Let’s not lie to ourselves. You can’t be an NBA player unless you have the size to do it. Besides exceptions of the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Muggsy Bogues, you need to reach a certain height in order to have a slight shot at making it.
Moreover, if you want to play as a power forward or a center, you need to be among the tallest people in the world for sure, as you’re going to have to battle back and forth against some human giants.
Being an undersized big man puts you on a lot of disadvantage, but over the course of history, there have been a handful of guys that have been able to make up for it with strength, intelligence, athleticism, hops and determination. Today, we’re going to let you know about the top 10 undersized big men in NBA history.
10. Paul Millsap 6’6’’
Paul Millsap completely dominated the glass during his NCAA stint before becoming one of the best power forwards in the NBA, even though he failed to impress scouts during combines and slipped all the way down to the middle of the second round.
Millsap is a master of getting space between him and his defender to make up for his lack of size and has a great defensive awareness to not find himself in huge size disadvantages as well. Throughout his career, he’s averaged 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.
9. Larry Johnson 6’6’’
Larry ‘Grandmama’ Johnson was taken as high as the 1st overall pick of the 1981 NBA Draft despite being an undersized big man, standing at 6’6’’, and he immediately made an impact in both ends of the floor en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Johnson struggled with injuries throughout his career but he was a major force in the glass when healthy, making it to a couple of All-Stars and posting career averages of 16.2 points, 7.5 boards and 3.3 dimes per game.
8. Leonard Robinson 6’7’’
Dubbed “Truck”, Leonard Robinson was a forward-center who had vast success in the league for an 11-year span, establishing himself as one of the league’s top-tier rebounders despite standing at 6’7’’.
Robinson had a couple of great seasons in the NBA and even made it to a couple of All-Star games, while also leading the league in boards once. Over his career, he averaged 15.5 points, 9.4 boards and 0.7 swats per game.
7. Draymond Green 6’7’’
Sitting at 6’7’’, Draymond Green has spent a lot of time playing as the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball center, being one of the main reasons why this squad has been able to find such success.
Green is one of the best defenders in the world and can guard one through five with great ease, already leading the league in steals and winning 1 Defensive Player of the Year award. So far, he’s averaged 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
6. Ben Wallace 6’7’’
Despite being listed at 6’9’’, Ben Wallace admits he’s way shorter than that. Even so, he beat all the odds en route to becoming one of the most dominant defenders this league has ever seen, recording 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Wallace was never going to be bullied around and he’s maybe the only human being in the world that was able to successfully match up against Shaquille O’Neal. Over his career, the former Champion led the league in boards twice and once in blocks, averaging just under 10 rebounds and 2 blocks a contest.
5. Dave Cowens 6’8’’
AKA the Big Red, Dave Cowens was a major force down low throughout his entire NBA career with the Boston Celtics, especially in the defensive end of the glass, despite being ‘just’ 6’8’’ tall, leading the C’s to a couple of Chips.
Cowens didn’t impress with his athleticism or strength, but was a master of positioning, and managed to record career averages of 17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per contest, also winning 1 MVP.
4. Wes Unseld 6’7’’
Standing at 6’7’’, this forward-center managed to average over 18 rebounds per game throughout his rookie season, being one of the few players to ever win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP awards the very same campaign.
Unseld was a major force in both sides of the glass throughout his entire career despite his ‘lack’ of size, posting career averages of 10.8 points and 14 rebounds. Also, he won the Chip back in 1978 and was also named Finals MVP.
3. Dennis Rodman 6’6’’
The fact that Dennis Rodman was just 6’6’’ make him even more impressive, considering how he thrived in both ends of the glass en route to leading the league in rebounds in 7 different seasons.
Rodman won a couple of Defensive Player of the Year awards due to his grit and grind, bringing way more effort than anybody on every loose ball. Throughout his career, he averaged over 13.1 rebounds per game and was a major factor in 5 NBA Championships.
2. Charles Barkley 6’5’’
We’re actually listing him at 6’5’’ because of all of the controversy that has surrounded his true height over history, as even though he was listed at 6’6’’, people actually thought he was closer to 6’4’’, being called the Round Mound of Rebound due to his chubby nature and weighing over 250 pounds.
Still, Barkley never backed down of a challenge and was able to make up for his lack of size with his strong body, averaging 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and even 0.8 blocks per game, also taking the MVP award home once.
1. Moses Malone 6’10’’
There was a time when Moses Malone was one of the most dominant big men in the league despite being kind of undersized for that time, and he was the only guy capable of matching up against a prime Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Big Mo led the league in boards in 6 different seasons, made 2 All-Defensive teams and won 3 MVP awards to go along with an NBA Championship, recording career averages of 20.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.