In honor of Mavericks’ legend J.J. Barea starting his Spanish playing career with Estudiantes this week, the time has come to salute the best of the smallest.

Barea carved out a career as a 5-10 energizer for the Mavericks, playing 11 seasons (plus three with Minnesota) and in a game where big men have inherent advantages, Barea has embodied the spirit of little men throughout NBA history.

He got by on heart, hustle and grit, but also by having more talent than people sometimes gave him credit for. By the way, he had 14 points, 3 assists and 3 steals in his first Spanish League game.

“I’ve always been small,” Barea once said. “I don’t look at it as a disadvantage at all. If I was bigger, I might not have worked as hard.”

No chance of that. Hard work comes with the territory for Barea.

As it does for all of what we call the Jumbo Shrimps, the under-6-foot NBA players who left their mark on the league. Here’s a look (alphabetically) at the best of the smallest. Most of them, you’ll know. Some you may have forgotten. But all 18 of them defied the odds.


Michael Adams, 5-10 (11 seasons, 653 games, 14.7 points, 6.4 assists)

Comment: Averaged 26.5 points, 10.5 assists in 1990-91, then was abruptly traded by Denver to Washington. Never came close to matching those numbers again. But not many were as dangerous as he was from long range.

Chucky Atkins, 5-11 (11 seasons, 696 games, 9.9 points, 3.4 assists)

Comment: Consistent 3-point shooter was a valuable weapon as a starter and off the bench for strong Detroit teams early in the 2000s. But he got traded during the 2004 season before the Pistons won that year’s championship.

D.J. Augustin, 5-11 (12 years, 885 games, 9.8 points, 4.0 assists)

Comment: Has bounced around a lot, playing for nine teams, but he has been a consistent producer, mostly with his 3-point shot (38 percent for career, 40 percent this season with the Milwaukee Bucks).

J.J. Barea, 5-10 (14 seasons, 831 games, 8.9 points, 3.9 assists)

Comment: Won a championship with Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. Averaged under 20 minutes per game, which means he accounted for nearly 22 points per 48 minutes played. Plus, he was aces in the locker room.

Dana Barros, 5-11 (14 seasons, 850 games, 10.5 points, 3.3 assists)

Comment: Sensational 3-point shooter made more than 1,000 of them before they were cool to shoot. An all-star with Philadelphia in 1995, averaging 20.6 points and 7.5 assists.

Muggsy Bogues, 5-3 (14 seasons, 889 games, 7.7 points, 7.6 assists)

Comment: Little known fact: His best years were with Charlotte. However, he got his last paycheck as a player from the Mavericks, although he never suited up for them after trade from Toronto.

Earl Boykins, 5-5 (13 seasons, 652 games, 8.9 points, 3.2 assists)

Comment: Played for 10 teams and had the best free-throw routine ever. No blowing kisses to the rim, no elbow tap, no nothing. Catch ball, shoot ball. And that simplicity helped him shoot 87.6 percent for his career.

Terrell Brandon, 5-11 (11 seasons, 724 games, 13.8 points, 6.1 assists)

Comment: Was a two-time all-star for Cleveland in an era when the Cavaliers had the misfortune of running into Michael Jordan and the Bulls every year. Didn’t stop Brandon from averaging 19-plus points in two seasons.

Avery Johnson, 5-10 (16 seasons, 1,054 games, 8.4 points, 5.5 assists)

Comment: Once waived on Christmas Eve by Denver, he went on to have a terrific NBA career, capped by the championship-winning shot in the 1999 finals with San Antonio. Also played and coached the Mavericks.

Brevin Knight, 5-10 (12 seasons, 729 games, 7.3 points, 6.1 assists)

Comment: He was a rarity – a sub-6-footer who couldn’t shoot well at all. His career 13.4 percent 3-point percentage belies the fact that he was a great facilitator who also was consistently among steals leaders.

Ty Lawson, 5-11 (Eight seasons, 551 games, 12.7 points, 6.0 assists)

Comment: Spent his first six seasons with Denver, averaging 14.2 points for the Nuggets before he was traded to Houston in 2015. He never averaged double figures after the trade.

Slater Martin, 5-10 (11 seasons, 745 games, 9.8 points, 4.2 assists)

Comment: In a different era, he was an all-star nine times and won five NBA titles with Minneapolis and St. Louis. Yes, he partnered well, but he knew how to get the most from George Mikan and Bob Pettit.

Calvin Murphy, 5-9 (13 seasons, 1,002 games, 17.9 points, 4.4 assists)

Comment: One of only two sub-6-footers to play at least 1,000 games and he did so all with the same organization (Houston) Few could light it up like the Murf, and he was a character, too.

Nate Robinson, 5-9 (11 seasons, 618 games, 11 points, 3 assists)

Comment: Was never shy and certainly didn’t lack confidence in his abilities. He was a good scorer for mostly poor New York Knicks teams, and he was always entertaining.

Fred Scolari, 5-10 (Nine seasons, 534 games, 11.3 points, 2.6 assists)

Comment: Blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, he also fought weight problems. But none of that kept him from being a four-time all-star in the ‘50s with Baltimore and Fort Wayne.

Damon Stoudamire, 5-10 (13 seasons, 878 games, 13.4 points, 6.1 assists)

Comment: Helped give the then-new Raptors organization instant credibility until Vince Carter arrived, then was a vital cog for a good Portland team in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

Isaiah Thomas, 5-9 (Nine seasons, 525 games, 18.1 points, 5 assists)

Comment: Two-time all-star was the 60th (and last) pick in the 2011 draft. Built a reputation with Sacramento, then outscored his age for a season (28.9 ppg at age 27 in 2017) with the Celtics.

Spud Webb, 5-7 (12 seasons, 814 games, 9.9 points. 5.3 assists)

Comment: Him winning the slam-dunk championship in 1986 is one of the most memorable moments in league history. He was always fun to watch and now is an executive with Texas Legends.

Twitter: @ESefko

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