The NBA is, and has always been, a league of big players. There are tons of advantages to being tall on the court, especially at higher levels. However, though most NBA players come from tall parents, that’s not always the case. There are some with shorter families as well.
The following guide will look at some professional basketball players who have smaller parents in order to show that, no matter how tall or large someone is, their mom and dad don’t always have to follow suit.
Closer to the Basket
Basketball is a game where height certainly pays. Not only does it have big advantages on offense when it comes to scoring or putting up shots, but it helps in terms of rebounds, positioning, and contesting as well. The taller someone is, the easier the game tends to be.
The average NBA player stands around 6’7. Looking at that, it’s easy to see why it’s tough for most shorter players to make it to the league. That’s especially true for those with shorter parents, as it’s less likely for them to grow or hit a late growth spurt.
For the most part, if someone’s parents are mid 5-foot or less they aren’t going to get too much taller than that. Even if they do, they are likely going to be right around six feet rather than moving up to the 6’3 or higher generally needed for an NBA court.
Still, there have been quite a few exceptions. Both in late and more recent years.
A Bulls Legend
Michael Jordan is perhaps the most famous basketball player of all time, but that doesn’t mean his family matched his height. As surprising as it might be, the G.O.A.T did not have particularly tall parents. He stood an impressive 6’6, but his family was much shorter.
His mom only stood 5’5, while his dad was roughly 5’9. Typically, you wouldn’t expect two people with those dimensions to give birth to someone so tall. For reference, Jordan’s longtime teammate Scottie Pippin’s parents were both over six feet tall.
That smaller lineage is likely why it took Jordan some time to get going. In fact, he was an extremely late bloomer. The star entered high school at a modest 5’8 and still hadn’t hit six feet by the time his junior year came around. It wasn’t until a year later that he started to fully bloom.
Jordan hit 6’3 going into his senior year and then reached a full 6’6 by the time he went to college. That late spurt is a common occurrence for NBA players with shorter parents, and he was no exception to that rule.
The Harvard Star
Unlike Yao Ming, a Chinese player who has famously tall parents, Jeremy Lin’s mom and dad are both on the shorter side of the height spectrum. They both stand right around 5’6. On paper, that didn’t give Lin a fighting chance at ever being tall enough for the NBA.
However, though he was only 5’3 at the age of 15, the future all-star hit a huge growth spurt during the back half of his high school career. He would be 6’3 by the time he made it to college. That gave him the length needed to keep pace at higher levels.
Not only are Lin’s parents short, but his brothers are too. Both of them stand below 6’0, making him a true outlier in his family. There’s no doubt that’s something he’s extremely thankful for each time he picks up a ball or goes up for a shot.
A Surprising Trend
As with Jordan and Lin, there are a few other NBA players who hit late growth spurts that helped propel them to a D1 scholarship (and eventually the NBA). Almost all of them come from families that don’t quite have the same genetic makeup.
Gordon Hayward‘s parents are both 5’10, while Wilt Chamberlain’s mom and dad were both 5’9. Russell Westbrook is another example of that, having a mom who stands at 5’7 and a dad who barely eclipses 5’8. All of them were short early in life and exploded as they hit puberty.
Not only that, but, like Lin, they tend to have shorter siblings too. Wesbrook’s brother is a modest 5’6, where Hayward’s sister is 5’10. Both players took all of the genetic height in the family and turned it into an incredibly impressive career.
Height isn’t everything in the NBA, but it certainly matters a great deal. Being closer to the hoop has a ton of advantages on both offense and defense, especially in today’s league. Players aren’t just getting taller, they’re doing so without losing any speed or quickness.
Though many younger players might get discouraged by their family’s height, the above list shows that they shouldn’t worry. While genetics are definitely against them, there’s no telling when they might spring up and break the mold.