Isaiah Thomas has been a giant for the Boston Celtics in the 2017 postseason, but “giant” applies only in metaphorical terms. Thomas stands just 5-9, making him the shortest player currently in the NBA. In his sixth season, Thomas suddenly blossomed into one of the best players in the league. His emergence as a superstar serves as a reminder that, while big men have always ruled the NBA, much smaller players can make a huge impact. Here’s our take on the greatest players under 6 feet tall in NBA history.
5. Nate Robinson
The fact Robinson is the NBA’s first three-time Slam Dunk Competition champion tells you he had some hops. He also had great speed and ball-handling skills. But he never really found the right fit for his skill set, playing for eight different NBA teams and starting only 107 games in his 11-season career.
4. Muggsy Bogues
It’s simply amazing that Bogues not only made the NBA at this height, but that he played 14 seasons. He never put up huge scoring numbers, but the former Wake Forest star served as the sparkplug of some very good Charlotte Hornets teams (Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, etc.) in the 1990s. The shortest player in NBA history, Bogues had a non-stop motor running the court on the break and on defense; he remains the Hornets’ career leader in assists and steals.
3. Ty Lawson
During a four-year run for the Nuggets between 2011 and 2015, Lawson averaged 16 points and 8 assists per game. He remains one of the NBA’s best ball handlers — with a killer crossover — and fastest players.
2. Isaiah Thomas
Thomas showed signs of brilliance with Sacramento and Phoenix, but really emerged as a force after becoming a starter in Boston in 2015. The two-time All Star is now one of the most prolific scorers in the league. The highlight video above, of Thomas’ 53-point explosion against the Wizards in the 2017 NBA playoffs, shows off his dynamic offensive package.
1. Calvin Murphy
Murphy averaged more than 20 points per game five times in his 13-year career with the Rockets, and averaged 17.9 points for his career, yet somehow only made one All Star game. He received the ultimate honor, however, when the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1993. Murphy is the shortest NBA player in the hall.
One More: Spud Webb
Webb won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Competition, beating Dominique (“The Human Highlight Reel”) Wilkins in the final round. The former N.C. State star, who had a 42-inch vertical leap, played 13 seasons in the league, and averaged about 13 points per game in a six-year span primarily as a starter with Atlanta and Sacramento.
And Another: Nate Archibald
Height: 6-1 (official listing)
Although officially listed at 6-1, many feel the player nicknamed “Tiny” stood a couple of inches shorter. One of the most explosive scorers in the NBA during the 1970s, in 1973 Archibald became the only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring (34.0 points per game) and assists (11.4). He’s a member of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame and would have been an easy No. 1 on this list — had he been officially listed under 6 feet tall.
(Slideshow photo credit: Keith Allison)