If you’re short you have to the face the fact that you will probably never make in the NBA unless you are ridiculously athletic and talented, however, you can still enjoy and maybe even dominate amateur leagues and pick-up games. Basic basketball strategy can even the odds and possibly give you an edge over people who won the genetic lottery, but you will probably still need to put in some hours to practice basic basketball fundamentals.
People in pick-up games rarely give more than a half-way decent effort on defense and will constantly leave you wide open, so develop a killer three-point shot. You can probably nail two or three shots before a defender tries to stop you from embarrassing him. Not only will you look like a baller, but you will probably always make team captain if the players decide to shoot for teams, which guarantees you a spot on a team.
Learn to shoot a high-arcing floater. One of the best short players of all time was Nick Van Exel and one of his trademarks was banking in lay-ups from near the free throw line. Not only do high-arcing floaters look cool, it keeps you far away enough from centers and forwards that your shot becomes almost unguardable.
Here are some highlights from Nick’s career with a few examples of his floaters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqCBJcpRPvY
You should also practice kicking your leg out and fading away when shooting a jump-shot to force your defender to give you space. One of the best at this move is Dirk Nowitzski. The kick-out maneuver forces your defender to step back or take a leg to the groin; this is not a foul as the defender cannot impede your normal shooting motion.
Here’s a Sports Science clip on Dirk’s fadeaway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFYxLN5yvwg
Deny the taller player ball position. If a defender scores on you a few times with the same move, notice where he shoots from and get to that position before him. Getting position early forces the offensive player into an angle to which he is not accustomed. One of the best at denying ball position is Chuck Hayes. He regularly shuts down seven-foot guys like Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum despite being only 6′ 5.” Ironically, it may be harder for a taller defender to back down a short guy than someone his own height because shorter players have a lower center of gravity.
Here’s a clip of Hayes in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiW1S7rD3Y0
Another option is to guard a bigger player from the front. This forces the passer to lob the ball into the post, which tends to confuse teams and cause turnovers because most players defend from the back. Boris Diaw frequently shut down Yao Ming – a full foot taller than Diaw – using the fronting defense. Having a great outside shot also helps against tall players because they usually hate guarding guys on the perimeter.
Some NBA players – famously Shane Battier – use an irritating tactic called “face guarding.” The basic principle behind face guarding is not to try to block a shot, but put your hand in the defender’s face so he cannot see the basket.
You can see some examples of face-guarding in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCJcxyjrxF4
Depending on your stamina, you can try to outrun taller defenders, who tend to be slower and heavier, when you’re on offense. This usually means cutting to the basket or having a defender set a screen. You need to be reasonably sure that you are in better shape than your opponent or else you might just tire yourself out too.