Who is the Shortest NBA Player?


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At 6ft 3inches I have a weird relationship with height when it comes to Basketball. Always the tallest player on my teams growing up I was deployed primarily as a centre. As my Basketball horizons expanded it became clear to me that I needed to add a lot more to my game to survive on the court against near 7 footers! I could never claim to be small though, that’s where this guy owns it. 

Who is the Shortest NBA Player? The diminutive Muggsy Bogues is the shortest player ever to feature in an NBA game. At just 5 ft 3 he carved out a 14 year NBA career. Averaging 7.7 points per game. 7.6 Assists per game and 2.6 rebounds. 

Was Muggsy Bogues really the smallest NBA player ever?

Absolutely. Born “Tyrone Curtis Bogues” in Baltimore, 1965, he was never considered tall. Even by the age of 7 he was terrorising players on his local courts with his fearless defending. People became afraid to put the ball on the floor around him worrying they wouldn’t see it again. This aggressive defensive style stayed with him as he developed in stature, on the court if not vertically. 

By the time he reached high school he was a bona fide star. Playing for the Poets at Dunbar High School he would lead them to a 29–0 record during Muggsy Bogues’ junior season and an impressive 31–0 during his senior year. This saw them ranked number 1 in the nation by USA Today. It wasn’t just Muggsy Bogues achieving this. He was by now a pure point guard on both ends of the floor and needed some talent around him to shine. David Wingate who graduated a year ahead of him, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis were both in his graduating class. These players would all eventually go on to the NBA, although it could be argued that without Muggsy Bogues’ leadership and distribution skills they wouldn’t have shined quite so brightly. 

Muggsy is the type of infectious player that makes everyone around him better. Not just because of his elite passing skills, or tenacity on defence, but because of his demeanour. When you are 5 ft 3 on a Basketball court you can’t take plays off, you can’t relax and use your physicality to bale you out. That kind of leadership is priceless and carried Muggsy through his time in the College game. During his four years at Wake Forrest Muggsy Bogues set ACC records for both Assists and Steals. In 1986 he would represent the USA National Team, before Pro’s took part on a wide scale, at the FIBA World Championships. Helping them win the Gold medal. 

In 1987 he was drafted to the Washington Bullets where he played 1 season with Manute Bol. Notable because at 7 ft 7 he was at that point the tallest player ever to play in the NBA, giving the Bullets both ends of the spectrum. The Bullets weren’t just a gimmick team though, finishing with a 38-44 record in a tough conference. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual finalists Detroit in five games. 

Who is the smallest player in the NBA?

Due to the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets being bought into the league as expansion teams for the start of the 1988 season, Muggsy Bogues was left unprotected by the Bullets and would end up being selected by Charlotte. Alongside Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson Bogues would play 10 seasons in Charlotte becoming a fan favourite and setting the league alight with his steals, passing and all-round play. He is the Hornets leader in minutes played with almost 20,000, and assists with 5,557. 

He also recorded nearly 40 blocks in his career. In particular one on 7ft Knicks great Patrick Ewing captures the imagination of fans. In April 1993 Ewing pulled the ball back to shoot when Bogues stripped him clean (check out the video below). It is claimed Bogues had a 44-inch vert at his peak. However, like many short players his hands were too small to hold on to a ball to dunk one-handed. There is an unfounded rumour that early in the 90’s Bogues was occasionally able to dunk in pre-game warm ups. Sadly, this was before the rise of the smart phone and social media so there’s no actual proof. His vertical leap did help him on the floor in other ways, he averaged 2.8 rebounds a game for his career, which is on par with greats like 6 ft 2 Tony Parker and 6 ft 3, two-time MVP Steve Nash. 

Why is his nickname Muggsy Bogues?

There are some people in life that can only be referred to by both their names. Muggsy Bogues is definitely one of them. He has himself explained the origins of his nickname in a Players Tribune article named “how I became Muggsy”. His family nickname was Apple, because he always kept his hair cut close, making his head shiny like an Apple. It was an older boy, the brother of one of his good friends that named him Muggsy. There was a popular show at the time called “The Bowery Boys”. It featured a gang and their leader was called Muggsy and he was a little on the short side. It was noticed that Muggsy Bogues himself was the leader of his little gang, always creating mischief and making sure he was followed into it by those around him. When this was pointed out young Muggsy Bogues initially reacted negatively to it, in private anyway. He thought it was a commentary on how he looked. Once he sat down and watched the show for the first time he understood, he could see the similarities and knew it wasn’t an insult. He embraced it. By the time he was 9 no one called him Tyrone except his Mum and teachers. By the time he was in high school it was just his Mum. He even had NBA teammates who were unaware his real name wasn’t Muggsy. The name is so entrenched that he even got an official letter from the White House after a visit there, addressed to … Muggsy Bogues.  

Other Notable Small Players

Muggsy is the smallest and probably the best short man to ever do it in the NBA, but he’s not alone. Below is a list of some notable players who got it done on the floor despite their height. Earl Boykins was frequently asked to guard young Lebron a lot to take away his ability to bring the ball up the floor and initiate offence on a poor Cavs team. He’s also the shortest player ever to drop 30 in a game. Mel Hirsch held the smallest player ever title for a long time before Muggsy entered the League. Spud Webb has some HIGHLIGHT dunks that are worth checking out, not least his 1986 Dunk Contest win. Nate Robinson another dunk contest winner, he did it 3 times though. Isiah Thomas, listed at 5 ft 9, but probably smaller, became known as The King of the Fourth as he powered the Celtics to the best record in the East before he was traded for Kyrie Irving. You don’t HAVE to be big to play Basketball. But it helps. 

Player Height Team
Muggsy Bogues  5 ft 3  Bullets, Hornets, Warriors, Raptors 
Earl Boykins  5 ft 5  Nets, Cavaliers, Magic, Clippers, Warriors,
Nuggets, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, Rockets 
Mel Hirsch  5 ft 6  Celtics (1940’s) 
Spud Webb  5 ft 7    Hawks, Kings, Timberwolves, Magic 
Nate Robinson  5 ft 9  Knicks, Celtics, Thunder, Warriors, Bulls, Nuggets, Clippers, Pelicans 
Isaiah Thomas  5 ft 9  Kings, Suns, Celtics, Cavaliers, Lakers,
Wizards 

Who is the current smallest player on the NBA? 

With Nate Robinson currently plying his trade in the Big 3. Isaiah Thomas, 5 ft 9 has inherited the title of smallest active NBA player. 

Louis

I fell in love with Basketball when I was about 9 years old. Since then I have played on, coached and organised many teams. I've followed the NBA ever since. With no home team I've always rooted for teams and players I like the style of. The last 2 decades that's meant Greg Popoviches Spurs for the most part. My favourite NBA podcasts are The Lowe Post, Open Floor and The Ringers "The Mismatch".

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