The National Basketball Association is indeed a league for big men. But the measure isn’t always for height. There is also a check for heart.
For 13 seasons, Earl Boykins displayed plenty of heart. At 5 feet, 5 inches, he is the second shortest player in NBA history. His lack of height never held him back. He mixed it with the big boys, even dunking on them.
Boykins, who played professionally at a feathery 133 pounds (yet he bench pressed 315 pounds), didn’t let the fact that he wasn’t drafted derail his dream of a big league career. He spent 13 years in the NBA, appearing in 587 games for nine teams, included the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Twice in 2007, while starring for the Milwaukee Bucks, Boykins tossed in a career high 36 points. Two years earlier, also with the Bucks, he scored 15 points in an overtime period, breaking the NBA record of 14 points that had stood for 21 years. Boykins’ mark fell the following season when Washington’s Gilbert Arenas netted 16 points in overtime.
Boykins never let his lack of height stop from excelling. Or elevating. Videos of Boykins’ NBA dunks have registered nearly a million hits on YouTube.
Boykins began his road to professional stardom at Cleveland Central High School in the city’s historic Slavic Village.
He then headed for Eastern Michigan University where he played for the Eagles from 1994 through 1998. Boykins earned All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors in both his junior and senior years. He continues to be EMU’s all-time leader in career assists with 624, more than 100 assists clear of the second ranked Eagle.
One of the highlights of Boykins’ college career came in an opening round game of the 1996 NCAA tournament when Eastern Michigan upset Duke 75-60 in a Southeast Regional game at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Boykins scored 23 points.
Eastern Michigan honored Boykins in 2011 when it retired his No. 11 jersey and raised it to the rafters of the Convocation Center.