Kenny Anderson (6-1), Dee Brown (6-0), Tim Hardaway (6-0), Kevin Johnson (6-1), Vernon Maxwell (6-4), Terry Porter (6-3), Mark Price (6-0), Scott Skiles (6-1), and Isiah Thomas (6-1).
In 1988 Nintendo released Ice Hockey. In addition to giving gamers the ability to fight the Cold War in their own small way, it also got people used to the concept of sports games where characters fit limited body types. In this case they were small and thin, medium sized, or fat. NBA Jam continued this tradition by making players either short or tall, with nothing in between. Short players are roughly half the size and are at a severe disadvantage in such a physical game. They are inferior when it comes to attacking or protecting the rim, playing good man-to man defense, and getting shots away. I would take a somewhat forgotten tall player like Wayman Tisdale over any short player, including real life Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Keep that in mind as you go over my rankings.
But, before I get into rankings I do want to explore a discrepancy in Midway's programming. Anyone 6-1 and under is a short guy. But then it becomes interesting. It appears as if anyone 6-4 and above is represented as a tall player. Hence Charles Barkley (if we are being honest with ourselves) and Blue Edwards, though they stand at 6-4 in real life, appear to be the exact same size as Patrick Ewing. However, for some reason Vernon Maxwell, who is also 6-4, is a short player. Meanwhile, Jeff Hornacek and John Starks (using the Barkley honesty rule) are 6-3 in real life and yet somehow are as tall as the aforementioned Ewing. This confuses me. And now onto the rankings...
- Terry Porter - Before I sat down to play a game with each short guy's team I looked over the list once. In doing so I immediately plugged Porter into the 10th spot. I actually believe that the Blazers' all time assist leader is one of the underrated players of the last 20 years. Unfortunately he also holds the dubious distinction of worst NBA Jam player.
- Scott Skiles - Skiles lands ahead of Porter mainly because the current Bulls coach can be quite pesky when controlled by the computer. Why? I don't know. More importantly I'd love to go back in time and have the creators of NBA Jam put a headband on Skiles. Alas.
- Mark Price - His defense is weak and he attempts lay ups far too regularly, though much like the next man on the list, is a better dunker than you would think. Allegedly sued Midway for not including free throws in the game. Okay I made that up.
- John Stockton - Unfortunately for Stockton NBA Jam does not feature pick and rolls. Furthermore, assists really don't matter all that much. On the bright side the transition 3 pointer from the top of the arc is there for the taking. But that's not enough to put Stockton over the top, even if he is a better dunker than you'd think. His defense and shooting are average at best.
- Isiah Thomas - The creator of NBA Jam, Mark Turnell, was a Pistons fan and by the time the game was released Thomas was a sure fire Hall of Famer. So he had the pedigree and allegedly Turnell was not opposed to giving his favorite team some advantages, particularly against the Bulls. Yet I can't shake the fact that Thomas is not stellar in NBA Jam.
- Vernon Maxwell - Personally I enjoy playing with Mad Max and I could have even placed him higher on the list. I went with 5 because his real life clutch shooting and the fact that he was once pistol whipped and feared for his life made him tough to evaluate. I may have even unfairly marked him down to compensate for that fact that I am amazed by his overall approach to basketball and life. Keep in mind that "amazed" can be both good and bad.
- Kenny Anderson - This is prior to his classic lockout fueled quote about selling a few cars to make ends meet. Around the same time Anderson was also caught on camera rejecting a young boy's autograph request, which probably only strengthened David Stern's resolve, if that is even possible.
- Dee Brown - He's one of the better dunkers and he does shoot the 3 well. This feels right. Giving him the top spot would probably be viewed with skepticism, even though I could argue it well. And honestly it was difficult to objectively rank Dee Brown because he's a Celtic. So I'll go with third. Not being the top short player in the game might be one of the bigger disappointments of his career. Although it is nothing compared to that time the Wellesley police held him at gunpoint.
- Kevin Johnson - You simply cannot discount the fact that the man embarrassed Hot Rod Williams and more importantly Hakeem in real life. Did you honestly expect him to be bad in NBA Jam? Plays pretty good defense and shoots the 3 well too.
- Tim Hardaway - He's a solid dunker, an above average 3 point shooter, and capable of knocking a big guy down on defense. Ultimately that last point solidifies his status as "best short player in NBA Jam", which will probably be his legacy. Either that or the UTEP 2 Step. Or his Run TMC days. Or maybe his role in those dreadful Knicks/Heat encounters. Oh wait.