It's the rise of the short people in sports again!

Fri, May 6

After stealing the show against the Los Angeles Lakers -- by hitting shots and taking hits -- Dallas' J.J. Barea (listed at 6-foot; yeah, right) might be the newest short-guy hero in sports. But he's hardly the only one making waves these days. Move over, Spud Webb and David Eckstein. There's a new crop of small sports heroes who are hot right now:

• Pitching sensation Tim Lincecum (5-11)? Old news (although still great). Now we've got even-shorter reliever Tim Collins (5-7), who received an unexpected Royals roster spot (and a New York Times sports cover story) this spring. Then there's Rays outfielder Sam Fuld (probably not 5-10), who has become a cult star; just search #legendofsamfuld on Twitter.

• Still getting it done at age 35, Martin St. Louis (listed 5-8, admittedly 5-7½) scored in Tampa Bay's clincher Wednesday night against the Capitals, and enters the night leading the NHL in postseason points (13).

• Another one, "Atomic Flea" Lionel Messi (5-6 or 5-7) remains the near-consensus best soccer player in the world, won the 2010 Ballon d'Or (the sport's top individual award) and just pushed Barcelona into the Champions League final thanks in part to an electric first-leg goal. Oh, and he got some help from 5-7 teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi -- who happened to be the other two Ballon d'Or finalists.

• Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers (5-5 7/8) just got drafted into the Falcons' dangerous offense, and he drew praise from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay as a possible backfield weapon. The next Darren Sproles?

• Mark Wilson (5-8; that's shorter than Corey Pavin) entered the weekend at No. 3 in golf's FedEx rankings (and was first in late April). If only 5-7 Tim Clark could shake an injury and defend his title at next week's The Players Championship …

• Let's not forget about the Kentucky Derby. Right now jockeys-turned-TMZ sensations like these are turning heads. One will make big headlines come Saturday.