college and professional ranks.
8. Wat Misaka
Team: New York Knicks
Years Active: 1948
Misaka was the first player of Asian descent to suit up for an NBA team. His journey to New York came after he helped lead the Utah Utes to an NCAA championship in 1944. However, he played just three games for the Knicks and was cut due to a logjam of guards on the team’s roster.
7. Red Klotz
Team: Baltimore Bullets
Years Active: 1947-1948
Klotz has two unique distinctions. He’s the shortest player ever to play for a team that won a championship, as his Bullets team won the 1948 Basketball Association of America title. The 5’7” Klotz was also the founder of the Washington Generals, who made a living playing (and losing to) the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.
6. Keith Jennings
Team: Golden State Warriors
Years Active: 1993-1995
The 5’7” Jennings won the 1991 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding senior player under six feet in height. He averaged 18 minutes per game in several seasons with the Warriors, and after his NBA career came to a close, spent close to a decade playing overseas.
5. Greg Grant
Teams: Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Denver Nuggets
Years Active: 1990-1996
This is a really cool story. Grant starred for Division III Trenton State College (now known as The College of New Jersey) after being discovered while playing at a New Jersey playground. He was drafted by the Suns in 1989, and spent nine years in the league. Grant’s post-career activities included a five-year stint as a high school coach in Trenton, where his teams went 100-32.
4. Spud Webb
Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic
Years Active: 1986-1998
Known far and wide as the shortest player ever to participate in an NBA Slam Dunk Content, Webb won that event in 1986. However, his game was sharp enough that he enjoyed a long career in the league. Webb actually led the NBA in free throw shooting percentage during the 1994-95 season, when he shot greater than 93% from the charity stripe.
3. Mel Hirsch
Team: Boston Celtics
Years Active: 1946-1947
Hirsch long held the distinction as the shortest player in NBA history after the 5’6” guard suited up for 13 games during the 1946-47 season. This was far before Boston’s glory days, as the Celtics finished 22-38 and tied for last in their six-team conference.
2. Earl Boykins
Teams: New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, L.A. Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets
Years Active: 1999-2012
It took Boykins some time to stick in the league, but he grew into a very productive player during the 2000’s. He averaged 14.6 points per game during the 2006-07 campaign in which he competed for both the Nuggets and Bucks. Even in 2009-10 and 2010-11, where he was 33 and 34 years old, he averaged greater than 15 minutes per game.
1. Muggsy Bogues
Teams: Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors
Years Active: 1988-2001
Short on size but not on talent, the 5’3” Bogues is the shortest player to ever compete in the NBA. He enjoyed a 14-season professional career after his number was retired at Wake Forest, and he averaged greater than 10 assists per game twice.
Perhaps just as noteworthy, he was one of the NBA stars who acted in the film Space Jam, where aliens sapped Bogues and his fellow players of their skills.