There aren’t too many sports that have players judged based off their height. Sure, it helps to be tall in sports like soccer and American football, but basketball players have been straight up sent packing with their NBA dreams in tatters because they don’t measure up. If you aren’t at least a solid six feet tall, you are going to be struggling to have any sort of imppac in the league.
With that being said, there have been quite a few players of lesser stature that have not only made an impact, but become well known and rounded players. These 5 players have not only risen to the top of the league, but in some cases, walked away with hardware to show just how good they (or the team) were.
There have been some controversial lists, and this one will be no different. Some lists will have players under 6 feet tall, others will say these players are well over. Either way, here are the top 5 NBA players of all time under 6 feet tall.
5. Nate Robinson
An 11 year pro in the NBA, Robinson was a bit of a traveller during his time. A veteran who spent time at six different teams after being drafted in 2005 by the New York Knicks, his career was quite solid in both statistic and presence.
Standing at 5’9, Robinson averaged a touch under 11 points a game across 618 total games. A career year came at the Knicks in the 2008-09 season, where he averaged 17+ points a game. This included a superb 41 points off the bench in a tight win against Indiana, and a game of 33 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds in a loss to the Clippers.
Robinson also has the most wins in the NBA dunk contest, with three to his name. For a man who on a good day is 5’9, that’s quite the accomplishment in what is already quite a good career.
4. Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas Jr. is, on his day, one of the most electric players within the NBA today. Averaging over 18 points per game during his career, you would not think that he was the “Mr Irrelevant” of the 2011 NBA draft. Taken last by Sacramento, Thomas was able to nearly double his scoring average from 11.5 to 20.3 in his three years with the Kings.
The 2014-15 season saw Thomas bounce from the Celtics, who he had been traded to during the off-season, to the Phoenix Suns after 20 games. It would see Thomas still average over 17 points throughout 67 games, facilitating a move back to the Celtics in which he would start to dominate the league.
The next two years would see Thomas average 25.45 points a game, including that incredible 53 point game in overtime against Washington a day after the death of his sister. The following trade to Cleveland didn’t work as planned, nor has his stints at the Lakers and Denver thanks to injury. This season at Washington will show us if the old Isaiah Thomas will be back for a team who desperately needs him to step up.
3. Chris Paul
This is where the list starts to get slightly controversial, as Chris Paul is listed at 6’0. According to the official stats from the 2005 NBA Draft combine, the latest acquisition for the Oklahoma City Thunder is 5’11 and 3/4 of an inch without shoes. So with that out in the universe, he just qualifies for the list based on his height. His stats though, sees Paul firmly in contention for the top spot.
A 9-time All Star, Chris Paul has had a career so far that should see him move into the Hall of Fame one day. Averaging 18.5 points a game and just a touch under ten assists across three teams, Chris Paul is a beast of a player despite the “limitation” of being only 6’0 in shoes.
The accomplishment list for Chris Paul is longer than a lot of players’ career span, with it ranging from rookie of the year awards to statistical championships and All-NBA teams. One can not argue that he has a major impact wherever he goes, getting to the finals every year since the 2010-11 season. A new start at the Thunder will see Paul take a leading role, as he looks to continue his dominance as well as bringing the Thunder to a finals appearance in 2019.
2. Tyrone Bogues
How can a guy who only averaged 7.7 points a game be ahead of a 9-time NBA All Star? Well, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues was all of 5’3 in an era of the NBA that had more physical contact in it than some boxing matches. You had the likes of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone inside the paint trying to defend the smallest player in NBA history.
The 12th pick of the 1987 draft, Bogues was a tenacious player who somehow never let the fact that he was playing against guys who at times, may have been over two feet taller get in his way. The stats do not line up with being the number two player on this list; in fact the stats suggest that he should not even be on this list. However, if there is one game that signifies why he should be on this list, it is the March 25th, 1999 game against Detroit.
Bogues scored a double-double that game, however one would expect it to be in the assists category. He did, after all, average 7.6 assists per game during his career. Instead, he would manage to grab ten rebounds to go with 18 points. It tied Alonzo Mourning for the game high, with Bogues also getting his career high total in defensive rebounds too (9). The result of this game? Charlotte, with Bogues, out-rebounded Detroit by 12, and won by 13.
- Allen Iverson
Again, this one may be controversial, not because of the player but because of the height. Iverson is a bonafide Hall of Fame player, with a legendary career in the league. His height though, has been cause of debate. He is listed at being 6’0 on the nose, not an inch taller or shorter. Those to have met him though, claim that he is closer to 5’10 or 5’11. Barefoot, he is around 5’10 so we are going with that and that alone can put him at the top of this list.
“The Answer” was a beast in his heyday, with a career average of a tick under 27 points. The 2000-01 NBA MVP, Iverson brought the 76ers as close as he could to the NBA championship before being dispatched by the legendary Lakers. Most of his career would be at the Philadelphia 76ers, with a few seasons in Denver to go with a guest appearance in both Detroit and Memphis. By the point that Iverson was bouncing around in Denver, his prime was well past him but he still had a big impact no matter where he went.
An All-Star in each of the last 11 seasons that he played in the NBA to go with All-NBA recognition seven times, Iverson has every right to be in the Hall of Fame after his 2016 induction. He would be a statistical champion in both scoring and steals multiple times, as well as being the rookie of the year in 1996-97. That in itself is a Hall of Fame career, and is more than enough to be the best NBA player to be under 6’0, shoes or no shoes.
Feature image credit: USA Today