Top 10 Little Men in NBA History
To be a professional basketball player, generally the first requirement is you must be tall. Throughout the years, however, there have been exceptions to the rule, we all remember Muggsy Bogues in Space Jam. In a sport filled with giants I would like to show some love to the little guys, so today we are ranking the top 10 players of all time, who never grew taller than 6 feet.
10. Isaiah Thomas
To kick off the list we start with Isaiah Thomas, the current Isaiah Thomas that is. Isaiah was the last pick in the 2011 draft out of Washington. In only his fourth season in the NBA Thomas has already cracked the top ten list thanks to his shifty moves in the paint and his ability to facilitate the ball to his teammates. He is having a breakout season this year, averaging 21.6 points and 6.6 assists per game while leading his team to another potential playoff run. Thomas was also selected to his first All-Star game this season.
9. Damon Stoudamire
Damon "Mighty Mouse" Stoudamire was drafted 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors in 1995. He burst onto the scene his rookie year averaging 19 points, 4 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game, for his effort Damon was crowned Rookie of the Year in 1995-96. During his 13 year career Stoudamire played for 4 different teams including Portland, Toronto, Memphis, and San Antonio. His best season was the '96-'97 season, while still with Toronto he set career highs in points per game (20) and assists per game (8.8) along with an 18.8 player efficiency rating (PER).
8. Terrell Brandon
Terrell Brandon was selected 11th overall in the 1991 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending two years at the University of Oregon. Brandon played 11 years in the league and spent time playing for three different organizations, his most successful time as a player was for the Minnesota Timberwolves. In February of 1997 Brandon graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and was touted as the best point guard in the NBA, that season was the best of his career as he put up career highs in points (19.5) and rebounds (3.9) while still dishing out 6.3 assists per contest. Brandon was a two-time All-Star (1996, 1997).
7. Michael Adams
Michael Adams came into the league as an unheralded, undersized guard out of Boston College. In his third season he began to make a name for himself, once he was inserted into the starting line-up he averaging 14 points and 6 assists for the Nuggets. His career lasted 11 seasons with stops in Denver, Washington, Charlotte, and Sacramento. His career averages of 14.7 points and 6.4 assists per game are solid, but his best seasons were much more impressive. During a 5 season stretch from 1988-1993 Adams averaged nearly 19 points and 8 assists per game, including his best season in 1990-91 when he was selected to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. The '90-'91 season saw Adams average a staggering 26.5 points and 10.5 assists per game.
6. Mookie Blaylock
Mookie Blaylock came into the NBA with a reputation of being a relentless and pesky defender. His offense, however, was not to be ignored as he was a high percentage shooter and great at starting the fast break. Through his 13 year career Blaylock averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 assists per game. Mookie was selected for the All-Star team in 1994 as he averaged 17 points and 8 assists in what would be his best season. The reputation he built as a ball hawking, aggressive defender while at Midland College and also Oklahoma was not unjustified. Mookie recorded over 200 steals in 5 separate seasons in the NBA along with being a two-time All-Defensive First-Team Award winner. Blaylock also led the league in steals in back to back seasons, becoming one of only five players to ever lead the league in that category in back to back seasons. He retired as the Atlanta Hawks all-time leader in three-point field goals made (1,050), three-point field goals attempts (3,023) and the franchise leader in steals (1,321).
5. Mark Price
Mark Price came into the league as the 2nd round pick of the Dallas Mavericks, but was traded to Cleveland on draft night. He was viewed by many "experts" as too slow, too small, and too deliberate to be effective in the NBA. Price quickly silenced those critics, during the 1988-89 season as Price would become just the second player (Larry Bird) to ever join the 50-40-90 club, shooting above 50% from the field, above 40% from three-point territory, and above 90% from the free-throw line. He continued being a force in the NBA as he was selected to four All-Star game appearances, along with being selected to the All-NBA First Team in 1993. Price was also part of the 1994 US National team, that team played in the FIBA World Championship, Price and Team USA would go on to win gold. During the height of his career Price was known as one of the league's top shooters, he demonstrated his abilities as he won the 3-point shooting title twice in his career. Along with other accomplishments, Price is the all-time steals leader in Cleveland Cavalier history, his number 25 jersey is also retired by the team. He averaged 16 points and 7 assists during his time in Cleveland. The final 3 years of his career were spent bouncing around the league, mainly being used as a mentor to young players and as backup point guard.
4. Calvin Murphy
At 5'9" Calvin Murphy is much shorter than most players on our list, but his accomplishments come up large as he is the only player in the top 10 currently in the NBA Hall of Fame (1993). Murphy made a name for himself as a rookie when he averaged 16 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds. He spent his entire 13 year career with the Rockets organization, and by the time he was ready to hang it up he led the franchise in career points. His career average of 17.9 points per game ranks him third all time among players under six feet tall. Murphy's best season came in 1977-78 when he averaged 25.6 points per game and shot 91% from the free-throw line. He also led the league in free-throw shooting percentage two times including the 1980-81 season when he set NBA records for most consecutive free throws made (78) and highest single season free-throw percentage (95%).
3. Tim Hardaway
One of the great one on one players of his era, Tim Hardaway kicks off the top 3 on our list. Hardaway Played 13 seasons in the NBA bouncing around to five different teams, but he will be most remembered for his tenures with the Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat. He was selected by the Warriors in the first round of the 1989 draft and instantly made his presence felt as he started every game except one during his rookie season. Along with Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin he helped form the trio known as "Run-TMC" ( the first initials in their names). In Hardaway's second season he helped guide the team to the playoffs by averaging 23 points and 10 assists per game. The Warriors surprised many that season by knocking off the San Antonio Spurs, led by David Robinson, in the first round of the playoffs. After a mid-season trade to the Heat in 1995 Hardaway continued to be one of the top point guards in the league. In his first full season with Miami he averaged 20 points and 9 assists, he also was considered for the league MVP award, but came up short, finishing fourth in the voting. Hardaway finished his career as a 5 time All Star and 5 time All-NBA Team selection, with career averages of 17.7 points and 8.2 assists per game.
2. Chris Paul
Chris Paul has been arguably the best point guard in the NBA over the past decade, regardless of height. He has made the All-Star team every season since 2008 including again this season. In his rookie year he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year, while averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. He is the prototypical point guard and floor general, Paul has led the NBA in assists four times, also he has led the NBA is steals five times. Paul has represented team USA in the olympic games twice (2008,2012), coming home with a gold medal both times. He has been awarded First-Team All NBA honors four times and Second-Team All NBA twice. He has finished in the top five MVP voting four times, coming in second place behind Dirk Nowitzki in 2007-08. When ESPN released their list of all-time top point guards in January '16, Chris was put at number 6, he is without question a future Hall of Fame player and clearly one of the best little men the game has ever seen.
1. Allen Iverson
Many would contend that Allen Iverson, aka "AI", aka "The Answer", carried basketball through the tough time after Michael Jordan retired. At 6' tall and 165 lbs, Iverson was a rare type of little guy, not afraid to go into the land of the giants to get his points. League MVP Lebron James has been quoted as hailing Iverson "The best pound for pound player ever." The Answer is known for having the best crossover the game has ever seen which enabled him to create the space needed to get to the basket and to repeatedly get open shots. Iverson became the only player under 6' to be chosen as the first overall pick in the NBA draft when he was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996. The list of accolades for Iverson is extensive. He has won four scoring titles, three times he led the league is steals, he was a member of the All-NBA team seven times, eleven consecutive All-Star selections, Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star Game MVP, and most impressive, he was the 2000-2001 NBA Most Valuable Player. Along with winning the MVP award in 2001, Iverson also led his team to the NBA finals where they eventually met there match against the Shaq and Kobe led Los Angeles Lakers. Iverson has had his number 3 jersey retired by the 76ers, and he is a finalist for the basketball Hall of Fame this coming year. When ESPN recently released their list of the top 50 greatest basketball players of all-time, Iverson was ranked 46. AI finished his career averaging just over 2 steals per game along with 6.2 assists and he ranks seventh on the all-time list with 26.6 points per game.
Honorable Mention: Nate Robinson, Spud Webb, Ty Lawson, Kenny Anderson, Kyle Lowry, Jameer Nelson.
You can also see the list of top ten 7 footers in league history here: http://theskinny365.com/2016/02/08/nbas-10-greatest-7-footers/