When we think of basketball players, one word typically comes to mind: tall.
This is not an inaccurate assumption, as the average height in the NBA for the 2021/22 season was 6 ft 6 in, some eight inches taller than that of the average American man.
However, this does not mean that all professional basketball players necessarily have to be tall, as there have been several shorter players over the years who have defied the norm and succeeded.
In this article, we will reveal who the shortest ever player in the NBA was, as well as taking a look at who is the shortest active player in the league. We will then also look at who the shortest ever WNBA player was, to see how they compare.
Who is the Shortest NBA Player of All Time?
This title is held by Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, a former point guard who played 14 seasons in the NBA between 1987 and 2001, and had a listed height of just 5 ft 3 in.
Nicknamed “Muggsy” after a short character from The Bowery Boys, Bogues began his career at the Rhode Island Gulls, before being selected by the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) at the 1987 NBA draft. When he then made his debut the same year, Muggsy was some 16.5 inches shorter than the average height in the league, and was even on the same team as Manute Bol, who stood at 7 ft 7 in!
After a change in management saw his playing appearances at the Bullets decrease, Bogues was left unprotected in the 1988 expansion draft, where he was then selected by one of the new NBA teams, the Charlotte Hornets. Muggsy spent 10 seasons with the Hornets in the most successful period of his career, in which both his playmaking and stealing skills were firmly on display.
The point guard ranked in the top seven in the league for assists in six consecutive seasons between 1989 and 1995. Bogues also managed 146 double-doubles in his career, as he constantly proved that his diminutive height did not hold him back from being great at basketball.
Although he never managed to dunk in an NBA game, the point guard reportedly had a 44-inch vertical leap.
Who Are Some of the Other Shortest Players in NBA History?
Other notable short NBA players include Earl Boykins, who played 16 seasons in the league for several teams, including the L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors between 1998 and 2012. Boykins stood at just 5 ft 5 in, making him the second-shortest NBA player of all time behind Muggsy Bogues.
He was, so the stories go, snuck into gyms in a gym bag by his father as a child, where he learnt to play against grown men from a young age. The point guard scored an impressive 32 points in a single game for the Nuggets against the Detroit Pistons, making him the shortest player ever to score more than 30 points in a game.
Another diminutive player who continually defied the odds was Anthony “Spud” Webb, who played 13 seasons in the league between 1985 and 1998. Webb’s height was listed at just 5 ft 6 in, but this did not hold him back whatsoever. In high school, Spud was already able to dunk, despite only being 5 ft 3 in at the time, and his vertical leap was measured at 42 inches by the time he was in college.
However, the point guard’s most impressive achievement has to be his triumph in the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In this contest, held in Dallas, Spud defeated reigning champion Dominique Wilkins, famed as one of the greatest and most acrobatic dunkers of all time, who was over a foot taller, standing at a whopping 6 ft 8 in. Who said short men can’t dunk?
Who is Currently the Shortest Player in the NBA?
The shortest active NBA player, as of 2023, was Isaiah Thomas, with the point guard standing at 5 ft 9 in, so a relative giant compared to Muggsy.
Thomas is a two-time NBA All-Star, having been selected in consecutive years in 2016 and 2017, and has played for a number of different teams, including the Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The point guard’s most successful period came whilst playing for the Celtics, where he became a fan favourite, and was even named the fifth most valuable player in the NBA for the 2016/17 season.
Unfortunately, after picking up a hip injury during the 16/17 season, Thomas struggled to play consistently, and represented nine different teams between 2018 and 2022.
Isaiah then failed to register a single appearance in the 2022/23 campaign, although he did declare that he was hoping to return to the NBA for the following season.
Who is the Shortest Ever WNBA Player?
So, we’ve rounded up some of the shortest male professional basketball players of all time, but how does this compare to the WNBA?
Well, the shortest WNBA player of all time was Debbie Black, who stood at just 5 ft 2.5 in, just half an inch shorter than Muggsy Bogues.
Although she only played in the WNBA for five seasons between 1999 and 2004, she was awarded the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2001 whilst playing for the Miami Sol.
Renowned for her toughness in defence and boundless energy, Black was nicknamed “The Pest”, and was certainly not held back from competing by her diminutive stature.
Just as Muggsy Bogues played with Manute Bol, the 5 ft 2.5 in Black played with the tallest ever WNBA player, 7 ft 2 in Margo Dydek, whilst playing for the Utah Starzz.
Must make shooting the team photograph tricky so fair play to the photographer who dealt with that!