A Conversation With Height-Challenged Clippers Guard Earl Boykins
Earl Boykins, a 5-foot, 6-inch veteran of the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Jersey Nets, now plays for the L.A. Clippers. We wanted to find out how a 24-year-old guy built so close to the ground survives among the giant redwoods of the NBA.
Q: Does size matter?
A: No. It's about ability and heart.
Q: How do you defend against the bigger guards like Kobe Bryant of the Lakers?
A: I use my speed to try and disrupt them. Anticipating. It's harder for guys to screen me, and that helps.
Q: Favorite small man?
A: Isiah Thomas. He was the one.
Q: Role model?
A: My dad [a Cleveland policeman]. He didn't play in college or pro, but he still plays around Cleveland. I wanted to be a better basketball player than my dad.
Q: You played in the Continental Basketball Assn., which is sort of the NBA's farm league. What was the weirdest thing about the CBA?
A: Getting up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first cheap flight out of town.
Q: Weirdest thing about the NBA?
A: How fast the time goes.
Q: How can you help the Clippers improve?
A: By winning. If you win, everybody improves.
Q: How would you go one-on-one against Shaquille O'Neal?
A: Use my speed.
Q: How can a small guard survive in the NBA?
A: You have to bring something to the table that no one else brings. There's definitely a place for small guys on the team.
Q: Do you think shorter players have a better perspective?
A: You're forced to. I think a lot of guys are in the NBA on talent alone. When you're my size, you have to think the game of basketball.
Q: Best thing about being your height?
A: I blend in.
Q: What worries you most about society today?
A: Young people are becoming parents too early. [Boykins' girlfriend, Keyan Mathews, gave birth to a son last month in Detroit.]
Q: Advice for small kids?
A: Have self-confidence, that's the most important thing.
Q: How can you get that confidence?
A: By your work ethic. At some point you realize that you can outwork guys.
Q: Philosophy you live by?
A: Always think before you react. My father always told me that.
Q: Advice for tall guys?
A: Don't waste your height.
The Earl Boykins Tale of the Tape
* Height in Clippers program: 5 feet, 5 inches
* Actual height: 5 feet, 6 inches
* Weight: 136 pounds
* Shoe size: 9
* Dad's height: 5 feet, 8 inches
* Mom's height: 4 feet, 11 inches
* Tattoos: "I don't believe in writing on my body. Draw me a picture, I'll save it."