Allen Iverson and the 25 Greatest Undersized Players In NBA History

Shane DePutronCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

Allen Iverson and the 25 Greatest Undersized Players In NBA History

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    Throughout NBA history, there have been many undersized players, although few have been able to drastically overcome their physical shortcomings.

    This list, however, chronicles the players who did exactly that.

    But before we can approach this topic, we must first lay out what it means, exactly, to be undersized.

    First and foremost, one must recognize that the point guard and center positions are the most clearly defined positions in basketball—especially due to the prevalence of combo guards (PG-SG), wing players (SG-SF) and stretch forwards (SF-PF) in the NBA.

    Consequently, true points are typically defined as perimeter-playing ball-distributors who are 6'0" or above, while centers generally stand, at the very least, 6'9" and play in the post.

    And it is because of these somewhat-structured definitions that the NBA's undersized outliers most often stand out from the players in these two positions.

    Nevertheless, there still have been some players who, despite playing among the muddled masses of the two, three or four, have managed to stand out as being both undersized and highly successful.

    Therefore, the following 25 individuals are all players who were able to routinely outplay their taller foes, ranked using a combination of how well they performed and how physically outmatched they were.

    (* to be considered undersized, point guards must be under 6'0" and centers under 6'9", but other position players will be judged subjectively)

No. 25: Chuck Hayes, F-C

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    Chuck Hayes, who has spent all of his six NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets, is a rarity in today's game—an undersized frontcourt player who is actually listed at his correct height.

    Standing 6'6" and weighing 238 pounds, Hayes often finds himself playing center for his squad, especially due to the inability of his teammate Yao Ming (7'6") to stay healthy and on the court.

    Nevertheless, he has been able to hold his own, accumulating averages of 6.6 points (55.7 percent shooting), 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals in 2010-11, despite playing only about 23 minutes per game.

No. 24: DeJuan Blair, F-C

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    As a collegiate center with the Pitt Panthers, DeJuan Blair made a name for himself by physically dominating most of his opponents.

    However, many doubted Blair's ability to contribute at the professional level, especially after he measured only 6'5.25" without shoes at the NBA pre-draft combine.

    Nevertheless, in his second season in the NBA, he has started all 45 games at center for the league-leading San Antonio Spurs.

    Furthermore, with career averages of 7.7 points (52.8 percent shooting), 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 block—all in only 19.1 minutes per game—Blair will undoubtedly continue to develop as player, looking to firmly establish himself among the NBA's all-time best undersized players.

No. 23: Ty Lawson, PG

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    Another NBA sophomore, Ty Lawson stands a hair below his listed height of 5'11", making him a rather undersized point.

    However, that has not stopped him from becoming a highly productive player during his limited minutes.

    In 2010-11, he has put up 11.1 points (50.6 percent shooting), 4.0 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 24.2 minutes per game.

    So if the Denver Nuggets finally do move Carmelo Anthony and start from scratch, look for the diminutive, but talented, Lawson to be a cornerstone of the franchise's rebuilding movement.

No. 22: Aaron Brooks, PG

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    The 2010-11 season has been a relative disappointment for Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks, as he has been significantly hampered by injuries.

    However, last season—his first as a full-time starter—Brooks showed that he can perform with the best point guards in the NBA, putting up 19.6 points, dishing out 5.6 assists, swiping 0.8 steals and knocking down a league-leading 2.5 threes per contest and earning the NBA Most Improved Player Award.

    And the fourth-year player did all of this despite standing a mere 5'10.5" and weighing 161 pounds (both pre-draft combine measurements).

    Consequently, so long as he can fully recover from his ankle injury—and there's no reason he shouldn't—Brooks should easily be able to climb up this list as he continues his career.

No. 21: Dana Barros, PG

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    Throughout the course of his 14-year NBA career, the 5'11" Dana Barros was a solid, albeit not spectacular, point guard.

    With per-game averages of 10.5 points, 3.3 assists, 1.5 threes and 0.9 steals, Barros earned one All-Star appearance, while competing in the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Shootout for four consecutive years.

    Furthermore, he took home the Most Improved Player Award in 1995 and set a still-standing record for the most consecutive games with a made three-pointer, helping to establish himself as a player who, despite his diminutive stature, could still perform at a high level.

No. 20: Brevin Knight, PG

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    Despite measuring in at 5'9.5" at the pre-draft combine, Brevin Knight was made the No. 16 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.

    And the undersized guard did not fail to perform, as he led the league in steals during his rookie campaign and was among the NBA's leaders in assists on multiple occasions.

    In all, Knight was able to maintain averages of 7.3 points, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals over the course of his 12-year career, firmly establishing himself as one of the best little point guards in NBA history.

No. 19: Avery Johnson, PG

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    Nicknamed the Little General, Avery Johnson and his 5'10" frame lasted 16 years in the NBA.

    And during that long period of time, Johnson regularly performed as one of the better point guards in the game, even helping to lead his San Antonio Spurs to an NBA Championship during the 1999 season.

    With career averages of 8.4 points, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steals, along with a solid knowledge of the game, Johnson is certainly one of the best undersized players in the history of the league.

No. 18: Paul Millsap, F-C

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    After leading the nation in rebounding for three consecutive seasons, Paul Millsap decided to leave Louisiana Tech for the NBA.

    However, after measuring only 6'6.25" without shoes at the pre-draft combine, the forward-center fell all the way to the No. 47 pick.

    Nevertheless, Millsap has certainly gotten it done thus far in the NBA.

    He has solid career averages, yet he's truly breaking out in 2010-11, with a stat line of 16.7 points (53.4 percent shooting), 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 steals.

    And if he is able to continue this type of production, then he will most definitely establish his place among the best undersized players of all time.

No. 17: Michael Adams, PG

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    Standing only 5'10", Michael Adams still managed to have an impressive 11-year career.

    Adams managed one career All-Star nomination in 1995, in a season when he managed 26.5 points, 10.5 assists, 2.5 threes and 2.2 steals.

    However, his career averages were not so gaudy, finally standing at 14.7 points, 6.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 threes per game, which still allowed him to cement his place among the best undersized point guards ever.

No. 16: Clarence Weatherspoon, PF

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    Despite standing only 6'6", forward Clarence Weatherspoon was made the No. 9 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.

    Nicknamed Baby Barkley, Weatherspoon was a beast inside during his early years in the NBA, managing career 193 double-doubles—good for 57th all-time.

    Furthermore, he earned career per-game averages of 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks, establishing himself as one of the better undersized big men the game has ever seen.

No. 15: Terrell Brandon, PG

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    Despite having his career derailed by injuries, Terrell Brandon lasted 11 years in the NBA, earning two All-Star nods.

    Furthermore, despite only measuring 5'11", Brandon managed to maintain career averages of 13.8 points, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

    And combining those totals with the fact that he brought his teams to the playoffs in every season but one, it's clear that he is one of the best undersized players of in NBA history.

No. 14: Damon Stoudamire, PG

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    With a nickname like Mighty Mouse, Damon Stoudamire certainly had the makings of a great undersized player.

    At only 5'10", Stoudamire stormed into the NBA, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1996, when he averaged 19.0 points, 9.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 threes and 1.4 steals per game.

    He eventually went on to compile a career stat line of 13.4 points, 6.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 threes and 1.1 steals, establishing himself as one of the NBA's premier little-big men.

No. 13: Nate Robinson, PG

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    With a ridiculous 43.5-inch vertical jump, Nate Robinson is possibly best-known for being a three-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion.

    And since he was only measured as being 5'7.75" at the pre-draft combine, his high-flying heroics are all the more impressive.

    Yet Robinson is no slouch when it comes to regular play, as he has put up career averages of 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 threes in only 23 minutes per game.

No. 12: Earl Boykins, PG

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    If the mere fact that the 5'5", 135-pound Earl Boykins—the second-shortest player in NBA history—could make it into the league weren't impressive enough, the fact the he has had a successful career spanning 12 years and counting is downright amazing.

    Currently playing the for Milwaukee Bucks, Boykins has proven to be an extremely impressive offensive player, with career per-game averages of 9.3 points and 3.3 assists.

    And seeing as though his production in 2010-11 isn't much off that of the rest of his career, the Eastern Michigan product may be able to further prolong his time in the NBA, thereby allowing him to further prove his worth as one of the greatest undersized players of all-time.

No. 11: Spud Webb, PG

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    Before anyone had ever heard of Nate Robinson, there was Spud Webb.

    As a member of the Atlanta Hawks, the 5'7", 133-pound Webb outperformed teammate Dominique Wilkins in the legendary 1986 Slam Dunk Contest, making him an instant star.

    However, much less known than his dunking accolades were his solid accomplishments on the court of play, where he accumulated solid career averages of 9.9 points, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game, over the course of 12 years.

    Consequently, Webb is most definitely one of the best undersized players in NBA history.

No. 10: Leonard "Truck" Robinson, F-C

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    Leonard "Truck" Robinson was a forward-center who played in the NBA from 1974 to 1985, when he firmly established himself as one of the best undersized frontcourt players the league had ever seen.

    Standing only 6'7", Robinson was a two-time All-Star who once led the NBA in rebounding, with an average of 15.7 boards per contest.

    During his league-leading season, he also managed to put up 22.7 points per game, earning All-NBA First Team honors.

    By the end of his 11-season career, Robinson managed to establish career averages of 15.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks.

No. 9: Larry Johnson, PF

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    After taking the college ranks by storm with his UNLV squad, Larry Johnson was selected as the first pick of the 1991 NBA Draft.

    And despite playing primarily inside during the early portion of his career, the 6'6" LJ had great success, averaging a double-double during his rookie and sophomore campaigns, making two All-Star teams, being once named to the All-NBA Second Team, and winning the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Had injuries to his back not limited his play during his 10-year career, his impressive averages of 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists would likely have been even higher.

    Nevertheless, what Johnson was able to accomplish was still enough to grant him with a concrete place among the NBA's best undersized players.

No. 8: Calvin Murphy, PG

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    Spending his entire career with the Rockets organization, 5'9" Calvin Murphy became known as one of the premier point guards of his time.

    Additionally, Murphy was one of the NBA's best free throw shooters, with a top-10 career free-throw percentage and the second-best single-season free throw percentage ever.

    And with career averages of 17.9 points, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game, the one-time All-Star truly earned his place among the best undersized players in the history of the game with his enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

No. 7: Ben Wallace, C

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    Although he is officially listed at 6'9" (which would disqualify him from this list), Ben Wallace himself admits that he is actually closer to 6'7".

    And as a 6'7" center, what Wallace has achieved is incredible.

    Despite being undersized, he has managed to be named to six NBA All-Defensive First Teams, four All-Star Teams, two All-NBA Third Teams and three All-NBA Second Teams.

    Currently playing in his 15th season, Wallace has also managed to post career averages of 6.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

    Moreover, he has an NBA Championship under his belt, along with four Defensive Player of the Year awards (which ties him for first all-time with Dikembe Mutombo), which certainly makes him one of the best undersized players in NBA history.

No. 6: Muggsy Bogues, PG

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    Standing at a lowly 5'3", Muggsy Bogues is the shortest individual to ever play in the NBA.

    Yet the diminutive Bogues did more than just play, as he established himself as one of the better point guards in league history.

    His career average of 7.6 assists ranks 16th all-time, and when coupled with his 7.7 points and 1.5 steals per game, his 14-year career is extraordinarily impressive.

    So with both solid play and a glaringly low height, Bogues is definitely one of the best undersized players ever.

No. 5: Dennis Rodman, F-C

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    Although he may have been more famous for his off-the-court antics, Dennis Rodman was an integral part to five NBA Championship squads.

    Moreover, standing only 6'6", Rodman played both forward positions, and even center, certainly making him undersized.

    And despite his height disadvantage, he led the NBA in rebounding for a still-standing record of seven consecutive seasons.

    He also was named to the All-Star Team twice, the NBA All-Defensive First Team seven times, the All-NBA Third Team twice and the All-NBA Second Team once. 

    Furthermore, the Worm averaged 7.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 0.7 steal and 0.6 blocks per game on his career.

    Therefore, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is definitely one of the NBA's all-time best undersized players.

No. 4: Wes Unseld, F-C

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    When Wes Unseld entered the NBA during the 1968-69 season, he did so in a big way.

    That year, the 6'7" forward-center put up a stat of 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game, en route to being awarded both the Rookie of the Year award and the NBA MVP trophy.

    Unseld continued on to have an outstanding career, posting 10.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals a night. 

    Furthermore, he was a five-time All-Star and won the NBA Championship in 1978, when he was also named the Finals MVP.

    In 1988 Unseld was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the icing on the cake for one of history's greatest undersized NBA players.

No. 3: Charles Barkley, PF

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    Charles Barkley's height has long been a point of contention among basketball fans, as it has been listed anywhere from 6'4" to 6'7"

    Nevertheless, during his career he was listed as 6'6" and 252 pounds, earning the nickname the Round Mound of Rebound.

    Among his accomplishments were 11 All-Star Teams, one All-NBA Third Team, five All-NBA Second Teams, five All-NBA First Teams and a lone NBA MVP award.

    Furthermore, he averaged a double-double during 15 of his 16 NBA seasons, ending up with per-game career averages of 22.1 points (54.1 percent shooting), 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks.

    In 2006 he was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he will always be remembered as one of the all-time greatest undersized players in the NBA.

No. 2: Elgin Baylor, F

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    Elgin Baylor is certainly one of the best players of all-time, but as an interior player standing at a mere 6'5", he was also undersized.

    During his career, Bayor amassed 11 All-Star nominations, as well a whopping 10 selections to the All-NBA First Team.

    Moreover, the Hall of Famer's career stats came to rest at a breathtaking 27.4 points (fourth all-time), 13.5 rebounds (10th all-time) and 4.3 assists per game, with his most impressive single-season line being either his 34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists campaign or his 38.3 points, 18.6rebounds, 4.6 assists year.

    Therefore, he is unquestionably one of the greatest undersized players the league has ever witnessed.

No. 1: Allen Iverson, G

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    Allen Iverson has been, perhaps, the most influential player in recent NBA history. 

    Initially coming into the league as a point guard, the 6'0", 165-pound Iverson eventually wound up playing the majority of his career as a severely undersized shooting guard.

    Nevertheless, AI thrived, leading the league in scoring four times and steals three times, en route to career averages of 26.7 points (sixth all-time), 6.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals (seventh all-time) and 1.2 threes.

    Moreover, he was awarded with 11 All-Star appearances, one All-NBA Third Team selection, three All-NBA Second Team selections, three All-NBA First Team selections and an NBA MVP award.

    Therefore Iverson is, without a doubt, among the best couple of undersized NBA players ever, and although he never won a championship, he will certainly find a place for himself in the Hall of Fame at some point down the road.