Phoenix Suns’ rookie Tyler Ulis has made a big splash in the second half of his rookie season. Most recently, he stuck it to former Phoenix Sun Isaiah Thomas. First, he faced off against “Mr. Fourth Quarter” in what must have been one of the shortest jump balls in NBA history.
Then he buried a game winner in Thomas’ face as time expired.
Not only did Ulis probably participate in the two most famous plays by Suns player under six feet tall... he did them against one of only six other players in franchise history to not hit the six foot mark. While Thomas and Ulis bask in the limelight, their fellow 5-footers in Suns history have not fared so well. Here’s a quick look at the hard life of the undersized players in Suns’ history.
#5 - Phil Pressey - 5’11”
Phil Pressey had a brief stint with Phoenix last spring. The Suns signed Pressey to a pair of 10-day contracts to shore up their depth at point guard while Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe were out with injuries (remember Archie Goodwin, point guard?). Thanks to those injuries, Pressey got plenty of run in his 20 days with Phoenix, playing 13 minutes a game in 9 games.
All that playing time was for naught. Right now, Pressey is a marginal NBA talent at best. His shooting and distribution skills are not enough to overcome his size disadvantage. He was signed and waived by the Golden State Warriors at the start of this season and currently plays for their D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.
#4 - Brevin Knight - 5’10”
Brevin Knight’s tenure in Phoenix was almost as short as Phil Pressey’s. Acquired in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies at the start of the 2003-2004 season, Knight only appeared in 3 games for a total of 19 minutes before being shipped off to the Washington Wizards a month later. Those 19 minutes are the 19th fewest minutes by any player in franchise history. More impressively, his 2 points land him alone in Suns’ history for the 3rd fewest scored in a Phoenix career.
Though Knight’s stint with the Suns was brief and unmemorable, his NBA career was long if not particularly illustrious. He played for 9 teams in 12 NBA seasons, frequently as a starter. On the other hand, most of those teams were losing teams, so maybe starting him wasn’t helping things.
#3 - Andre Barrett - 5’10”
Unlike everyone else on this list, I have absolutely no recollection of Andre Barrett. It’s really probably my fault for this as he played 21 whole minutes as a Phoenix Sun, which is like 10% more than Brevin Knight did. As a 10-day signee, Barrett played nearly all of those minutes on March 9, 2006, in a 117-93 shellacking by the San Antonio Spurs. With Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash both sidelined for the game, Phoenix started Raja Bell (or maybe James Jones... does it really matter?) at point guard with Barrett coming off the bench.
Unfortunately for Barrett, his 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 19 minutes were not enough to earn him a longer stint in Phoenix. Phoenix was one of 6 teams Barrett played for in a 4 year NBA career that saw him struggle to find a home. In recent years, he’s bounced between the D-League and international play and currently plays professional ball in Argentina.
#2 - Yuta Tabuse - 5’9”
Yuta Tabuse is a cult classic among Phoenix Suns fans. He is most famous for being the first Japanese-born player in NBA history. He is slightly less famous for not being very good at NBA-level basketball. Maybe it was bad luck that landed him on a team with a strong guard rotation for his first go-round in the NBA. He would have had to beat out Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Quentin Richardson and Smush Parker to stick on that team. Then again if Smush Parker is taking your roster spot, maybe you don’t belong in the NBA after all.
Tabuse played in just 4 games for 17 minutes and was waived by Phoenix near the beginning of the 2004-05 season. Like Pressey and Barrett, Tabuse has spent the rest of his career bouncing between the D-League and international play, eventually leading a team to the Japanese Basketball League championship while garnering MVP honors in 2010.
#1 - Greg Grant - 5’7”
Greg Grant is the shortest player in Phoenix Suns’ history. As Kevin Johnson’s primary backup during the 1989-90 season, Grant was a pest on defense. The rookie, much like Tyler Ulis, Grant used his speed and agility to make up for his size disadvantage while defending larger guards. He also had a brief bout with basketball card notoriety as Paula Abdul is (maybe?) visible in the background of his trading card.
While his effort on the court was good enough to keep him in the Suns’ rotation for the 1989-90 season, it was not good enough to keep him on the team beyond that. Phoenix cut him and like his fellow undersized Suns’ brethren, the remainder of his career was spent as a journeyman both in the NBA and out of it.