When people think of basketball players, they typically imagine someone with an above-average height. That’s because professional basketball players are up to seven feet tall.
Being tall gives players a better advantage. Not only do they have a longer arm span to help reach the ball, but their height also brings them that much closer to the 10-foot-high basketball hoop.
According to NBA standards, the average height of a professional basketball player is 6’7″ … towering over the average 5’9” man. However, there are a few players in history who defied all odds and started a career in basketball despite their small stature.
Those players truly had to prove themselves on the court. They also had to push their limits of what they thought was possible. This list of the 25 Shortest Professional Basketball Players proves that anything is possible with hard work, passion, and dedication.
Muggsy Bogues - 5'3"
Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues knew he was born to be a basketball player despite his lack of height. His passion and dedication were noticed by all who had the honor of playing with him.
Bogues led his high school basketball team to victory countless times. He even helped to make them one of the top high school teams in the United States. When he graduated from high school, his coach retired his jersey number.
When it came time for Bogues to enter the NBA draft, he was selected 12th in the first round by the Washington Bullets. He had a successful career before he retired, ranking 16th among all-time assist leaders.
Bogues says he doesn’t want to be remembered for being the shortest person ever to join the NBA but rather for his passion and skill.
Charlie Criss - 5’8”
Charlie Criss kept his dream of being a professional basketball player alive despite only being 5’8”. After graduating from New Mexico State University, he started playing for the Continental Basketball Association.
During his time on the team, his passion for the game earned him multiple MVP awards. However, his dreams of becoming an NBA player were never far from his mind.
Finally, at the age of 28, Criss became the NBA’s smallest and oldest rookie. He played for the Atlanta Hawks and was known not only for his ambition but for his speed and impressive shooting. Criss became a perfect example of why you should never give up on your dreams.
Keith Jennings - 5’7”
Many college athletes dream of getting drafted by a professional team. However, there are no guarantees of becoming a successful athlete after graduation.
For Keith Jennings, his chances were even slimmer because of his height. Standing at 5’7”, he almost didn’t stand a chance. After graduation from East Tennessee State University, his dreams were crushed when he wasn’t selected in the 1991 NBA draft.
Yet, he persevered and started his career as a free agent. The next year he signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors where he stayed for three seasons.
Spud Webb - 5’7”
Anthony Jerome, a professional basketball player, is more commonly known as Spud Webb. His dreams of making it into the NBA seemed far fetched since he was only 5’7”, yet his skill on the court led to victory time and again.
Webb is known for his impressive dunking ability. He was drafted into the NBA in the fourth round in 1985. He has played for teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, and Orlando Magic.
Monte Towe - 5’7”
Entering a new team can be daunting, and at times even intimidating. You could imagine how Towe felt when he first signed up for college basketball.
The coach for the NC State Wolfpack team thought he would be “eaten alive”. Despite being the shortest on the team, Towe quickly made a name for himself. He was greatly respected for his skill and ambitious attitude.
After graduation, Towe was drafted into the Denver Nuggets. He never let his height make him feel “less than” and always portrayed confidence on the court. Towe went on to have a successful NBA career before retiring as a college basketball coach.
Wataru Misaka - 5’7”
The journey to becoming a professional basket player was strenuous for Misaka. He wasn’t only discriminated against for his short stature but for his Japanese ancestry as well.
At the beginning of WWII, Misaka was in the middle of high school years. Despite all the challenges he faced, he continued doing what he loved: playing basketball.
Then in 1947, his dreams came true when he was drafted as a point guard for the New York Knicks. Misaka became the first-ever NBA Asian-American and was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.
Earl Boykins - 5’5”
Earl Boykins isn’t just small compared to his fellow basketball players but he is also several inches below the nation’s average height of 5’9”. Boykins knew he needed to prove himself if he ever wanted to make it into the NBA.
In 1999, he went undrafted for a few months before getting selected by the New Jersey Nets. During the start of his career, he mainly rode the bench and played as a backup third-string.
However, in the last five years of his career, he was able to shine. Boykins retired at the age of 35 years old and averaged 8.9 points and 19.9 minutes per game.
Greg Grant - 5’7”
Grant defied all odds when he was selected as the 52nd pick in the 1989 NBA draft. After a successful career during his college basketball years, he made it on the basketball radar.
Even though his professional basketball career was mostly made up of playing as a backup point guard, Grant gave his role everything he had. Over his seven-year span in the NBA, he played for six different teams.
Grant averaged 3.3 points per game and retired at the age of 29.
Isaiah Thomas - 5’9”
Thomas wasn’t the shortest player to ever join the NBA, yet he still had trouble getting drafted. In 2011, he was the 60th pick because coaches were wary of his height.
However, the Sacramento Kings took a chance on Thomas and he didn’t disappoint. He now averages 26.0 points per game and is currently a point guard for the Washington Wizards.
Nate Robinson - 5’9”
What Robinson lacked in height, he made up for with his insane jumping ability.
In 2005, he was drafted as the 21st pick by the New York Knicks. Robinson rarely had the chance to play as a regular starting point guard, but that never decreased his passion.
He currently plays for the Homenetmen Beirut B.C. and has an average of 17.2 points per game.
Kay Felder - 5’9”
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Felder grew up with dreams of one day becoming a professional basketball player. All throughout high school and college, Felder had to prove himself on the court as a valuable player.
Things didn’t change when he was drafted as the 54th pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. During his NBA career, he has played 57 games with an average of 3.9 points.
Michael Adams - 5’10”
Basketball players don’t always see smooth sailing after getting drafted into the NBA.
For Adams, uncertainly in his career crept up after the Sacramento Kings let him go in 1986. He had a chance to play 18 games for them but didn’t make enough of an impression to immediately find a new team.
After bouncing around for a bit, Adams finally landed with the Denver Nuggets. He retired at the age of 33 with an average of 14.7 points per game.
Andre Barrett - 5’10”
Barrett’s professional career began with uncertainty. He started off as an undrafted guard before he was selected to join the Houston Rockets.
Unfortunately, his professional basketball career didn’t last long. He only played a total of four seasons before retiring at the age of 25.
Some of the teams he played for include the Los Angeles Clippers, the Chicago Bulls, and the Toronto Raptors. He made an average of 3.3 points per game.
Tyus Edney - 5’10”
Edney’s first year as a professional basketball player was perhaps his most memorable. In 1995, he was drafted at the 47th pick by the Sacramento Kings.
As a rookie, he went on to play in 60 games during his first season. He averaged 10.8 points per game.
After retiring from the NBA, Edney decided to become an assistant college coach for the UCLA Bruins.
Khalid El-Amin - 5’10”
After getting picked up by the Chicago Bulls during the 2000 NBA draft, El-Amin got his chance to shine.
Even though he struggled with weight issues during his first season, he ended up playing in 50 games.
However, his professional basketball career took a turn for the worse. El-Amin was let go towards the end of the season and never found a permanent spot on another team.
Chris Garner - 5’10”
It’s notably harder for any basketball player who isn’t over 6 feet tall to get drafted into the NBA.
Much like many of the players on this list, Garner originally failed to get drafted because of his lack of height. However, he got his break when selected as a backup for the Toronto Raptors in 1997.
Sadly, his career didn’t skyrocket from there and he retired from the industry at 25 years old.
Avery Johnson - 5’10”
Johnson’s journey to becoming a successful basketball player wasn’t always easy. Even though he knew he had the talent, his height seemed to be a determining factor.
He began working towards his NBA career as an undrafted free agent. Then Johnson caught a lucky break when he was drafted to the Seattle Supersonics.
After moving around from team to team, he finally settled down with the San Antonia Spurs where he went on to win a championship.
Damon Stoudamire - 5’10”
Damon Stoudamire, also known as the Mighty Mouse, broke records on and off the court. He gained a reputation as the highest-earning player under six feet tall in the NBA.
On the court, Stoudamire was admired for his determination and impressive scoring skills. His successful basketball career spanned 13 years.
Before retiring, he had an average of 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.
Brevin Knight - 5’10”
Brevin Knight has made quite a name for himself in the NBA despite being considered short. His successful professional basketball career spanned nearly 13 years.
In 1997, he was the 16th draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Knight was known for shooting impressive three-pointers, which helped to make him a primary starter.
He earned around 12.6 points and 8.8 assists per game during his best season.
Mike Wilks - 5’10”
Like many others before him, Wilks came into the NBA as an undrafted free agent in 2001.
Despite getting signed by the Sacramento Kings, Wilks wouldn’t have a chance to show the world his talents for another year. After waiting patiently, he finally got his chance to shine on the court in 2002.
During his 10-year career, Wilks had the chance to play for eight different teams and averaged 2.5 points per game.
Scott Brooks - 5’11”
Brooks did something many professional rookie players only dream of doing. After entering the NBA as an undrafted free agent, he was picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Brooks went on to play in an impressive 82 games in his first year. That’s more games than some professional players get to play during their whole career.
Brooks averaged 4.9 points per game and won his first championship with the Rockets in 1994.
Speedy Claxton - 5’11”
Despite Claxton’s rather short stature, he was actually quite exceptional when it came to being a scorer. In 2000, he was drafted as the 20th pick for the San Antonio Spurs.
However, Claxton’s most memorial year as a professional basketball player was in 2005 when he played for the New Orleans Hornets. He averaged 12.3 points per game that season.
Unfortunately, his basketball career ended at the age of 30 due to a knee injury.
Terrell Brandon - 5’11”
Brandon was an impressive eleventh pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1991 NBA draft. Even though he was one of the shortest players on the team, he quickly became an all-star.
Just three years after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brandon was traded in a big three-team deal.
Before retiring at the age of 32, he averaged around 13.8 points and 6.1 assists per game.
John Lucas III - 5’11”
John Lucas’ dream of becoming a professional basketball player became a reality in 2005. Unfortunately, he spent more time on the bench than playing on the court for the Houston Rockets.
His professional basketball career took a turn for the better when he started traveling the world playing basketball. Lucas got the opportunity to play in countries like Spain, China, and Italy.
During his best season, Lucas averaged 4.7 points per game.
Ty Lawson - 5’11”
Out of all the players on this list, Lawson averaged some of the highest numbers of points per game. This is one of the reasons why he has had such a successful professional basketball career.
After getting drafted in 2009 by the Denver Nuggets, he went on to play for teams like the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and the Sacramento Kings.
During his best season, Lawson scored around 17.6 points per game.