This Guy Is The Smallest Player On The Court – But His Insane Skills Prove Exactly Why He’s There

Mani Love might be the smallest person on most basketball courts, however, that doesn’t stop him from aiming high. Despite being born with dwarfism, Love is making quite the reputation for himself as baller. And when you see his incredible skills, it’s not hard to see why.

Jahmani Swanson is better known as “Mani Love” to his legion of fans. Born in 1985, he hails from the Bronx area of New York City. It was there that Love learned to become impervious to negative attitudes towards his height and overcome any obstacles that were placed in his way.

Love was born with achondroplasia – the form of short stature that occurs most often. His mother, Sabrina Swanson, also has the condition and it was her guidance that taught Love to reach for his dreams. And for the youngster that meant only one thing – basketball.

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The New York native’s obsession with the sport began before he was even a year old. According to his mom, Love used to cuddle up with a basketball each night in bed instead of a stuffed animal. But that was just the start of her son’s passion.

When Love saw basketball legend Michael Jordan play, the star became his idol. Every time the superstar athlete appeared on television, the little boy would watch; he would even stamp through the house in his uncle’s Air Jordan sneakers, emulating the sporting great.

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Determined to be just like his idol, Love began to play basketball at every opportunity. However, his clear talents were often met with disdain from his challengers. “The world was not ready for a little person to play serious ball,” Love told the website VeniceBall.com in 2012.

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While basketball is often regarded as a sport for tall people, there was no denying that Love had skills. But he would have a tough time proving himself to his competitors. However, that didn’t mean that the ambitious player wasn’t willing to defy expectations.

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Recalling his early days on the court, Love explained to VeniceBall.com, “Most of the players in the NBA average over six feet tall. Unfortunately I don’t fit that mould… So you can imagine all the ‘David and Goliath’ bouts I had to relive over and over again whenever I stepped on the basketball court to face these ‘basketball giants.’”

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Throughout high school, Love faced taunts from his peers over his size. However, nothing was going to stop the determined youngster. Over the course of four years, he played basketball for the junior varsity and varsity teams, with whom Love really honed his craft.

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Love recalled to VeniceBall.com, “The competition and level of talent on varsity was absolutely amazing in New York. I knew from watching these other teenagers that if I wanted to stay relevant on the court, I would have to train and work harder than the rest. And that I did.”

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Soon Love felt he had mastered his game and, with encouragement from both his mom and dad, by 2012 he was playing for New York Towers dwarf basketball team and competing in the outdoor Venice Ball League during the summer months. And while Love measured just four foot five inches tall, he made a big impression on the court.

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Love has his basketball-playing prowess to thank for his unique moniker. One of the youngster’s neighbors in the Bronx noticed how much attention he seemed to be getting whenever he played. He soon became a fan favorite with those who watched him, earning him the nickname “Mani Love.”

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Alongside his basketball career, Love also established himself as a children’s advocate. During his studies at New York’s Monroe College the budding athlete found work with the Frederick Douglass Children’s Aid Society, acting as a counselor.

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The basketball star later put the bad experiences with the ignorance of his schoolmates into good practice to become an anti-bullying advocate with the Court Kingz. The collective of basketball players from all sections of society came together in the hope of inspiring youngsters, no matter what their background, to get into the sport.

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As part of their work, the Court Kingz tour with entertaining basketball showcases to raise money for schools, nonprofits and community events across America. They also visit places as far flung as Asia and South America in order to bring basketball to the masses and break down cultural barriers.

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It was Love’s work with the Court Kingz that brought him, first viral and then fully-fledged, fame. The inspirational player’s story has been featured by national news outlets including Good Morning America and ESPN, and he’s also faced some celebrity opposition on the court.

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Love was hailed as “the Michael Jordan of dwarf basketball” after beating both ex-NFL star Terrell Owens and actor Jamie Foxx in one-on-one shoot outs. Needless to say, those feats got the player noticed, and before long Love was scouted by the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters.

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In 2017 it was announced that Love would be joining the famous showcase side for their 2018 world tour, which catapulted him into the sporting spotlight. And judging by the reaction that the newest team member got following his first appearance with the Globetrotters, the player soon established himself as a firm fan favorite.

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For Love, receiving adoration from global audiences was the culmination of all the hard work that he’d put in over the years. “It’s just amazing – the journey, the work, practicing every day. Overcoming adversity. Proving to people that I could be here, that I could play,” he told the China Daily newspaper in 2017.

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Love continued to marvel at his achievements, telling China Daily: “I’m proving myself every day.” The basketball star added, “I dreamed of this moment as a kid. I never thought I’d be a Harlem Globetrotter. It makes this a Cinderella story.”

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