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The Tallest And Shortest Basketball Players In NBA History

The tallest NBA player stands more than 2 feet taller than the shortest.

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You might think that you need exceptional height to wind up in the NBA, but as these players prove, the number on that measuring stick doesn’t mean everything. From short players who achieved massive success to unbelievably tall players who ended up spending most of their time on the bench, height is just one small factor when it comes to skill on the basketball court.

Here are the tallest and shortest players to ever make it to the NBA. One thing these guys all have in common? They might not be allowed to ride some rollercoasters — for different reasons, of course.

#16 Tallest — Keith Closs


Height: 7 feet, 3 inches

Keith Closs was a defensive hero in college in the 1990s. At Central Connecticut State University, he set the NCAA’s all-time record by averaging 5.87 blocks per game. That didn’t necessarily translate to the NBA, where he played center for the Los Angeles Clippers from 1997-2000, earning career averages of 3.9 points and 1.3 blocks per game. Despite his athletic skill, Closs battled alcohol addiction for many years, even drinking during games.

“That wasn’t Gatorade in my water bottle; it was whatever I’d brought with me from the liquor store on the way to the arena,” Closs, now sober, told Slam Magazine.

#16 Shortest — Nate Robinson


Height: 5 feet, 9 inches

At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Nate Robinson proved that height isn’t everything when it comes to being a gifted baller. He played in 574 NBA games for eight different teams from 2005 to 2016, including the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. Robinson was a gifted dunker. Most notably, he is the only player to ever win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest three times. He’s got some serious hops!

#15 Tallest — Randy Breuer


Height: 7 feet, 3 inches

Minnesota-born Randy Breuer towered over many of his rivals at 7 feet, 3 inches. During the 1980s and 1990s, Breuer was a staple on NBA courts, playing for four teams from 1983 to 1994, most memorably the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves. He put up an average of 6.8 points per game in that span. Breuer now has three children who also love the sport, and he coaches other kids in his free time as well.

“I’m an assistant coach; I volunteer my time. It’s just fun to see kids when the light turns on and they start to understand basketball,” he told NBA.com.

#15 Shortest — Calvin Murphy


Height: 5 feet, 9 inches

Calvin Murphy is hardly short by most standards, but he falls quite short of the average NBA player’s height, which is 6 feet, 7 inches. Murphy never let that slow him down, though, playing for Houston Rockets (previously the San Diego Rockets, before 1971) from 1970-1983 and earning an average 17.9 points per game. Murphy is the shortest player to ever be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

#14 Tallest — Ha Seung-Jin


Height: 7 feet, 3 inches

Ha Seung-Jin is the only man of Korean descent to ever play for the NBA. Seung-Jin played center for the Portland Trail Blazers for 46 games, earning an average of 1.5 points per game. But Seung-Jin didn’t stay in the NBA long. He returned to Korea to play for the Korean Basketball League.

#14 Shortest — Isaiah Thomas


Height: 5 feet, 9 inches

Isaiah Thomas might only be 5 feet, 9 inches tall, but he has more than proved his athletic prowess during his time in the NBA. Thomas is the shortest player to ever play in multiple All-Star games, and he earned an average of 18.6 points per game. Thomas was the leader of the “Bad Boys” on the Detroit Pistons, and he had an infamous rivalry with NBA legend Magic Johnson.

#13 Tallest — Žydrūnas Ilgauskas


Height: 7 feet, 3 inches

At 7 feet, 3 inches, the Lithuanian-born Žydrūnas Ilgauskas played center for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. The star played in 771 games and averaged 13.8 points per game. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards just last year.

#13 Shortest — Kay Felder


Height: 5 feet, 9 inches

At 5 feet, 9 inches, Kay Felder is making his mark in the NBA world. He is only 24 years old but has been playing professionally for over 3 years, first for the Cleveland Cavaliers, then the Chicago Bulls and then the Detroit Pistons. Felder acknowledges that the NBA is starting to be more inclusive of shorter players, saying, “You can tell that the league is changing and getting smaller and things like that, and it’s a great wave for small point guards coming up and guys like Isaiah Thomas are flourishing in that system.”

#12 Tallest — Ralph Sampson


Height: 7 feet, 4 inches

Ralph Sampson is an NBA legend, playing in more than 450 games during his long and historic career. Sampson is 7 feet, 4 inches tall, and during his NBA career from 1983-1992 he earned an average of 15.4 points per game, playing for the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and the Washington Bullets. Sampson is a four-time All-Star member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and he was selected three times as College National Player of the Year.

His teammates remember for his humility and natural kindness, with one former teammate telling Sports Illustrated, “Ralph was a small-town kid, polite, low or virtually no ego… he was the consummate team player, unselfish, always trying to deflect.”

#12 Shortest — Howie Carl


Height: 5 feet, 9 inches

Howie Carl, who died in 2005 at age67, played for the now-defunct Chicago Packers (who later became the Washington Wizards). At 5 feet, 9 inches, Carl played point guard and scored around 5.5 points per game in the one season, 1961-1962, that he played in the NBA. The Chicago native played for Chicago’s first ever basketball team for just one season. He was an expert at free throws, a skill he developed as a child working at his family’s free-throw shooting stand at a local amusement park. Some of his teammates are pictured below.

#11 Tallest — Rik Smits


Height: 7 feet, 4 inches

Rik Smiths hails from the Netherlands, where his exceptionally tall frame (7 feet, 4 inches) helped guide him to the NBA. He played 867 games as a center for the Pacers, earning an average of 14.8 points per game. Shaquille O’Neal once said that Smits was one of the players he feared most on the court.

“Rik destroyed me every time,” O’Neal told Sports Illustrated. “Pick-and-pop, jump hook in the post, I couldn’t stop that kid.”

#11 Shortest — Charlie Criss


Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

At 5 feet, 8 inches, Charlie Criss earned an average of 8.5 points per game when he was on NBA teams the Atlanta Hawks, San Diego Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“My mother and father laughed at me when I told them I was going to play basketball,” Criss told NBA.com of the early days when he started playing the sport. But he soon proved that he had raw talent that superseded his short stature. A former college coach said Criss’ height made recruiters want to pass him by, and the NBA felt the same way — Criss spent years playing as a semi-pro before making it to the NBA in ’77.

#10 Tallest — Mark Eaton


Height: 7 feet, 4 inches

At 7 feet, 4 inches, Mark Eaton was a record-setting NBA player during his time with the Utah Jazz. Eaton holds the record for blocking the most shots during a single game, as well as blocking the most shots throughout his NBA career. No wonder he is known as the “Master of the Blocked Shot.”

Now a motivational speaker, Eaton used to be uncomfortable with his massive height but now says, “I found out that if there’s something about you that makes you uncomfortable, or is difficult for you, it might be your greatest asset.”

#10 Shortest —Willie Somerset


Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

Willie Somerset played in just eight games for the NBA, as a point guard for the Baltimore Bullets in 1965-66. Although he was only 5 feet, 8 inches, Somerset made his mark on the court, and in 1993, Inside Sports magazine named him the top scoring player among NBA players under 6 feet for his 21.9 points per game average.

#9 Tallest — Priest Lauderdale


Height: 7 feet, 5 inches

At 7 feet, 5 inches, Priest Lauderdale looks like a natural-born NBA player. But during his short tenure as a center with the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets in the mid-1990s, Lauderdale only earned a modest 3.4 points per game. Lauderdale later became a journeyman, traveling to countries as far-flung as Iraq, Spain and China to play basketball.

#9 Shortest — Spud Webb


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Don’t let his height (5 feet, 7 inches) fool you. Spud Webb is the real deal. Webb played for the NBA throughout the ’80s and ’90s, earning an average of 9.9 points per game and most notably winning the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest in 1986. Webb was the shortest player to ever participate in the Slam Dunk competitions.

“I can’t describe the dunks,” Webb told reporters at the time. “It’s just something I go out and do. Leaping is just a God-given talent, and it’s something I try to keep.”

#8 Tallest — Chuck Nevitt


Height: 7 feet, 5 inches

At 7 feet, 5 inches, Nevitt played center for nine years in the NBA, during the 1980s and early 1990s, for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls and other teams. Nevitt never made a huge splash or racked up impressive stats, earning only 1.6 points per game, but his height was legendary and he won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 1984.

#8 Shortest — Red Klotz


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

At 5 feet, 7 inches, Louis Herman “Red” Klotz had a short and somewhat lackluster career in the NBA, playing just one season for the Baltimore Bullets. However, his team did win the championship, making him the shortest player to ever win an NBA championship.

He later became the founder and coach of the Washington Generals, who played against the Harlem Globetrotters and famously had the worst record in the history of sports. Known for his humor and larger-than-life personality, Klotz had fans across the country thanks to the way he cut up during games against the Globetrotters. “If anybody calls Red a loser, they’re missing the whole point,” says a former Globetrotter player. “When a Globetrotter game is over, folks never remember the final score. People remember the laughter.”

Instagram user @tylerdashwhite shared this special photo of Red Klotz at a training camp in New York City which shows off both his short stature and glowing smile:

#7 Tallest — Sim Bhullar


Height: 7 feet, 5 inches

Sim Bhullar is remarkable for more than just his height (7 feet, 5 inches). He is also the first player of Indian descent to ever play on an NBA team. (Bhullar’s parents are from Punjab, and they emigrated to Canada in the 1980s.) Bhullar played for the Sacramento Kings for just one season.

“Maybe my hook shot isn’t as amazing as Vince’s 360 windmill dunk,” Bhullar wrote for the Player’s Tribune, “but hopefully it inspires a few million Indian kids to put down the cricket bat and say, ‘I want to do that, too.'”

#7 Shortest: Monte Towe


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

At 5 feet, 7 inches, Monte Towe was the shortest player to play in the original American Basketball Association before it merged with the NBA. He played in 51 games for the Denver Nuggets, earning an average of 2.5 points per game. Towe was known for his passing ability, and a fellow teammate told the Raleigh, North Carolina News and Observer, “Monte was the one of the most competitive players I’ve ever played with or against.”

#6 Tallest — Slavko Vraneš


Height: 7 feet, 5 inches

At 7 feet, 5 inches, Slavko Vraneš could have become an NBA legend. But the center (who hails from Pljevlja, Montenegro) only played in one game for the Portland Trail Blazers for a total of 3 minutes. While Vranes’ career in the NBA stalled, he still plays pro basketball for Metalac Valjevo, the Serbian men’s pro team.

#6 Shortest — Wataru Misaka


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Wataru Misaka measured at 5 feet, 7 inches tall, but his height didn’t stop him from being the first non-Caucasian person to play on an NBA team.

During the 1947-48 season, the second-generation Japanese immigrant played for the New York Knicks. He left the game after playing just three pro games to become an electrical engineer.

Still, Misaka broke many barriers during his time in the NBA and challenged many stereotypes. President Barack Obama even credited Wat Misaka for his “competitive spirit” and the ways in which he enhanced the Asian-American community. He is the subject of a documentary called “Transcending” that covers his life as an NBA player and his service in the U.S. Army.

#5 Tallest — Pavel Podkolzin


Height: 7 feet, 6 inches

Russian-born Pavel Podkolzin played for the Dallas Mavericks for just six games over the course of two seasons. At 7 feet, 6 inches, he is exceptionally tall, but his height didn’t translate into a long-term NBA career. The Mavs let him loose in 2006; coaches thought the then-21-year-old needed more experience before playing professionally.

#5 Shortest — Greg Grant


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Greg Grant had a long career in the NBA, despite the fact that he is only 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Between 1989 and 1996, he played for the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets and Denver Nuggets. Grant never let his tough childhood or his short stature prevent him from chasing his B-ball dreams.

“He’s a spark plug, a guy who can come off the bench and get the crowd involved and change the flow of it,” 76ers manager Jim Lynam said about Grant’s powerful energy.

#4 Tallest — Yao Ming


Height: 7 feet 6 inches

Houston Rockets superstar Yao Ming is legendary for his height (7 feet, 6 inches) and his athletic prowess. Ming scored an average of 19.1 points per game, and he is the tallest NBA player to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ming’s height does have drawbacks, however, including the fact that he doesn’t fit in most standard size cars.

“I don’t have the luxury to pick my own car,” he told The Financial Times. “I wish I could drive a Mini.” Hey, we bet his Range Rover is still a sweet ride, too.

#4 Shortest — Keith Jennings


Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Keith “Mister” Jennings stands at 5 feet, 7 inches, but his prowess for the sport is unquestionable. He played for the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets during his NBA career, where he became known for his incredible assists as well as his shooting ability (scoring 75 three-pointers during his 1994-95 season alone). Jennings is now the head women’s basketball coach for the Lees-McRae College Bobcats.

#3 Tallest — Shawn Bradley


Height: 7 feet, 6 inches

At 7 feet, 6 inches, Shawn Bradley matches Yao Ming for height, but he hails from the former West Germany rather than China. Bradley played for the 76ers, New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks during the 1990s and early 2000s, earning 8.1 points per game. While he never set records during his time as a NBA player (and even catches flack for simply being super tall and not overly gifted at basketball), he had a solid career. And he caught a few punches during that career, even getting body slammed by Mark Davis during a game. (Davis is a full foot shorter than Bradley).

#3 Shortest — Mel Hirsch


Height: 5 feet 6 inches

During his time on the court, Mel Hirsch was the shortest player who had ever been on an NBA team. He played for the Boston Celtics during the 1946-1947 season, scoring an average of 1.5 points per game. Hirsch, who died in 1968, served as a navigator in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, where he also played on the officers’ basketball team (as pictured below).

#2 Tallest — Manute Bol


Height: 7 feet, 7 inches

Manute Bol, who died in 2010, was legendary for his height. Standing at 7 feet, 7 inches tall, Bol was known for his incredible blocking ability, as well as for the fact that he blocked more shots than he ever scored during his time in the NBA.

And because Bol — who played for the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat — was recruited to play in America from Sudan and didn’t know how old he was, his former college coach believes it’s possible Bol was in his late 40s or even his early 50s when he was playing in the NBA.

#2 Shortest — Earl Boykins


Height: 5 feet, 5 inches

Measuring at 5 feet, 5 inches, Earl Boykins stands tall among the shortest players in NBA history. He was in the NBA for more than a decade, playing for the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.

He earned an average of 8.9 points per game — not bad for a kid who was so short he had to learn to dribble with a tennis ball.

#1 Tallest — Gheorghe Mureșan


Height: 7 feet, 7 inches

Gheorghe Mureșan is 7 feet, 7 inches tall, meaning that he ties with Manute Bol for the tallest player in NBA history. However, Mureșan appears to be slightly taller than Bol — Bol was measured at 7 feet, 6 3/4 inches when his height was recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records. In the early ’90s, the Romanian-born Mureșan scored an average of 9.8 points per game and blocked 455 shots during his NBA career, which only lasted five years.

#1 Shortest —Muggsy Bogues


Height: 5 feet, 3 inches

Muggsy Bogues is the shortest player to ever play on the NBA. At 5 feet, 3 inches, he had a long career (from 1987 to 2001) playing for the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, earning an average of 7.7 points per game. He notably played against Bol during the 1987-88 season. There’s a difference of more than two feet between the players!