Randy Newman once said that short people “got no reason to live.” Granted, being six feet in height, he probably does not know much about short people to begin with. However, one thing is for certain; Newman would have been considered a short man had be played in the NBA. It’s estimated that the average NBA player is 6’7″. This is an average that’s been more or less consistent since 1985.
In fact, it seems as though taller players almost always have an advantage in basketball. Two 7’7″ players, Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan, played in nearly a thousand games between them while 7’6″ Shawn Bradley played for twelve years. China’s 7’6″ Yao Ming also played in the NBA for nine years and earned a career total of $94 million for his work.
This doesn’t mean that short players can’t make a living in the NBA, though. The shortest player in NBA history, 5’3″ Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, appeared in 889 games and made $18.4 in his playing career from the Charlotte Hornets among other teams.
5’5″ Earl Boykins was also a reliable player for thirteen years, earning $16.5 million over 652 games. And let’s not forget 5’7″ Anthony “Spud” Webb, a player who averaged 9.9 points per game in 814 career games and made a total of $8.4 million (not to mention he actually won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest once).
Without a doubt, some short players under six feet in height can be amazing. Of course, not all vertically-challenged players will go far in the NBA. 5’6″ Mel Hirsch only played in thirteen games with the Boston Celtics and 5’7″ Wataru Misaka only played in three games with the New York Knicks, both in the 1940s.
This look at shortest players in the NBA shows that players who aren’t all that big can still make big money.
Note: There are actually less than ten players under six feet in height in the NBA as of the start of the 2013-14 season. All salaries are for the 2013-14 season.
10. Isaiah Thomas – 5’9″ – Sacramento Kings – $885,000
Not to be confused with NBA legend Isiah Thomas, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas is slightly taller than Nate Robinson, making him the second-shortest player in the NBA today. Thomas’ numbers have gone up dramatically since 2011 when he entered the league. He’s getting 19 points per game at the start of the 2013 season and had 1,100 points in 2012-13, placing him second to DeMarcus Cousins on the Kings’ roster. He’s making near the league minimum at $885,000 this year.
9. Aaron Brooks – 6′ – Houston Rockets – $1 million
Aaron Brooks took a big pay cut with the Rockets this year. He earned $3.4 million with the Sacramento Kings last year but has struggled in the NBA since playing the entire 2011-12 season in China. In 2009-10, he had 19.6 points per game with the Houston Rockets but hasn’t been able to get into double digits in the past few seasons. He’s also getting only seventeen minutes of playing time per game on average, making it a challenge for him to score more points.
8. D.J. Augustin – 6′ – Chicago Bulls – $1.25 million
D.J. Augustin was a McDonald’s All-American in 2006 alongside Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson and Spencer Hawes, but he’s clearly not earning as much as those guys. While he is makting $1.25 million this year with the Chicago Bulls absorbing much of a contract that the Toronto Raptors relieved themselves of, he has shown new life with the Bulls since joining the team. Augustin had 14.4 points per game with the 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats but he hasn’t been a consistent starter since then.
7. Nate Robinson – 5’9″ – Denver Nuggets – $2 million
Nate Robinson, the shortest player in the NBA, is only getting $2 million with the Denver Nuggets this year. He did get $4.5 million in 2011 with the Oklahoma City Thunder and in fact has become one of the more reliable sixth men in the NBA. He has a total of 11.4 points per game in more than 550 games over his career. Robinson had 17.2 points per game with the 2008-09 New York Knicks and even played nearly thirty minutes per game off of the bench.
6. Raymond Felton – 6’1″ – New York Knicks – $3.6 million
Raymond Felton was a top five pick in 2005 and once earned $7.5 million with the Denver Nuggets. He has 13.4 points per game over his career. Felton’s current role with the Knicks is the first consistent one he’s had in his career in recent years, as he’s been part of many trades involving Denver, Portland and New York. He also played with the Charlotte Bobcats for five years and had 13.3 points per game with that team over that course of time.
5. J.J. Barea – 6′ – Minnesota Timberwolves – $4.7 million
Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea is only six feet in height but he’s made enough of an impact on the T-Wolves to get a four-year, $18 million contract as of the start of the 2011 season. He averaged eleven points per game in the last two years as a strong sixth man for the Wolves. Barea was the fourth-highest scoring player on the team last year. Then again, Kevin Love was injured for a large portion of this past year, opening up an opportunity for Barea to get more floor time.
4. Brandon Jennings – 6’1″ – Detroit Pistons – $7.6 million
After spurning college to play ball in Japan for a year after graduating from high school, Brandon Jennings made a strong run with the Milwaukee Bucks, winning the Rookie of the Month title four times in the 2009-10 season. His $7.6 million salary with Detroit is around twice what he got with Milwaukee. Jennings’ career total of 17.1 points per game combined with his 81% free throw percentage could potentially make him a bargain for Detroit when all is said and done.
3. Ty Lawson – 5’11” – Denver Nuggets – $10.8 million
Ty Lawson had a huge pay raise recently as he went from making $2.5 million from the Denver Nuggets last year to $10.8 million this year. This is part of a four-year, $48 million extension to his contract. The former UNC star has averaged at least 16 points per game in the last few years and has become the highest-scoring player on the Nuggets’ roster. On a related note, the slightly shorter Nate Robinson is the third-highest scorer on the Nuggets.
2. Rajon Rondo – 6’1″ – Boston Celtics – $12 million
Rajon Rondo has earned around $48 million from the Boston Celtics since 2006. He’s one of the top players in steals and assists in the NBA with 8.3 assists and nearly two steals per game in more than 450 matches in his career. His 11.1 points per game total has also made him a strong player from the floor. He’s become one of the top all-around players in the NBA and has earned himself a $12 million salary with the Celtics.
1. Chris Paul – 6′ – Los Angeles Clippers – $18.7 million
In 2013, Chris Paul signed an extension with the Los Angeles Clippers just a few years after going there in a trade from New Orleans. His five-year deal is worth around $107.3 million and will reach $24.2 million per year in 2017. He’s one of the top defensive players even at only six feet in height and has led the NBA five times in steals and three times in assists. Paul has close to ten assists per game for his career thanks to his efforts.
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