Basketball as a Short Player - Advantages & Tips

Nate Robinson’s Guide to Success

We’ve all been there. You're the shortest guy on the court -- or at least too short to snatch rebounds from the sequoias vacuuming up all the boards. But hoops isn’t just a game of the immense. Spud Webb, for example, played in the NBA for 13 years and even won the league's slam dunk contest in 1986. This, despite the fact that he is only 5-feet-6-inches tall -- short by NBA standards.

Twenty years later, Nate Robinson -- who stands 5 foot 9 -- did the same thing, winning the 2006 slam dunk contest. Indeed, in his most memorable dunk of the night, Robinson jumped over Webb and received a perfect 50-point score for the effort, Wikipedia notes. Both of these players made it because they were tough, fast and had a lot of heart. So, even if you are not the tallest player on the court, you can have a large impact if you have the right tricks and technique, as Robinson explains.

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You're Faster Than They Are

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Smaller ballers tend to be quicker with their reflexes and fleeter of foot than taller players. “Smaller guys, we gotta work harder than the bigger guys. We gotta burn more energy,” says Robinson, who played in the NBA from 2005 to 2015. But, it's not enough to be out there and have more speed -- you have to have the stamina to run throughout the entire game. “You gotta eat right,” Robinson adds, “and always be in shape more than the next guy. Have great lungs like what a swimmer would have.”

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Abs Rule

Nate Robinson
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You’d think that boosting your speed would only involve working out your legs, and that’s certainly part of it, but Robinson's focus is clear: “A lot of abs. It helps you on your jumping. It can help you a lot with balance, moving left and right.” Ensure that you concentrate on core strength because it can help you move better and jump higher.

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Smaller Guys Tend to Have Bigger Hearts

Nate Robinson
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Internal toughness is also key, says Robinson: “You’ve gotta be feisty. You’ve gotta be determined to win no matter what, no matter how small you are.” Speed and stamina give you physical tools, but what are you going to do with them? Robinson’s key is “having the determination to get every loose ball on the floor.”

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You're Elbow Height

Nate Robinson
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What’s your reward for all this hard work? Sticking your nose in where your opponents don’t want it? Diving to the floor, swiping at dribbles, and being a royal pest? “You get hit by elbows in the face and knocked over a lot,” Robinson says. That’s where your heart comes in, pounding double-time. You show heart just by getting into the scrum with much larger players. “Have a big heart," says Robinson, "Small guys always get up no matter what.”

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Put the Focus on Youself

Nate Robinson
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Use your physical advantages, be the most active guy on the court, but most importantly, in basketball or anything else you ever do, never give up. “Always think positively about yourself," says Robinson. Know that if a player or coach does not believe in you, believe in yourself. "I'm not going to listen to somebody who’d tell me if I can or I can't. I'm going to make sure I do it for myself. I just focus on me.”