10 shortest NBA players ever

There is a common misconception within the game of basketball that you must be tall, and at least 6ft to be able to reach the NBA. However as history as shown, you can play at the highest level at any size.

As of July 2022, Isaiah Thomas is the shortest active NBA player at just 5-foot-9, and has played for the likes of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Charlotte Hornets over his 11-year career in the league.

A two-time All-Star, Thomas finished 5th in MVP voting in 2017 in one of the best individual seasons the NBA has seen in recent history and the 33-year-old is still capable of doing a fine rotation job in today’s era.

Let’s take a look through the 10 shortest NBA players of all time.

10. Charlie Criss – 5-foot-8 (Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks)

Charlie Criss played eight seasons in the NBA and was the shortest active player throughout his career from 1977 to 1985, during spells with the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Milwaukee Bucks.

Averaging 8.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game in the NBA, Criss peaked in his rookie year with the Hawks and played 77 games in that season averaging 11 points and 4 assists.

9. Spud Webb – 5-foot-7 (Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic)

Spud Webb is best remembered for his time in the NBA as being the shortest player ever to win the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star weekend in 1986, and played 12 seasons in the league across teams such as the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings.

Webb, now 59-years-old, is the president of basketball operations for the Texas Legends, the NBA G League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.

8. Monte Towe – 5-foot-7 (Denver Nuggets)

Monte Towe, pictured on the right, played one season in the NBA in 1976-77 when the Denver Nuggets made the switch to the National Basketball Association from the American Basketball Association and was waived before the start of the 1977-78 season.

Towe is now the head coach at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida, and was an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State University from 2011 to 2014.

7. Wataru Misaka – 5-foot-7 (New York Knicks)

Wataru Misaka made history in 1947 by breaking the color barrier in professional basketball and becoming the first non-white player and the first player of Asian descent to play in the NBA, which was known instead as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) during that time.

Misaka inspired many of the greatest Asian NBA players of all time such as Yao Ming, Jordan Clarkson, Rui Hachimura, and Jeremy Lin.

The point guard played just three games for the Knicks and was cut mid-way during the season, and there were no press conferences or interviews to mark Misaka’s first game as ‘nobody cared’.

6. Herm Klotz – 5-foot-7 (Baltimore Bullets)

Herm ‘Red’ Klotz, pictured on the far left, played as a point guard for the Baltimore Bullets who existed from 1944 to 1954 and are still the only defunct NBA team to have ever won a championship.

Klotz formed the two teams that played against and toured with the Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Generals and New York Nationals. He was the oldest-living NBA champion, and died at 93-years-old in 2014.

He was the shortest player to ever play on a championship winning team.

5. Keith Jennings – 5-foot-7 (Golden State Warriors)

Keith Jennings spent three seasons in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors between 1992 and 1995, and scored a career-high 23 points and added ten assists in one of his last ever games with the Dubs against the Toronto Raptors.

Since 2017, Jennings has been the head coach of the Lees-McRae College women’s basketball team in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

4. Greg Grant – 5-foot-7 (Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Denver Nuggets)

Pictured here alongside Los Angeles Lakers legend James Worthy, Greg Grant spent nine years across the NBA on six different teams and was the 52nd overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft.

In 2010, Grant became the head coach of Trenton Central High School where he led his team to an overall record of 100-32 over five years with every single one of his players graduating.

3. Mel Hirsch – 5-foot-6 (Boston Celtics)

Mel Hirsch played 13 games for the Boston Celtics in the 1946-47 season, averaging 1.5 points and 8 assists per game whilst being the shortest player in league history for more than 40 years.

Hirsch was a star player at Brooklyn College and also served in the US Army Air Corps.

2. Earl Boykins – 5-foot-5 (Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets)

Earl Boykins, here pictured next to LeBron James during his original stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the second-shortest player in NBA history and enjoyed 16 different spells in the league from 1998 to 2012.

Boykins played in 15 playoff games with the Denver Nuggets and averaged 12.9 points per game in the postseason, playing 27.5 minutes per game and shooting almost 85% from the free throw line.

The 46-year-old is now an assistant coach at the University of Texas at El Paso.

1. Muggsy Bogues – 5-foot-3 (Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors)

At just 5-foot-3, Muggsy Bogues is the shortest player to have ever played in the NBA and he played point guard for four different teams across his 14-year career in the league.

Bogues was a very successful NBA talent, and finished in the top seven in assists in six consecutive seasons between 1989 and 1995, and in three of those seasons reached the top ten in steals.

He recorded an impressive 146 double-doubles in the NBA and averaged 7.7 points, 7.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game during his time playing the most elite level of basketball on the planet.

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