15 July 2023
It's no secret that basketball is a tall person's game. The average men's NBA player is around 6'6", with very few players below 6'4". So if your child isn’t particularly tall, you may be wondering if they still have a chance of playing.
The answer, of course, is that it depends. While it is true that the vast majority of NBA players are taller than average, there are some notable exceptions. Muggsy Bogues, for example, was just 5'3" and is considered one of the best point guards of all time. Spud Webb was another undersized guard who had a successful NBA career. And let's not forget about Earl Boykins, who at just 5'5" was the second-shortest player in NBA history.
So what does this mean for your child? If they're shorter than average, does that mean they can't play basketball? Of course not! Basketball is a sport for everyone, regardless of height. Your child might not have the same ups as some taller classmates, but that doesn't mean they can't compete. There’s more to this sport than just being tall - being agile and manoeuvrable with quick reactions is important too. Being shorter can even be an advantage; players like Bogues and Webb were able to use their low centre of gravity to their advantage, making them quicker and more elusive than their taller counterparts.
Children can go through incredible growth spurts in their teenage years, so a child who is shorter now may yet overtake their peers. Boys can continue growing until around 18, while girls tend to hit their adult height a bit sooner. Many professional basketball players were late bloomers and did not hit their growth spurt until they were teenagers. So even if your child is shorter than average, they may still have time to grow.
Most children will be able to start playing basketball around the age of 5 or 6. If your little one is under 5, there are many other activities they can do to help them develop the skills they need for basketball (or any other sport). Learning to swim, ride a bike and playing active games can all help them develop coordination, balance, and motor skills. You can throw and catch a ball with them and there are basketball hoops specially designed for toddlers available, so they can work on their aim.
NBA players have been getting shorter over the past few decades. In the 2019-20 season, the average height was 6'6", the lowest it had been in 40 years. This is a sharp contrast from the average height of NBA players in the 1990s, which was 6' 7". There are a few possible explanations for this trend. One theory is that players are becoming more specialised. In the past, taller players tended to play centre, while shorter players played point guard. However, today there are more positions on the court, and players of all heights can excel in any position.
So there you have it: your child is not too short to play basketball. While height is an important factor in basketball, late bloomers often have successful careers in the sport. Whether they're the next Muggsy Bogues or Spud Webb remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure—they'll have fun trying.