Who Is the Shortest NBA Player?

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 6 Min Read
6 Min Read

In the high-flying world of professional basketball, where towering athletes dominate the court, there exists a unique category of players who defy the odds. These are the pint-sized point guards, the diminutive dynamos who prove that size isn’t everything when it comes to making an impact on the hardwood. In this article, we delve into the fascinating realm of the shortest NBA players, exploring their achievements, challenges, and the legacy they’ve left behind.

The Height Barrier

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen its fair share of giants—players who stand well over seven feet tall, their wingspans stretching like condors. But what about those who measure their height in inches rather than feet? Let’s demystify the world of the vertically challenged ballers.

The 5-Foot-9 Club

Only 25 players in NBA history have been at or below the height of 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm). These players, often referred to as “undersized,” have carved out remarkable careers despite their physical limitations. Let’s meet some of the shortest NBA legends:

  1. Calvin Murphy: Standing at 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters), Murphy is the shortest player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His dazzling ball-handling skills and scoring ability made him a fan favorite during his tenure with the Houston Rockets.
  2. Muggsy Bogues: At just 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 meters), Bogues defied expectations. He played for several teams, including the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors. Bogues’ tenacity and court vision made him a beloved figure in the league.
  3. Earl Boykins: Another 5-foot-5-inch (1.65 meters) dynamo, Boykins had a journeyman career, playing for multiple teams. His lightning-quick speed and ability to penetrate defenses earned him respect from fans and opponents alike.
  4. Mel Hirsch: Hirsch, standing at 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters), played briefly for the Boston Celtics in the league’s early years. His impact may have been short-lived, but he remains part of NBA history.
  5. Greg Grant and Keith Jennings: Both listed at 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 meters), Grant and Jennings showcased their skills during their respective NBA stints. Grant’s playmaking and Jennings’ scoring ability left lasting impressions.
  6. Red Klotz: Klotz, also 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 meters) tall, holds a unique distinction—he’s the shortest player to ever win an NBA championship. He later became a successful coach for the Washington Generals.

Unforgettable Moments

These pint-sized players didn’t merely exist; they thrived. Muggsy Bogues, despite his height, played alongside the second-tallest player in NBA history, Manute Bol, during the 1987–88 season for the Washington Bullets. Their staggering height difference of 28 inches (71 cm) made for an iconic pairing.

Bogues even made a cameo appearance in the film Space Jam (1995), further cementing his place in pop culture. Earl Boykins, known for his scoring prowess, left defenders scratching their heads as he weaved through taller opponents.

The Stats and Impact

Now that we’ve met some of the shortest NBA players, let’s dive into their stats and the indelible mark they’ve left on the game.

Calvin Murphy

  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters)
  • Career Highlights:
    • Scoring Machine: Murphy averaged an impressive 17.9 points per game during his 13-year career with the Houston Rockets.
    • Free Throw Wizard: His free throw percentage was a jaw-dropping 89.2%, making him one of the most reliable clutch shooters.
    • Hall of Fame Inductee: In 1993, Murphy received the ultimate honor—a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Muggsy Bogues

  • Height: 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 meters)
  • Career Highlights:
    • Assist Maestro: Bogues was a master facilitator, dishing out assists with precision. He averaged 7.6 assists per game over his career.
    • Steals Specialist: His lightning-quick hands led to an impressive 1,369 steals, showcasing his defensive prowess.
    • Heart and Grit: Despite his size, Bogues fearlessly guarded players much taller than him, earning respect from opponents.

Earl Boykins

  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 meters)
  • Career Highlights:
    • Scoring Dynamo: Boykins could light up the scoreboard. He once dropped 32 points in a single game for the Denver Nuggets.
    • Fearless Drives: Boykins attacked the rim relentlessly, proving that heart and determination matter more than height.
    • Underrated Impact: His impact extended beyond the court—he inspired shorter players everywhere.

Mel Hirsch

  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters)
  • Brief Stint: Hirsch played only 13 games for the Boston Celtics during the 1946–47 season.
  • Legacy: Despite his short tenure, he remains part of NBA history as one of the pioneers.

Greg Grant and Keith Jennings

  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 meters)
  • Grant’s Playmaking: Greg Grant showcased his court vision, averaging 5.6 assists per game during his career.
  • Jennings’ Scoring: Keith Jennings had a scoring touch, putting up 6.6 points per game.

Red Klotz

  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 meters)
  • Champion: Klotz won an NBA championship with the Baltimore Bullets in 1948.
  • Generals Coach: Later, he coached the Washington Generals, the perennial opponents of the Harlem Globetrotters.
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