People may think that the greatest athletes are generally all tall and mammoth in size.
Yeah, you have your Bill Russells (6'10"), Kareem Abdul-Jabbars (7'2"), and Lisa Leslies (6'5").
But remember—it was David who beat Goliath, and so you have your Spud Webbs (5'6"), Landon Donovans (5'9"), and Mary Lou Rettons (4'8") who were just as successful as their taller counterparts.
This list of diminutive winners takes a look at 20 athletes, shorter than six feet, who have shone the brightest, despite their vertical challenge.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Spud Webb played for 14 years in the NBA, mostly with the Atlanta Hawks.
Webb played for a playoff-caliber team and shocked the world by winning the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA's All-Star break.
His record-setting barrier would not be broken for 20 years, which is when Nate Robinson (formerly of the New York Knicks), became the first under-six-foot basketball player to win the slam dunk event in 2006, 2009, and 2010.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Although it sounds like an oxymoron, Shoemaker indeed was the little Texan who could. In his lengthy career, the jockey garnered 8,833 wins and won four Kentucky Derbys, two Preakness Stakes, five Belmont Stakes, and one Breeders' Cup Classic.
In addition, Shoemaker was named the United States Champion Jockey by both earnings and wins on several different occasions and was placed in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
A life-sized bust at Santa Anita Park was made in honor of the jockey.
Height (varies): 5'7"-5'9''
Background/Accomplishment(s): The California kid made headlines in his rookie season in Boston, as the second baseman won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2007, the same year the Red Sox won the World Series for the second time in three years.
Pedroia has also been selected to three straight All-Star games, was named the 2008 AL MVP, received a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in 2008, and has led the AL in hits, runs, and doubles all at least once.
Background/Accomplishment(s): See Spud Webb slide.
Robinson won three Slam Dunk Contests (2006, 2009, and 2010).
As a member of the Boston Celtics during the latter half of the 2009-2010 season, Robinson was a key reserve who almost aided his team to its 18th title against the victorious L.A. Lakers.
The Washington State native reportedly has a 43.5 vertical leap, one of the highest in the league. Now that's hops!
Background/Accomplishment(s): Pincay, the small guy from Panama, broke Bill Shoemaker's record number of wins with 8,834 wins in 1999 (he retired in 2003 with 9,530 wins and had his own record broken by Russell Baze in 2006).
He won the Belmont Stakes in three straight years (1982-84) and the Kentucky Derby in 1984. He also rode the famed thoroughbred Affirmed, a horse who won the last Triple Crown in 1978.
Like Shoemaker, Pincay has received numerous awards and honors for his racing achievements.
Background/Accomplishment(s): The mid-fielder made the U.S. National Soccer Team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
However, in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Donovan led Team USA to the Round of 16 after tapping in a game-winning goal against Algeria in the 91st minute, a match that placed the US atop the Group C standings (even heavily favored England didn't win the group).
Donovan has also won the MLS Cup with the San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy, and after a brief appearance with Bayern Leverkusen in Germany, some may say that Landon Donovan is making strides with Everton in the English Premier League.
Background/Accomplishment(s): The East Los Angeles native won gold in the Barcelona Olympics and was The Ring's "Fighter of the Year" in 1995 and Ring Magazine's top-rated Pound for Pound fighter in the world in 1997.
Though he retired in the spring of 2009, De La Hoya defeated 17 world champions and has won 10 world titles in six different weight classes.
De La Hoya's amateur career included 223 wins, 163 by knockout, with only six losses. His pro career included 39 wins, 30 by knockout, and six losses.
He has also earned more money than any other boxer in the history of the sport, an estimated $696 million in pay-per-view income. He founded Golden Boy Promotions. Watch out, Don King!
Background/Accomplishment(s): A whirling dervish when he's roaming the defensive backfield for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Polamalu has definitely been a Man of Troy both in college at USC (Orange Bowl win) and the NFL, winning two Super Bowls (XL, XLIII).
He has also been named to the Pro Bowl five times, thrice as an All-Pro, and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
Polamalu can boast about having 452 tackles, 20 interceptions, and seven sacks in his career. Amazing numbers for a player in the secondary.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Martinez won a World Series in 2004, and from 1997-2005 was one of the best pitchers in the majors, with a record of 149-61, an average ERA of 2.77, and an average strikeout rate of 275 per season.
He won three AL Cy Young Awards, including two consecutive (1999, 2000)
Background/Accomplishment(s): The little lady from West Virginia became the first female gymnast outside of Eastern Europe to win Olympic gold in the all-around title in the 1984 Olympics.
Furthermore, Retton received two silver medals and two bronze in the team, vault, uneven bars, and floor events, respectively.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Hamilton, who was adopted by a loving couple in Ohio at six weeks old, proved his doubters wrong from early on in his lifetime, as he convalesced from a curious, pancreatic illness (Shwachman-Bodian-Diamond syndrome) that robbed him of height and skeletal stability.
Despite additional odds (he has recovered from testicular and cranial cancer, too), he grew taller than doctors expected, won an Olympic gold medal at Sarajevo in 1984, one Skate America championship, and four straight U.S. and World Championships (1981-84).
To top it all off, Hamilton has recently excelled as a preeminent figure skating commentator.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Who can forget Flutie's memorable heave to the end zone for a touchdown, as his underdog Boston College Eagles beat Miami in November of 1984? Hardly anyone, thanks to YouTube and DVRs that have captured the footage again and again.
He did quite well for himself: 1983 Liberty Bowl MVP, 1984 Heisman Trophy winner, 1984 Walter Camp Award, 1984 Davey O'Brien Award, 1984 Maxwell Award, 1998 Pro Bowl selection, 1998 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, six-time CFL All-Star selection, three-time Grey Cup champion, three-time Grey Cup MVP, and six-time CFL Most Outstanding Player.
Oh yeah, and one last thing: As a New England Patriot in 2005, Flutie converted the first successful drop-kick (extra point) during a regular season game in the NFL since 1941!
Background and Accomplishment(s): The Massachusetts native was the captain of the 1980 US Men's Olympic hockey team that shocked the world by beating Russia (USSR at the time) in the semifinals.
Eruzione scored the game-winning goal in that game and led the team to the gold-medal match against Finland, whom they beat.
Background/Accomplishment(s): The Kansas native broke NCAA rushing records (2,628 rush yards and 37 rush touchdowns, to name a couple) at Oklahoma St., and once in the NFL, he decided to break ankles and necks in his way-too-brief 10-year career.
No. 20 finished with 15,269 career rushing yards, leaving him in third place on the all-time list behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.
Other astounding stats: Named 1997 co-MVP with Brett Favre, led the NFL in rushing yards four times, rushed for over 1,500 yards in a season for an NFL-record five times, set an NFL record by rushing for at least 100 yards in 14 consecutive games, and in each of his 10 years was placed first- or second-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl.
Background/Accomplishment(s): It is said that he didn't beat anybody significant, and compared to the other great heavweights over the last 50 years, he's nothing.
That's not entirely true, and besides, his flawless 49-0 record still stands as one of the best ever.
Background/Accomplishment(s): He won the British Open when it was known as the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1953. He won eight-to-nine majors, depending on whether you include that US Open he won during World War II.
Regardless of that technicality, he was the precursor to Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods by being the most dominant golfer in his prime at the time.
Background/Accomplishment(s): The man of small stature from Queensland, Australia, had a unique serve-and-volley style of play, which led to twice winning each Grand Slam event (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open) in a calendar year (1962 and '69).
Laver won 12 total Grand Slams, had a career singles record of 392-99 in the Open era, had a career doubles record of 230-77, and was ranked as the men's No. 1 player in the world for seven straight years, 1964-70.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Despite suffering from testicular cancer that almost took his life, and the nagging reports of taking performance-enhancing drugs over the past decade, you cannot take away Lance's record-setting seven Maillots Jaunes (yellow jerseys) that he's won from 1999-2005.
Endorsements deals, a successful Livestrong/anti-cancer campaign, and Olympic and ESPY wins have all come his way, too.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Known as the "Pocket Rocket," he is the younger brother of Maurice, the "Rocket," who has an NHL award named on his behalf for the league's highest goal-scorer every season.
More importantly, he won 11 Stanley Cups with Montreal and was selected to 10 All-Star games.
Background/Accomplishment(s): Romania’s Nadia Comaneci was the star of the Montréal Olympics in 1976 when she became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0.
Comaneci first achieved her perfect 10 on the uneven parallel bars in 1976 and the judges awarded her the maximum mark seven times during the Games. In the 1976 and 1980 Games she won a total of nine Olympic medals.
Every successful female gymnast thereafter was always compared to the great Romanian-American who charmed us in 1976 and 1980.
There are others who could easily be added to the Top 20. Some aren't forgotten in this honorable mention category below.
Mike Tyson: 5'9"-5'10", Iron Mike, great heavyweight champion in boxing, until rape charges in 1993 and the ear-biting incident in 1997 made him weird instead of feared.
Kerri Strug: 4'8", member of the famed Magnificent Seven, the gymnastics team that represented USA at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; nailed the vault, despite a bad ankle, to clinch the gold medal in the team event.
Walter Payton: 5'10","Sweetness," extremely skilled running back for the Chicago Bears, won a Super Bowl in 1985, broke Jim Brown's rushing record and held it for 15 years (16,726 yards).
Eddie Gaedell: 3'7", in one at bat in 1951, he was walked on four straight pitches. Statisticians say that his 1.000 OPS and OBP are to die for!
Calvin Murphy: 5'9", one of the NBA's best free throw shooters.
Allen Iverson: 6', led the NBA in scoring four times, took the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals, 2001 NBA MVP, 1997 NBA Rookie of the Year, 11-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA First Team, two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist
Bob Sanders: 5'8", great safety for the Indianapolis Colt (when he's not injured).
Earl Boykins: 5'5", wispy point guard who made strides with the Denver Nuggets recently.
Muggsy Bogues: 5'3", solid PG who had great stats in the NBA's steals, assists, and assist-to-turnover ratio for at least two consecutive years in the NBA in the 1980s and 1990s.
Jimmy Rollins: 5'8", three-time Gold Golve shortshop on three-time NL pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies, three-time All-Star selection, 2007 NL MVP, 2008 World Series champion.
Steve Tasker: 5'9", four-time AFC champion for the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s.
Don Beebe: 5'11", Buffalo Bill/Green Bay Packer, made Leon Lett look like a fool with "The Play," special teams specialist, Super Bowl XXXI champion.
Desmond Howard: 5'10", phenomenal WR/KR for Michigan, won a Super Bowl with Green Bay during the 1995-96 NFL season.
Martin St. Louis: 5'9", Hart Trophy (MVP) and Art Ross Trophy (most points scored) winner in the 2003-04 season in the NHL for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tim Lincecum: 5'11", 2008, 2009 NL Cy Young Award winner, three-time All-Star selection, strikeouts leader in the majors in 2008.
Bart Conner: 5'5", two gold mdeals at the 1984 Olympics (team all-around, parallel bars); Nadia Comaneci's husband.
Sugar Ray Leonard: 5'9", Olympian and boxing middle-weight champion.