Does length matter in the game of basketball? Pending on the position, it could matter quite a bit. With that said, there have been players that have defied the odds by leading the league in statistical categories with a shorter stature.
From Allen Iverson to Manute Bol, players of all sizes have shown that they can succeed in the game of basketball with the height given to them. Here are the shortest and tallest players to lead the NBA in points, triple-doubles, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage, and three-point field goal percentage.
Shortest NBA Players To Lead
Points Per Game - Allen Iverson, 6-foot-0
Iverson defied all odds with his height. Despite his short stature, Iverson led the league in scoring four times. That didn’t even include his career-high 33.0 points per game during the 2005-2006 campaign that didn’t lead the league.
The former No. 1 overall pick from 1996 became a future Hall of Famer after a career that featured 11 All-Star appearances and an MVP. After the Philadelphia 76ers were taken down by the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, the franchise is still waiting for their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals since Iverson led the team in 2001.
Rebounds Per Game - Charles Barkley, 6-foot-6
Most people would love to be 6-foot-6, but when it comes to powering yourself up for a rebound, it can be rather challenging. With that said, Barkley was an MVP-caliber player and 11-time All-Star. Based on his personality, you can gather that he was not going to be scared of anybody.
During the 1986-1987 season, Barkley led the league in rebounding with 14.6 per game as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. That was a career-high for Barkley and his only time leading the league in boards.
Assists Per Game - Chris Paul and Kevin Porter, 6-foot-0
If Paul can secure an NBA championship with the Phoenix Suns, it might finally put him over the likes of Magic Johnson in terms of the point guard rankings. Paul has led the league in assists four times, two times with New Orleans and the other two as the leader of “Lob City” with the Los Angeles Clippers.
As for Porter, he never recorded an All-Star appearance during his career but led the league in assists four times. Porter bounced around playing for the Bullets, Pistons, and Nets. He is one of the few players all-time to ever lead the league in assists while playing for three different teams.
Steals Per Game - Mookie Blaylock, Rickey Green, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, 6-foot-9
Out of everyone on the list, Paul owns the most recorded time with six total times of leading the league in steals. That included four straight seasons from 2011-2014, as well as six times in a course of seven years.
Iverson led the league back-to-back-to-back seasons from 2001 to 2003. Blaylock led the league in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998 as a member of the Hawks. Green led the league in 1984 with 2.7 as a member of the Jazz.
Blocks Per Game - Andre Kirilenko and Ben Wallace, 6-foot-9
Kirilenko was a foundational member of the Utah Jazz during the 2000s. He was a strong power forward that could switch to small forward as well. In 2005, Kirilenko led the league with 3.3 blocks. The following seasons, he just missed despite averaging 3.2 blocks per game.
Wallace, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in blocks only one time. That came in 2002 when he averaged 3.5. Wallace was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and helped the Pistons win the 2004 NBA championship.
Field-Goal Percentage - Cedric Ceballos, 6-foot-6
Here’s a name you may not recognize and it’s not because you couldn’t see him. Ceballos enjoyed a long NBA career, but one of his best moments came during the 1992-1993 season. Ceballos led the league in field-goal percentage with a shooting clip of 57.6% to go along with 12.8 points per game.
The small forward had some power in his step. He was the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion and made an All-Star appearance in 1995.
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage - Jim Less and Dana Barros, 5-foot-11
Less had to battle through the WPL to even get a chance to play in the NBA during the 1990s. He finally got his chance on December 31, 1990, with the Sacramento Kings, which included two ten-day contracts. Less recorded career-high in points and assists that season, while recording a league-high three-point field goal percentage with 44.4%. Less has since enjoyed a successful coaching career in the college ranks with Bradley and UC Davis.
Barros led the league in 1992 with a shooting clip of 49.4% from three-point land. His career grew after that by winning the league’s Most Improved Player in 1995. He once held the NBA record for making at least one three-pointer in 89 consecutive games, a record that has since been broken by Kyle Korver.
Triple-Doubles In A Season - Rajon Rondo, 6-foot-1
Rondo has always been considered a stat-stuffer. In the 2008-2009 playoffs, Rondo recorded a triple-double in Game 2 and 4 of the first-round series with the Chicago Bulls, becoming the first to record two triple-doubles in a playoff series since Larry Bird in 1986.
Rondo’s lone appearance with the Sacramento Kings in 2015-2016 was a special time after he set the franchise record for triple-doubles in a season with six (Oscar Robertson holds the overall record with 41). Despite being listed as just over six feet tall, he proved that you can score, rebound, and pass in a league full of tall veterans.
Tallest NBA Players To Lead
Points Per Game - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 7-foot-2
By one inch, the all-time greatest scorer was able to beat out the likes of Shaq, David Robinson, and Wilt Chamberlain, who all stood at 7-foot-1. In his second season, Kareem led the league with 31.7 points per game en route to Milwaukee’s last NBA championship.
He followed that season with 34.8 points per game during a season that saw him play a career-high in minutes per game with 44.8. He remains the career leader in points with 38,387 points.
Rebounds Per Game - Dikembe Mutombo, 7-foot-2
Mutombo led the league in rebounding in 2000 (14.1) as a member of the Hawks, and then in 2001 (12.4) as a member of the Hawks and 76ers. When it came to physicality, there was nobody that could carry his height better than Mutombo in the paint.
For 12 straight seasons, Mutombo recorded double-digit rebound totals. It’s honestly surprising that he didn’t lead the league in boards more than two times.
Assists Per Game - Wilt Chamberlain, 7-foot-1
Chamberlain was known for his scoring but showcased a few solid passing seasons as well. In 1968, Chamberlain led the league with 8.6 assists per game as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was an outlier season for Chamberlain given that his career total tops at 4.4 per game.
In the later stages of Chamberlain’s career, he changed his approach. It was just the second time that Chamberlain didn’t average at least 30 points per game; however, he did throw up a crazy stat line of 24.3 points, 23.8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists.
Steals Per Game - Ben Simmons, 6-foot-11
We can talk about how Simmons can’t shoot, but Simmons is the Rudy Gobert of all guards when it comes to defense. Simmons was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year until Gobert took this third award all time.
Simmons is a three-time All-Star for everything he does outside the points category on the box score. Thanks to his length, he can rebound, pass, and steal. His 2.1 steals led the league last year, but given the 76ers’ elimination from the playoffs, it may not be enough for him to remain in town for much longer.
Blocks Per Game - Tallest: Manute Bol, 7-foot-7
Bol was a skyscraper in the league. Had Bol never stepped foot on a court, we might have still been talking about the shot-blocking greatness of Dikembe Mutombo. Instead, the 7-foot-7 figure led the league in blocks two times during his time in Washington and Golden State.
In his rookie year, Bol led the league with 5.0 blocks per game with the Bullets. Then, in his first year with the Warriors, Bol averaged 4.3 blocks. Bol finished his career averaging at least three blocks or more five times.
Field Goal Percentage - Gheorge Muresan, 7-foot-7
In 1996, Muresan was voted the league’s Most Improved Player after a year that saw him lead the league in field-goal percentage. Muresan led the league with a clip of 58.4% and then doubled down the following season with 60.4%.
Muresan knew that his height played a role in his NBA success, which is why he often wore the number 77 about his 7-foot-7 stature. However, his career only lasted six seasons.
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage - Matt Bonner and Steve Novak, 6-foot-10
Bonner is a typical San Antonio Spurs draft pick. Bonner was selected with the No. 45 overall pick in 2004. He helped the Spurs win two NBA championships, and led the league in three-point field goal percentage in 2011 with a clip of 45.7%.
Novak led the league the following season in 2012 with a clip of 47.2%. Novak was another second-round pick, No. 32 overall, that grew to be a fine outside shooter.
Triple Doubles In A Season - David Robinson, 7-foot-1
During the 1993-1994 season, not only did Robinson lead the league in scoring, but also triple-doubles. Robinson had to win the title by scoring 71 points, breaking George Gervin’s single-game franchise record of 63, against the Clippers to win the title.
That’s not all Robinson did though. He recorded five triple-doubles that season to set a Spurs record and lead the league. Robinson averaged 29.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists that season, as well as 3.3 blocks. His five triple-doubles remain a record with the Spurs franchise, tied with Johnny Moore.
Credit for an idea: NBA Debates