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Putting the Napoleon Complex to Good Use: Famous Shorties in the NBA

manute-bol-muggsy-bogues

With Tyler Ulis’ commitment to the Cats all but certain tomorrow night, many fans are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea of a 5’9″ point guard in a Kentucky uniform. I get it; the typical Calipari point guard is more in the mold of Wall, Rose, or Harrison: 6’3″-6’5″, strong, and fast. At only 5’9″, 150 lbs., Tyler Ulis seems laughably small when compared to those guys, but before you laugh too hard, remember one thing: there’s a reason why he’s got an offer from Cal. Cal told Ulis’ father that his son “doesn’t play to his size,” and his high school coach says the small guard will “refuse to lose” (sound familiar?). He put up 22 points and 17 assists against the taller and higher ranked Tyus Jones at the Peach Jam, and shows absolutely no fear against bigger players.

At 5’3″ myself, I’ve always had a soft spot for shorties. As Devan Downey, Jason Harrison, Anthony Hickey, and Phil Pressey have proved, there’s nothing more infuriating for fans of the opposing team than a tiny little guard on fire. (In our house, Ole Miss’ Harrison was known as “Little $#[email protected]”.) All of those guys were great in college, where most short point guards traditionally fare better, but what about the pros? Drew hates short people, so Matt gave me the task of looking up the most successful short point guards in the NBA. I was pleasantly surprised by how many shorties made it big in the league, and how they all shared one common trait: they don’t let their height define them. Call it putting the Napoleon Complex to good use.

Muggsy-Bogues-and-Manute-Bol

Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues
Height: 5’3”
College: Wake Forest (1983-1987)
NBA Career: Washington Bullets (1987—1988); Charlotte Hornets (1988—1997); Golden State Warriors (1997—1999); Toronto Raptors (1999—2001)

When you think “short NBA player,” Muggsy Bogues immediately comes to mind. At 5’3″, Bogues is the shortest player to ever play in the league, and was drafted 12th in the 1987 NBA Draft, a class which also included David Robinson, Reggie Miller, and Scottie Pippen. Seeing Bogues on the court was surreal, especially when he stood next to his teammate Manute Boi, who stood at a whopping 7’7″ tall, but his skills were no joke. Despite being a foot shorter than most NBA point guards, Bogues never played to his size, and had 39 blocks over his 14-year NBA career, including one over Patrick Ewing. People loved Muggsy so much that he had with appearances in “Space Jam,” “JuWanna Mann, “Eddie,” and even “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

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Calvin Murphy
Height: 5’9″
College: Niagara (1967-1970)
NBA Career: San Diego/Houston Rockets (1970—1983)
NBA All-Star (1979)

Murphy is a name the younger folks (including myself) probably don’t know, but he pretty much set the standard for short point guards in the league. He was drafted by the San Diego Rockets with the 18th pick in the 1970 NBA Draft, and is the only guy on this list so far to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Murphy’s strengths were speed, defense, and free-throw shooting (hilariously, he also won a national champion in baton twirling). He didn’t take guff from anyone, no matter their size, and is probably best known for his brawl with 6’9″ Sidney Wicks, in which he jumped up, grabbed a piece of Wicks’ afro and gave him a bloody nose. I do the same thing when people call me short, Calvin.

Did they trot out Manute Boi for all these short people photoshoots?

Did they trot out Manute Boi for all these short people photoshoots?

Anthony “Spud” Webb
Height: 5’7″
College: Midland Collge (1981-1983); NC State (1983-1985)
NBA Career: Atlanta Hawks (1985—1991, 1995—1996); Sacramento Kings (1991—1995); Minnesota Timberwolves (1996); Orlando Magic (1998)
NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion (1986)

Spud Webb was the shortest player to ever compete in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and most people, including his teammate and defending dunk contest champion Dominique Wilkins, laughed at him for it until the won in 1986.

It was a victory for shorties everywhere. Take that, Drew.

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Earl Boykins
Height: 5’5″
College: Eastern Michigan (1994—1998)
NBA Career: New Jersey Nets (1999); Cleveland Cavaliers (1999); Orlando Magic (1999); Cleveland Cavaliers (2000); Los Angeles Clippers (2001—2002); Golden State Warriors (2002—03); Denver Nuggets (2003—2007); Milwaukee Bucks (2007); Charlotte Bobcats (2008); Washington Wizards (2009—10); Milwaukee Bucks (2010—11); Houston Rockets (2012)

Boykins is the second shortest player in NBA history behind Muggsy Bogues. While at Eastern Michigan, Boykins earned a reputation as a unstoppable scorer, so unguardable that the he led his team to an upset of Duke in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. At the time, Boykins said “I don’t think any 6-3 guard can stop me.” He went undrafted in the NBA, but played himself onto several squads during his 13-year NBA career, during which he became the shortest player in NBA history to score 30 or more points during a game.

Nate Robinson
Height: 5’9″
College: Washington (2002-2005)
NBA Career: New York Knicks (2005—2010); Boston Celtics (2009—2011); Oklahoma City Thunder (2011—2011); Golden State Warriors (2011—12); Chicago Bulls (2012—2013); Denver Nuggets (2013—present)
3-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion (2006, 2009, 2010)

Robinson led the Washington Huskies to the Sweet Sixteen in 2004, and was drafted 21st by the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Knicks. His breakout game in the NBA came against the 76ers, in which he scored 17 points and shot the game-winning three over his childhood hero, Allen Iverson. At only 5’9″, he’s the first player in NBA history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times, and in 2006, actually jumped over 1986 Dunk Champion and fellow shorty Spud Webb. He’s a dynamic scorer with freak athleticism, which he showed off in his 34-point performance for the Bulls against the Nets in last season’s playoffs.

Philadelphia 76ers v Denver Nuggets

Allen Iverson
Height: 6’0″
College: Georgetown (1994-1996)
NBA Career: Philadelphia 76ers (1996—2006); Denver Nuggets (2006—2008); Detroit Pistons (2008—2009); Memphis Grizzlies (2009); Philadelphia 76ers (2009—2010)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1997), NBA MVP (2001), 11-time NBA All-Star (2000-2010)

Iverson’s height is listed at 6′, but that seems to be a generous tip of the measuring stick if you ask me. Iverson is the shortest first overall pick in NBA Draft history, and in his prime, played harder than anyone. He led the league in scoring four times, steals three times, and was an eleven-time NBA All-Star. Tyler Ulis calls Iverson his idol; as the most famous undersized guards, he’s inspired a whole generation of short kids to not give up on their dreams. Just don’t look to him for advice off the court, kiddos.

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Hornets

Chris Paul
Height: 6’0″
College: Wake Forest (2003-2005)
NBA Career: New Orleans Hornets (2005—2011); Los Angeles Clippers (2011—present)
NBA Rookie of the Year (2006), 6-time NBA All-Star (2008-2013)

Like Iverson, Paul probably isn’t 6′ either, but has been a role model for vertically-challenged guards over the years. He even wrote a book about overcoming his short stature called “Long Short: Never Too Small To Dream Big.” Unlike some of the others on this list, Paul was a very highly ranked recruit and a McDonald’s All-American in 2003. Under his hand, Wake Forest went to the Sweet Sixteen and was ranked #1 in the country for the first time in school history. He left Winston-Salem after his sophomore year and was drafted 4th by the Hornets in 2005. From there, he garnered accolades on accolades, and is considered one of the best players in the league.

See? A 5’9″ point guard isn’t the end of the world. From what we’ve heard, Ulis possesses the same traits as the guys on this list: fearlessness, speed, smarts, and excellent distribution skills. Come on down and do it for the shorties, Tyler.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

27 Comments for Putting the Napoleon Complex to Good Use: Famous Shorties in the NBA



  1. Elmer
    7:34 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    He can still grow if you make him sandwiches



  2. cracka
    7:53 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    thought of jj barea, looked him up, listed at 6′ … you have got to be kidding!

    #TylerFeedTyler



  3. big O
    8:10 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I trust Cal’s decision. However, your argument about the kid putting up big numbers at the Peach Jam does not lend much credit. Summer AAU circuits are a lot more about offense than defense. I like to wait and see how guys hold up in SEC play and in March. If the young man does indeed pick the CATS, let’s all get behind him!! After all we are the BBN!!!!



  4. mike
    8:23 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Did anybody know somebody named Michael Mathis committed to our football team? I didn’t, was it posted on here and I missed it or something?



  5. Mike
    9:12 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Huge midgets



  6. Mike
    9:14 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Reminds me of the Gilligan Island episode where Gilligan is running between the giants legs.



  7. bob
    9:20 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I remember a Gilligan’s island. Is that what you meant butthole



  8. Cat Fan in Vegas
    9:33 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Too be quite honest, I am getting more and more excited about Ulis every day. I can’t stop watching the kid’s highlight vids. Yes, he’s 5′ 8″ and 150 lbs. And, because of that fact, he’s not a Wall, Harrison, Knight, etc. type of point guard. We won’t see him driving to the basket and power dunking over two defenders. But… the kid is the literal definition of a point guard. None of the point guards who have played under Calipari at Kentucky have controlled the tempo of the game like this guy does. His court vision is unmatched. He could easily break the assist record if he stays long enough. Maybe I’m wrong. And, if I am, I’ll eat my own words… but I think he’s special. As long as the other positions can be filled with guys that can score, we should have nothing to worry about.



  9. rockatao
    9:34 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    BOL > BOI



  10. Nice!
    9:36 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Excellent article Mrs. Tyler T., and great post Cat Fan in [email protected]



  11. Not another Harrow
    9:44 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Unfortunately, when I think of small point guards at UK recently I think of Ryan Harrow–and we all know how that turned out. Let’s hope Ulis fares much much better if he indeed commits.



    • Mrs. Tyler Thompson
      9:53 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

      Harrow is 6’2″…I’m not sure why people are trying to use him as a comparison. His problems had nothing to do with his size.



  12. cotton
    9:49 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    No comparison between Tyler Ulis and Ryan Harrow. Harrow was,…well, I won’t even go there. But Ulis will be lightyears better,..no comparison.

    >>>Drew hates short people

    Mrs. Tyler,..you and da Drewman rule!!! Always have, always will. Jmo.



  13. I Shoot 4s
    9:53 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I’m not worried about his size. I ultimately trust Cal, and if he believes he is good enough, so do I.
    The thing that worries me is defense. How will he contain 6’3″ and taller guards?



  14. cotton
    9:57 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I concur, Mrs. Tyler. That was NOT Harrow’s problem. Say you are height-challenged? Well,..I’m here to tell you that you are a GIANT in sports journalism!!!!!!! Jmo.



  15. Teachable Mo'
    10:03 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Calvin Murphy said that baton twirling was much more difficult than basketball.



  16. Not Harrow
    10:24 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    #12. A comparison between Harrow and Ulis is simply irrelevant. Ulis is actually much shorter than Harrow, but Harrow could have been 6’9″ and that wouldn’t have solved his problems..



  17. Cat Fan in Vegas
    10:26 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    That is my only concern as well number #15. When it comes to making steals, his size is an advantage. But, as for the rest of the required defensive skills, the size is a concern.



  18. Megan
    2:47 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    Point of information: At about 5 foot 7, Napoleon was taller than average for his time.



  19. Do whut?
    4:49 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    If only Calipari had really thought this through concerning possible defensive inefficiencies like posters here instead of just willy nilly signing the first point guard willing to put his name on the dotted line. And #15 you literally wrote in separate sentences “I’m not worried about his size…” And “the thing that worries me is…”



  20. rj
    5:31 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    lets not forget the greatest guard ever to play the game, the reason basketball is played today, not since jesus himself has there been a person of this magnitude walk the earth, the man, the myth,the legend, chris jones of (the university of Louisville.(man it was hard to write so much bullshit)



  21. cathalchan
    8:00 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    Though not quite at the level of those mentioned above, let us not forget our own Leroy Byrd!



  22. Well...
    8:24 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    if we were going to have all 5 guys on the court at this size I would be VERY worried. But I doubt the other 4 will be this size. Looks like a great PG prospect to me.



  23. Charlie
    9:03 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    Tyler, leaving off John Stockton and Isaiah Thomas from a list of outstanding short players? Pretty huge omissions…PUN INTENDED! Seriously, those are two of the best PGs ever, although they’re listed at 6’1, they’re more like 5’10.



  24. Jack
    11:04 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    Muggsy was also in “Forget Paris.” a movie in which Billy Crystal plays a NBA ref. Lot of good banter between Crystal and the players, but the best line was between him and Mugsey where Crystal said, “you’re the only one I can talk to, Muggsy.” (Crystal stands 5’7)



  25. Aaron Craft's Rosacea
    11:09 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    I’m really glad Kemba Walker was left off this list