What do Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq all have in common? Besides all holding numerous individual NBA records, not to mention a handful of all-time records, they’re all over six feet, five inches tall. And when you look at the majority of the greatest basketball players of all time, most are over six feet five.
So if you’re reading this right now and you’re below 6’5” do you really have a chance to make it as a pro? Can you become the next NBA or collegiate superstar?
The answer is yes, yes you can. Some of the greatest players to ever take the court never topped 6’5,’’ and some of them barely topped out at 6 feet. But what these players lacked in height, they made up for in finesse, heart, and quick, ankle-breaking moves.
The Best Basketball Players Under 6’5’’
✓ Pistol Pete
Coming in at exactly 6’5,’’ “Pistol” Pete Maravich may be one of, if not the greatest, college basketball player of all-time. And when he left college and went pro, he continued to dazzle and wow crowds with his ball-handling skills and his creative offensive plays.
Pistol Pete’s one of the youngest men to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and to this day, Pete Maravich is still the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I Basketball history. He averaged 44.2 points per game as a student-athlete. He accomplished this long before the 3-point line existed. And here’s something truly mind-blowing: Pistol Pete scored 3,667 points in only three seasons at LSU.
✓ Dwayne Wade
Wade came on the scene and changed the Miami Heat long before Lebron and Bosh moved down South. In his third year in the NBA, Wade led the Heat to the NBA Finals where they won and he took home the crown of MVP.
Standing at just under 6’5’’, D-Wade has won not only 3 NBA championships, but a scoring title (most points in a season), and he’s been to the All-Star game twelve times.
He’s averaged over 23 points a game in his career and is by far one of the most recognizable faces in the NBA today.
✓ Chris Paul
As a lifelong UNC Tarheel fan, Chris Paul was one of the players I was terrified to see on the court when he was in college at Wake Forest. In the NBA, though, he’s still one of the most lights out players in regards to scoring, ball-handling, and distributing the ball.
He’s a 9-time NBA All-Star and former NBA Rookie of the Year. He’s averaged 18.8 points and 9.9 assists since he started his career. And Chris Paul isn’t a big guy, either. He comes in at an even 6 feet tall.
✓ John Stockton/Jason Kidd
Arguably the two greatest assisting PGs in NBA history – they are ranked #1 and #2 respectively in regards to all-time assists. John Stockton and Jason Kidd are both below 6’5’’. But their height didn’t stop either of them from making some of the most memorable passes in NBA history.
Stockton played in Utah and worked alongside Hall of Famer, Karl Malone, where they both lit up the scoreboard and stat sheets during the 90s. Sadly, thanks to the Chicago Bulls and their title runs during the 90s, Stockton never won a championship.
Jason Kidd played in New Jersey with the Nets for most of his career, but rose to fame in Phoenix in the late 90s. And over his career made the All-Star game 10 times. He did finally win a championship in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks. Since he retired, he’s coached for two NBA teams: The Brooklyn Nets and his current position as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
✓ AI (Allen Iverson)
Rated by ESPN as the 5th greatest shooting guard of all-time, Iverson had one of the most lethal crossovers of any player, ever. A crossover that he used against MJ during his rookie year, thus becoming one of his most recognized highlights.
Allen Iverson was 6 feet, but that didn’t stop AI from getting massive amounts of air and slamming the ball home. Take a look at a few of his gravity-defying slams in this video.
His points per game average (26.7) ranks him sixth all-time. But he’s only second behind Michael Jordan for career all-time scoring averages in the playoffs (29.7). AI, or “The Answer” as he was also known, was one of the most electrifying players in the history of basketball.
There are actually a ton of amazing NBA players who never topped six feet five inches:
☐ Tim Hardaway
☐ Isiah Thomas (2x NBA Champion, 12x NBA All-Star)
☐ Spud Webb (at 5’6’’ he’s the shortest player to ever participate and win the NBA Dunk Contest)
☐ Muggsy Bogues
☐ Mark Price
☐ Russell Westbrook
☐ Jason Williams
☐ Mookie Blaylock
☐ Calvin Murphy
Take Home Message
It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight. It’s the Size of the Fight in the Dog.
The biggest stars in basketball seem always to be, not only larger than life, but really tall. Shaq, Hakeem, Tim Duncan, Dirk, Lebron, Dr. J., Bird, Magic, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Wilt, Pippen, Kobe, and His Airness. But your height doesn’t define greatness.
As the old cliche says: “dynamite comes in small packages.” And some of the most dynamic, dastardly quick, and agile players in basketball history didn’t tower over their competition. They were fast, smart, and many of them are among the most prolific passers or scorers in the history of the game.
If you’re quick, have nimble hands, and can develop great floor vision, you don’t need to be tall to succeed at basketball.