Basketball stars are known for their giant stature, but dwarf player Jahmani Swanson is showing that size isn’t everything on the court.
The 4ft 5in ace is known as the ‘Michael Jordan of dwarf basketball’ and astounds crowds and opponents with his strength, speed and scoring record.
The 29-year-old plays pro-league basketball with a court team in New York, and has no problem taking on players almost twice his size.
Jahmani, or ‘Mani Love’ as he is known, thrives on proving wrong anyone who doubts his abilities and has amassed a legion of fans on Instagram.
‘People underestimate me all the time and that’s what really motivates me more,’ says Jahmani, from Manhattan. ‘Just because I’m small it doesn’t mean I’m weak.
‘People come at me because they want to think that I’m not that good. I love it. It’s been something I’ve been facing since I was one or two years old.
‘I face it when I’m on the street and I face it when I’m on the court but it’s a stage and I love showing what I can do.’
Jahmani can also count celebrities like David Beckham amongst his many supporters, and has played alongside the likes of actor Jamie Foxx and musician R Kelly.
‘I meet a lot of celebrities at games and charity events because I always get invited because I am well known for my videos,’ says Jahmani.
‘It’s funny because quite often the celebs want to have pictures with me as much as I do with them. I had my photograph snapped with David Beckham who told me he was a fan.
‘Khloe Kardashian loved my videos and loved my game so wanted to hang out with me. She was really fun – and of course beautiful.’
When he isn’t inspiring on the court, Jahmani tours US schools encouraging children to follow their dreams – no matter what their ‘limitations’.
‘I tell kids what I have overcome and say to them that they can achieve it too,’ he says.
‘It’s the kid who may have one hand who is told he can’t play and then he sees me and knows he can do it.’
Jahmani’s hero as a child was Michael Jordan, and when he was just a toddler he became obsessed with basketball.
‘I was sleeping with a basketball instead of a teddy bear when I was a kid,’ he says. ‘All I wanted to do was play. My mother had to tell me many a time to stop playing ball at 12 o’clock in the middle of the night because they got tired of hearing the ball bounce and things breaking.’
Jahmani is confident that if he was five or six inches taller that he would be playing in the NBA, but says that he wouldn’t change anything about his life.
‘I know God has blessed me with my talent. Basketball has got me to where I am in life and it’s going to keep giving me more.
‘But I wouldn’t trade this. I’ve never in my life said I hate being short.
‘I’m doing everything I would do if I was tall and now when I walk outside I feel like I’m six foot, eight foot, nine foot, whatever. I still get seen and I still do what I’m doing.
‘The world is a stage and I’m here to perform.’