Top 8 NBA Shortest Centers: The Underestimated Giants of NBA

Height is not the sole determinant of success in basketball, as proven by NBA's shortest centers like Chuck Hayes and Wes Unseld. Their skill, agility, and determination have paved the way for shorter players to compete at the highest level, inspiring aspiring athletes to pursue their basketball dreams regardless of stature.

Many professional basketball players have charming looks and display immense talents. And a lot of people believe that basketball is for the towering players only.

But the contemporary NBA league has undergone several changes in the recent past. Some players who are short in stature have beaten the odds to shine in the league.

Notwithstanding their height, such players have tapped on their strength and swiftness to put up a spirited fight against towering opponents. That means even if you aren’t 7 feet tall, you can still play basketball to the championship level.

The post thus highlights some of the NBA shortest centers worth noting.

Top 8 NBA Shortest Centers

Chuck Hayes

Chuck Hayes forms one of the NBA’s shortest center players and stands 6 feet 6 inches tall. Back in his days, Hayes played for Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, and Toronto Raptors.

Despite being short, he staged a remarkable play in every team he joined. Chuck joined the NBA by signing off with the Houston Rockets team in 2006. And Hayes retired with a record of 5.0 rebounds for every game.

Although many basketball players are gigantic in height, Chuck Hayes has proved that even shorter players can play the center position effectively. After retiring from playing the sport, Chuck began coaching the Denver Nuggets.


Wes Unseld

Next on our list of the shortest NBA center players is Wes Unseld. Compared to Chuck Hayes, Wes is slightly taller at 6 feet and 7 inches.

But his height didn’t stop him from staging a remarkable performance in his basketball career. He even challenged towering center opponents such as Bill Walton, Bill Russel, Willis Reed, and Bob McAdoo.

Following his outstanding performance, Wes won the NBA Most Valuable Player title and Rookie of the Year in 1978.

In the college league, Unseld played for the Louisville Cardinals. However, he turned pro via the 1968 NBA draft as the second overall pick of the Washington Bullets. Overall, Wes left behind an admirable play record in the center position.

Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried effectively played two positions; power forward and center. However, regarding height, he stood 6’8”. Even during his college career, Faried registered outstanding performance.

While playing for Morehead State University, Kenneth earned the title Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year twice. At the end of college, he became the NCAA’s all-time leading player with 1673 rebounds.

After being successful in the 2011 NBA draft, he joined the Denver Nuggets. Kenneth earned the nickname “The Minimal”, as he is short but dominated the center position.


Boris Diaw

Boris Diaw stands 6 feet 8 inches tall. In his professional career, he played for several teams. That includes Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, and Utah Jazz. The pro basketball player’s fame rose after winning the NBA championship while with the San Antonio Spurs.

Initially, Boris played the forward position. But when a teammate sustained an injury, he took up the center position and excelled there too.

Despite his comparatively limited height, Boris shone in the point guard and center positions. And owing to his playing style of drive, dish, and defense, Boris earned the nickname 3D.


Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace also counts in the list of the shortest center basketball players and stands 6 feet 9 inches. When fighting for a rebound, Wallace often presented skillful and aggressive play tactics.

Four times, Ben Wallace won the Defensive Player of the Year Award and thus proved a tough player. During the nine years he played for the Detroit Pistons, Wallace made two appearances in the NBA finals and together won the championship in 2004.

As a defensive player, Ben displayed remarkable rebounding and shot-blocking skills. In 2021, Ben Wallace joined the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Currently, Wallace serves as Piston’s basketball operations and team engagement advisor.

Alfred Horford

Al Horford stands 6 feet and 9 inches tall. The Dominican NBA pro has played for several teams. That includes Atlanta Hawks, Bolton Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Since 2021 he has stuck with the Boston Celtics. Among his fans, Alfred Horford has earned the nickname Big Al. At the college basketball level in the NCAA, Horford played for the Florida Gators and took up the starting center position. That saw the team win the championship twice in 2006 and 2007.

In the 2007 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks chose Horford as their third overall best. Among his key achievements include being an NBA All-Star winner five times and an NCAA champion twice. Further, he has appeared in the NBA All defensive 2018 second team and NBA all Rookie first team of 2008.


Charles Barkley

During his time, Charles mainly played the power forward position. However, there are occasions at the peak of his career when his performance shone while playing in the center. He’s shorter than many center players considering he stands 6 feet and 6 inches tall.

But his short stature didn’t prevent him from excelling in the basketball game. Instead, he employed his agility and strength to outplay taller opponents.

Some of the teams that Barkley played for in the NBA league include Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, and Houston Rockets.


Dave Cowens

Another person to reckon with among NBA shortest centers is Dave Cowens. Dave has retired from playing in the NBA league. While playing in the center position, his career years spanned from 1970 to 1983.

Considering he’s 6 feet and 9 inches tall, some people believed he was too short to take up the center position.

But in the 1970 NBA draft, Cowens was picked up by the Boston Celtics. Cowens surprised his previous critics by putting up a tough player. For the same reason, he appeared on the NBA All-Defensive team thrice (once on the first team and twice on the second team).

Besides, Dave Cowens is also a two-time winner of the NBA championship, NBA MVP once, and eight times NBA All-Star title holder.


So, if you believe you have what it takes to excel in the basketball sport except for your height, don’t give up. The mentioned NBA shortest center players have defied the odds and become famous in the NBA league.

You can draw inspiration from Chuck Hayes and Wes Unseld.

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