The NBA has always been a league that benefited from height.
While the tallest players were not necessarily the most talented, they still got more court time than the shortest players through history. Nevertheless, while Shaquille O’Neal and others tower over players that aren’t at least six foot, they’re still valid and make a solid contribution to the game of basketball.
- 1 List of the Top 10 Shortest Players in NBA History Ending With The Shortest at Number One:
- 1.1 Charlie Criss (Height: 5 foot,8 inches)
- 1.2 Keith Jennings (Height: 5 feet, 7 inches)
- 1.3 Monte Towe (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
- 1.4 Wataru Misaka (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
- 1.5 Louis Klotz (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
- 1.6 Greg Grant (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
- 1.7 Anthony Webb (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
- 1.8 Melvin Hirsch (Height: 5 foot, 6 inches)
- 1.9 Earl Boykins (Height 5 foot, 5 inches)
- 1.10 Tyrone Bogues (Height: 5 foot, 3 inches)
List of the Top 10 Shortest Players in NBA History Ending With The Shortest at Number One:
Charlie Criss (Height: 5 foot,8 inches)
Charlie Criss isn’t the only NBA player who was 5 foot 8 inches, but he’s the most remembered. Others include Willie Somerset and Don Martin too. Criss is notable as both the oldest rookie in 1977 and the shortest in the NBA at the time when he started to play for the Atlanta Hawks.
It took around seven years for Criss to get from New Mexico State University and into the NBA. At the time this wasn’t necessarily unusual though. He was a baller at the Continental Basketball Assn. and was voted most valuable player in two years too. Yet, it took more time until the NBA came calling.
His NBA career lasted 8 seasons making 15 years playing the sport professionally. During his time in the NBA, he played for the aforementioned Hawks, as well as the Milwaukee Bucks and the San Diego Clippers too. However, he never bested his first NBA season where he got 11 points on average and also 4 assists per game (77 games played).
Keith Jennings (Height: 5 feet, 7 inches)
Keith Jennings was respected by his fellow ballers despite being 5 feet, 7 inches in height.
He didn’t make the NBA draft in 1991, but he still got his start with the Golden State Warriors that year. He was there three seasons where he averaged 6.6 points with 3.7 assists across 164 games. He averaged just under 19 minutes of playing time each game.
The penultimate NBA game saw Jennings hit a career best of 23 points including getting 8 out of 10 from shots at the hoop and getting all four shots from the three-point line too. While being picked for the Toronto Raptors in 1995, he wasn’t fortunate enough to play ball at Toronto.
Jennings won a number of awards over the years including 2nd team All-American at the East Tennessee State University, twice So-Con Player of the Year and was the best Collegiate player in the under 6-foot category winning the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award too.
Monte Towe (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
You have Monte Towe to thank for the creation of the Alley-oop (David Thompson too). Dunking wasn’t allowed when they were at college, so they just dropped passes in instead.
Playing for North Carolina State in the NCAA championship in 1974, he was later drafted to play for the Denver Nuggets in the ABA Draft at the third-round stage in 1975. The Atlanta Braves also opted to draft Towe in the fourth round too. He stuck with Thompson and went with Denver where he played ABA until 1976.
He also played in an ABA All-Star game when it was Denver v. All-Stars. Multi-talented, Towe saw action with the NC State in their baseball team too.
Wataru Misaka (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
WaturaMisake was perhaps the earliest Asian player of note despite standing 5 foot, 7 inches tall.
He originated from Utah but clearly his parents were of Japanese descent. Misaka holds the record as the first player to be drafted who wasn’t white. He subsequently played as Point Guard within the Basketball Association of America, the forerunner to the current NBA.
Earlier, Misaka saw actions on the courts of the University of Utah where he participated in winning the NCAA 1946 title and the NIT championships in 1947 too. Following a two-year stint in the U.S. Army during the Japan’s occupation, he was drafted by the popular New York Knicks (1947), however, he only was played three times during the 1947 to 1948 basketball season.
Louis Klotz (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
Lous Klotz’s history in basketball is fascinating.
The player who was known as ‘Red’ standing 5 feet 7 inches tall started out playing ball for Villanova University. He later played with the Philadelphia Sphaswithin the short-lived American Basketball League through the 1940s. Klotz then went on to play for the Baltimore Bullets in 1948 where he was part of the team that won the Basketball Association of America title.
The Globetrotters owner approached Klotz about the idea of creating a team that would tour the U.S. and play local games against the Globetrotters. This is how the Washington General team came into being. Klotz played Point Guard until the ripe age of 68. He managed to play ball for many decades where he racked up 14,000 starts and displayed his ball skills across over 100 countries around the world too.
Greg Grant (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
Height not being a restriction, Greg Grant played in nine NBA seasons. His career spanned six different basketball teams in total too. Never giving up seems to have been Grant’s way.
Grant wasn’t a natural for the NBA given his height limitations. He took work selling fish while in high school. He was discovered during pick-up games in the local neighborhood. He played for Trenton State College where he was the lead scorer in 1989 at the NCAA third division.
Later, the Phoenix Suns drafted him in 1989 during the NBA draft in the second round. He only got to play one season for the Suns whereupon he moved to the New York Knicks and onto the Charlotte Hornets after that. Three seasons were also played at the Philadelphia 76ers before finishing off with the Denver Nuggets first and lastly, the Washington Bullets.
Anthony Webb (Height: 5 foot, 7 inches)
Spud Webb, for the people who followed his seasons, was a popular player. His 5 foot 7 inches in statute didn’t hold him back any.
Webb played in the NBA Dunk Champion that occurred in the NBA All-Star weekend in 1989. He pleased the audience so much that night that his name was remembered.
He got drafted in the NBA draft in 1985 to the Detroit Pistons. He followed up with the Atlanta Hawks where he played for six years. However, he played best with the Sacramento Kings. Webb also saw action with the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves for a short time too.
Melvin Hirsch (Height: 5 foot, 6 inches)
Melvin Hirsch at 5 foot, 6 inches remained the shortest ever NBA player for four years.
He originated from NYC and played for Brooklyn College. He served in the South Pacific in the U.S. Army Air corps in 1943. Indeed, he played ball for his squadron in the 403rd Group Championship held back in 1945. Later, Hirsch was on the court for the Boston Celtics in 1948. He buildup 19 points and ten assists through the 13 games he got to play for the NBA.
Earl Boykins (Height 5 foot, 5 inches)
Earl Boykins began practicing basketball with a tennis ball because he wasn’t tall enough. His 5-foot, 5 inches height didn’t stop him though.
Boykins participated in 14 NBA seasons in total. He played for 12 separate basketball teams during that time too. Despite being undrafted, he played for the Denver Nuggets for 4 seasons. He scored 32 points in one game for the Detroit Pistons and was the smallest player to ever do so.
Plenty of awards flowed to Boykins on his way to the NBA including the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award and the AP Honorable Mention All-American too.
Tyrone Bogues (Height: 5 foot, 3 inches)
Bogues at 5 foot 3 inches tall was the shortest ever player. He played with the tallest one, ManuteBol who was 7 feet, 7 inches tall because he was his teammate at the Washington Bullets.
Sticking with the Charlotte Hornets for ten seasons, this is the longest stint of any of our players covered. He later saw action in Toronto and the Golden State too. He’s wasa first-round pick that’s was the shortest (still a record) in the NBA draft in 1987 following an impressive run at Wake Forest that got the attention of spotters.
Bogue won the gold medal at the FIBA Basketball World Championships in 1996 representing the United States. He held records from his collegiate experience and won awards including the Frances Pomeroy Naismith in 1987.