7 Tall NBA Players Who Had Relatively Short Parents

Updated on May 14, 2020
charlesnuamah profile image

I love writing about sports, particularly about NBA players.

Michael Jordan's father, James R. Jordan, was no more than 5'9". MJ's mother, Deloris Jordan, was around 5'5".
Michael Jordan's father, James R. Jordan, was no more than 5'9". MJ's mother, Deloris Jordan, was around 5'5".

No other sport in the world has height play such a crucial role in your overall success like basketball. With the average height of NBA players being 6'7", there is huge pressure on prospective players to meet certain height requirements. You can be easily overlooked if you are under 6'2". Most college scouts overlooked two-time league MVP, Steph Curry, largely due to his slight build and small frame. As a high school senior, Steph was only 6-foot tall and rail-thin. This can be tough on young players with parents who are below six feet in height since how tall you are is largely dependent on genetics.

Even with a dad over 6 feet, young basketball players are not assured they would make it to 6 feet especially with a mum below 5’4”. Take the story of Nate Robinson. He was measured at 5'9" going into his sophomore year of high school. With his dad standing at 6’1”, he was sure he would shoot up another three or four inches by the time he was a senior. Unfortunately, this never happened. Nate’s mum is short and so he probably inherited the short genes from her.

Even though there have been some very short players like Nate Robinson, Muggsy Bogues, and Spud Webb who made it into the NBA, these players possessed athleticism that was out of this world. The truth is that the probability of making it into the NBA if you are under six feet is very slim. Below are seven NBA players who had relatively short parents (no taller than 5'10") but were still able to make it past 6'2". There is no doubt that these players' careers would have been different had they not grown as tall as they did.

Heights of the Players on This List

  1. Michael Jordan: 6'6"
  2. Russell Westbrook: 6'3"
  3. Jeremy Lin: 6'3"
  4. Gordon Hayward: 6'8"
  5. Wilt Chamberlain: 7'1"
  6. Moses Malone: 6'10"
  7. Gheorghe Dumitru Mureșan: 7'7"

Michael Jordan with his parents and siblings.
Michael Jordan with his parents and siblings.

1) Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest NBA player of all time. However, the 6'6" former Chicago Bulls star did not come from a family of giants. In fact, none of his immediate family members were above six feet in height. His dad was no more than 5'9", and his mom was around 5'5". It is not surprising that Jordan was not very tall during his early years.

This is contrary to his best teammate Scottie Pippen whose mum stood at 6'0" and dad at 6'1". Pippen probably knew from an early age that he was destined to be at least 6'2" whilst Jordan might have been filled with uncertainty. This uncertainty forced the young Jordan to experiment with some crazy ideas in the hopes of getting taller. He would hang onto the pullup bars in the playground in the backyard each day to try to grow taller. His mother even suggested he put salt in his shoes and say a prayer every night seeing how desperate he was to grow tall.

At his high school, MJ played basketball, football, and baseball. He had grown to a height of 5'11". This made him taller than his two older brothers. He and his childhood friend, Harvest Leroy Smith, tried out for the lone sophomore opening on the varsity basketball team. Smith, who was 6'7", was selected because of his height, while the 5'11" Jordan was sent to the JV basketball team by coach Clifton "Pop" Herring. This would serve as the motivation he needed to work harder. Michael would miraculously grow to 6'3" the following summer before finally beating all expectations to reach his adult height of 6'6".

Michael had an older cousin who was 6'7" and lived with the family briefly while he was in high school, working on basketball with the younger boys. This is proof that there were genes for tallness somewhere in his family line. Michael was just very lucky to have inherited those genes. Imagine what a gem the game of basketball would have lost had he not. MJ admits that his toughest opponent to date was his brother, Larry Jordan. He says Larry could have been a better player than himself had he grown past 5'8".

Russell Westbrook with his dad, mum, and brother.
Russell Westbrook with his dad, mum, and brother.

2) Russell Westbrook

The point guard for the Houston Rockets is a tad bit on the shorter side at 6'3". He is still certainly taller than the average person and is much taller than his parents. His father, Russell Westbrook Jr., stands at 5'8". His mother, Shannon Horton, is around 5'7" which is quite tall for a woman. It is highly likely Russell inherited his tall genes from his mom's side of the family.

The NBA star had a rather large growth spurt during high school. He was 5'8" as a freshman with size-13 feet and didn’t start on varsity until his junior year. None of the major camps or elite AAU squads extended invitations to him. Before his senior year, Russell had shot up five inches and his game had greatly improved. He had reached his full adult height of 6'3" by the time he started playing at UCLA.

Russell's younger and only brother, Raynard Westbrook, stands at only around 5'6" and goes to show how lucky Russell Westbrook was to have inherited the right genes for height from his family as he will clearly be nowhere near the player he is today if he didn't grow past 5'8".

Jeremy Lin with his mum, dad, and two brothers.
Jeremy Lin with his mum, dad, and two brothers.

3) Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is one of the few Asian Americans to play in the NBA, and the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the league. Being of Asian descent, it is no surprise that both of his parents are under six feet tall. His mom and dad both stand at 5'6".

The former Golden State Warriors player has admitted that he used to blame his dad for being short. This was because he stood at only 5'3" when he was 15. Jeremy would eventually reach his adult height of 6'3" and has since apologised to his father.

His maternal grandmother's family was tall, and her father was over 6'0". This may account for where Jeremy got his height from. He was very lucky to have inherited tall genes from that side of his family because his two brothers, Joseph, and Josh Lin, are below 6'0". His younger brother, Joseph Lin, is next tallest at around 5'11" and currently plays in Taiwan's Super Basketball League.

Gordon Hayward with his dad, mum, and twin sister.
Gordon Hayward with his dad, mum, and twin sister. | Source

4) Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward currently plays for the Boston Celtics. He played college basketball at Butler University for two seasons where he led his team to a runner-up finish in the 2010 NCAA Tournament during his sophomore season. Hayward was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in 2017.

It had always been the dream of Gordon to play in the NBA since age 5. With his mom and dad both standing at 5’10, this dream seemed bleak. He stood at only 5’11 during his freshman year of high school, and his doctor had predicted that he was not going to be more than 6’2”. Because of this, he focussed on building the skills that would set him up for success as a guard.

According to sports commentator Pat Forde, Hayward's father "continually pushed his son to develop a guard's skill set," believing he was destined to be of average size. He trained him to be the best ball handler, outside shooter, and facilitator he could be. Hayward's unusual skill set was largely the result of his father's misconception about his future growth. Forde refers to Hayward as "The guy who learned how to play like a guard but now has the size of a power forward."

Hayward had even considered quitting basketball entirely to focus on tennis at one point because he knew that a career in the NBA wasn’t likely if he didn’t break out of his 5’11” mold. He and his twin sister, Heather, both starred at tennis and were a fantastic mixed doubles pair. Gordon's first appearance in the sports pages was not in basketball but in tennis. However, his mother persuaded him to stay with basketball for one more year.

Some may call it serendipity, others divine intervention. Either way, Gordon had an unexpected growth spurt that changed the course of his career. He shot up to 6'4" as a sophomore. Two years after he almost abandoned basketball, he had grown to 6'7" (2.01 m). He reached 6'8" (2.03 m) as a senior and reportedly added another inch at Butler (though the NBA lists him at 6'8"). Suddenly, the kid who was a solid guard had turned into an incredible, unique swingman with a guard skill set. He almost turned into a different player overnight. As his high school coach Joshua Kendrick described, it was “like a kid discovered superpowers.”

Can you guess where Wilt Chamberlain is?
Can you guess where Wilt Chamberlain is?

5) Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant players in NBA history. It is hard to believe that Wilt, who was 7'1", was conceived by parents who were of average height but that was the case. Wilt's dad, William Chamberlain, was only 5'8". His mom, Olivia Ruth Johnson, stood at 5'9".

Olivia Johnson used to tell young Wilt stories of her grandfather who was a farmer and stood at around 7'0". This might explain where Wilt got his unusual height from. The family had tall genes because one of his brothers, Wilbert Chamberlain, also grew to 6'5".

The only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game was already six feet tall at age 10. He was 6'11" when he entered Philadelphia's Overbrook High School and had a strong advantage over his peers.

Despite his overall dominance, Wilt was very terrible at free-throw shooting. During his career, he missed 5,805 free throws. He used to dunk his free throws, and the NCAA and NBA banned crossing the foul line during a shot because of him. Amazingly, he never fouled out of an NBA game.

Moses Malone had significantly small hands for his height of 6'10".
Moses Malone had significantly small hands for his height of 6'10".

6) Moses Malone

Moses Malone is regarded as the greatest offensive rebounder of all time. The three-time NBA Most Valuable Player who stood at 6'10" had a dad who was only 5'6". His mom stood at a mere 5'2".

Only his hands seemed a result of that union for he had incredibly small hands for a man of 6'10". He could palm the ball but couldn't dunk and control the ball like so many small guards. Because of this, Tom Nissalke, the Rockets' coach, gave him a series of hand-stretching exercises, like those for a pianist.

The same medical anomaly that produced a 6′10″ child from a 5′2″ mother and 5′6″ father gave him his small hands. His teammate Rick Barry once joked that if his hands were proportionate to his body, the league would have to outlaw him. It was probably due to the fact that he had to work extra hard to overcome this limitation which ironically resulted in him being one of the game's best rebounders.

He had reached his full height when he was 19 and was one of the most sought-after college basketball prospects in history. He became the first player to enter professional basketball directly from high school.

Gheorghe Muresan with his two sons, George and Victor.
Gheorghe Muresan with his two sons, George and Victor.

7) Gheorghe Dumitru Mureșan

Gheorghe Dumitru Mureșan is one of the two tallest players in NBA history. The other is Manute Bol, and they both stood at 7'7". Mureșan is the tallest man in Romania and is currently the tallest living person in the European Union after the death of Game of Thrones star Neil Fingleton.

Gheorghe did not get his height from his parents. His dad is 5'9," and his mom is 5'7". Manute Bol, on the other hand, came from a family of extraordinarily tall people. Bol's mom was 6'10", his dad was 6'8", and his sister was also 6'8". Manute's great-grandfather was even taller at 7'10". His ethnic group, the Dinka, and the Nilotic people of which they are a part of, are among the taller populations of the world.

Gheorghe’s height is the result of a pituitary gland condition. He would probably still be tall if he didn’t have this condition, just not 7'7". Almost immediately after he was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by Washington, he underwent surgery to eliminate the tumor on his pituitary gland.

The former Washington Bullets and New Jersey Nets player didn't start playing basketball until he was 14. He enjoyed playing soccer and was encouraged to try out basketball because he stood at almost 7'0" at that age. His career was unfortunately derailed by injuries.

Gheorghe is married to a Romanian lady called Liliane who stands at 6'1". They have two sons, George and Victor, who also have a love for basketball. His older son George is already 6'8" at 16. His younger son Victor, who is only 13, is the same height as his mom Liliane.

Average NBA Height by Position

Point Guard
Shooting Guard
Small Forward
Power Forward

Other NBA Players Who are Way Taller Than Their Parents

The NBA players below don't necessarily have short parents. However, their heights are way above the normal range for parents that height.

Shaquille O'Neal

To be fair, Shaq's parents are taller than average. His mother, Lucille O'Neal, is 6'2". His father, Joe Toney, is 6'1". However, they are still well below the average NBA height. More importantly, they are dwarfed by their son who towers at 7'1". He was already 6'6" at 13.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This is another case of parents being relatively short to their son. Kareem's father, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr., was fairly tall at 6'2". His mother, Cora Lillian, had an above average height at six feet. These heights are still well below the NBA average and well below Kareem's height of 7'2". The hall of famer was a fast grower as he was already 5'8" at age nine.

LeBron James

King James stands at 6'8", which makes the small forward a rather imposing figure. His height is more impressive considering that his mother, Gloria Marie James, only stands at 5'5". No one knows for sure how tall his father Anthony McClelland is, but it seems his stature is not that impressive either.

LeBron's height can be attributed to luck. He was already 6'3" in his freshman year of high school where he was an immediate star of his varsity team. He grew an additional two inches by his junior year when he was considered a top pick from NBA scouts. He became the second player to be drafted at number one straight from high school. His career accolades include being a three-time NBA Champion, a four-time MVP, and a 14-time All-Star.

Tacko Fall

This legit giant from Senegal is one of the tallest living human beings in the world currently. At an unbelievable height of 7’7” in shoes, one would expect one of Tacko’s parents to be at least 6’5” but this isn’t the case.

This is really contrary to most of the tallest players in NBA history who either have exceptionally tall parents or suffered from some form of pituitary gland condition. For instance, Shawn Bradley and Yao Ming stand at roughly the same height as Tacko Fall and both have really tall parents. Bradley’s dad and mum stand at 6’8” and 6’0” respectively. Ming has a 6’7” dad and a 6’3” mum.

However, Fall’s dad stands at an unremarkable 6’0” and his mum at 5’8” which is still significantly taller than the average Senegalese woman, who by the way are the tallest women in Africa. Tacko Fall doesn't have a problem with his pituitary gland and his height should come as no surprise as his ancestors were some of the tallest people to walk the face of the earth.

His grandma used to tell him that her grandfather was really tall — like him. Some tribes from his region have an average height of 6'6". Tacko has two uncles who are 6’8”. His younger brother, Fallou, was reportedly 5’9” at just 7 years of age.

Boban Marjanović

The man who holds the unofficial title for the largest hands in the history of the NBA didn’t inherit his incredible 7’3” stature from his parents. Marjanović’s parents are of average height. His mum stands at 5’6” and his dad is 5’9”.

Like Mureșan, Boban likely suffered from a pituitary gland condition which led to his gigantism. Though there is no solid evidence to support this, you can easily tell Marjanović is not a true giant but a pituitary giant from his facial features.

Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis’ parents are well above average height. His dad, Talis Porzingis, is 6'4 and his mum, Ingrīda Porziņģe, is 6'0. Kristaps was obviously destined to be tall but I’m pretty sure no one in his family predicted he would reach a staggering 7’3”.

He was very lucky to hit the genetic lottery. Kristaps’ two brothers, Janis and Martins, are in the normal range for height one would expect from a 6’4 father and a 6’0 mother. Jānis Porziņģis stands at 6’7” and Martins Porzingis at 6’4”. Kristaps Porzingis was already 6’8” at 15.

Kristaps Porzingis with his mum, dad, and two brothers.
Kristaps Porzingis with his mum, dad, and two brothers.

Can I Increase My Height Like an NBA Player?

The harsh reality is that your height is largely determined by genetics. Granted, as these NBA players have shown, some people can overcome this. However, the vast majority of us will be roughly the same height as our parents. There are some measures you can take to reach your maximum potential height. Nutrition plays an important role in a person's developing years. Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals can help your body grow strong and potentially taller during puberty. Getting plenty of sleep is important as well as this is when your body develops growth hormones. Keep in mind that this is only applicable for children and young teenagers. You are generally done growing by the time you hit your late teens and early 20s.

Are these the only NBA players who had short parents? I highly doubt so. If you know of any other players, please let me know in the comments section below.

Questions & Answers

© 2016 Charles Nuamah


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    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      My mom stands only at 5'2 and my dad stands at 6'1, currently im 5'8 and im 17. Would it be possible if i grow at past 6'1 just like my father?

    • profile image

      Jamarion Thomas 

      4 months ago

      My dad is 5’6 and my mom is 5’3 and her dad is 6’5 and my dad dad is 5’8 do you think I’ll grow pass 6 foot? I’m currently 5’8

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      My mom is 5’7 and my dad is 6’1 and my brother is 6’0 I am taller than what my brother was when he was 11 I am about 5’0.5 so far

      (my family is late bloomers)

    • profile image

      Marshall Maclennan 

      20 months ago

      Im 14.5 and my dad is 6'3 and my mom is 5'6 and I am only 5'4,My dads side of the family for hundreds of years are all taller than 6 foot.My moms side of the family are short,I love the game of basketball and I can barely defend the players on my team who are 6'4.Will i Grow taller and reach 6'5 which is in my opinion"My ideal height"

    • profile image

      MItul Naik 

      21 months ago

      I'm 13.5 and soon gonna be a freshman in high school. I am currently 5'11 and my dad is 5'9 and my mom is 5'6. Most of my uncles are average (5'10) or above average height (6+) and my grandpa is 5'9 ish. Will I grow past 6'4?

    • profile image

      Raymond montiel 

      21 months ago

      Im 12 and already 5'8 my mom is 5'5 and my dad is 5'11 but my grandpa is 6'7 and all of my cousins are over 6 feet do you know if i would become over 6'2?

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You forgot about Russell Westbrook and Dennis Rodman

    • profile image

      tyler berry 

      2 years ago

      lebron in 8th grade was 6'1 and later in high school grew to 6'8 around his junior to senior year. his doctor in his freshman year said that he wouldn't be no taller than 6'3 but i guess he beat the odds.


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