These players may not be able to fit in normal cars, ride a rollercoaster, or shop in your average clothing store. But they capture our attention just by playing a sport and showing off their greatest gift: their height.
In any given sport, there are physical traits that give players an advantage. For basketball, height is definitely one of those attributes. While the average man stands about 5’9”, the average height of an NBA player is 6’6”.
With their wingspan alone they’re practically touching the rim. No need to leave the ground, a simple hop and the ball is in the hoop!
1. Gheorghe Mureșan - 7’7”
Teams: Washington Bullets, New Jersey Nets
Years in the NBA: 1993-2000
Career Averages: 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks (307 games)
The youngest of six children, Muresan was the first Romanian player to be drafted into the NBA. His towering height is matched by only one other player in NBA history, Manute Bol.
Unlike many of his teammates and opponents, Muresan didn’t pick up a basketball for the first time until he was fifteen years old. Given the gift of height, he was recruited by local coaches. Through hard work and natural talent, he excelled at the sport quickly.
While some of the players on this list have only their height to thank for an NBA career, Muresan was a legitimately talented player. For two years, he led the NBA in field goal percentage, making over 60% of his shots. Unfortunately, his NBA career ended after only seven seasons due to injuries.
His love for basketball hasn’t faded. Today, he is spending his time running camps, clinics and leagues through the Giant Basketball Academy, which he founded in 2004. His talent for basketball has also been passed to his children, George and Victor, both of whom played on the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team.
2. Manute Bol - 7’7”
Teams: Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat
Years in the NBA: 1985-1995
Career Averages: 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 blocks (624 games)
Manute Bol (despite a thin frame and a lack of muscles) was a force in the NBA when it came to shot blocking. Twice in four seasons he ranked first overall in total blocks and blocks per game, and his rookie season he made the NBA All-Defense team.
He was never considered one of the best players, but was known throughout the NBA for his character and courage. Coming to the US from Sudan, he applied to the NBA draft because he wanted to get his sister out of Sudan as well. After rheumatism forced him into retirement, he spent much of his money and time helping support people from his home country however he could.
Fun fact about Bol: his birthday was unknown, and his teammates questioned his age, believing he was older than what he claimed. Especially teammate Jayson Williams, who believed Bol was in his 50’s playing in the NBA.
3. Tacko Fall - 7’6”
Teams: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers
Years in the NBA: 2019 - present
Career Averages: 2.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 blocks (37 games at the end of the 21/22 season)
Tacko Fall, “The Gentle Giant” isn’t so gentle on the court. Undrafted out of Central Florida, Fall was recruited by the Celtics while playing summer league ball in Las Vegas. With a lot to learn about the NBA playing style and pace, the Celtics signed him to a two-way contract with the Maine Red Claws.
Tacko is not the only member of his family with height; he has two uncles that are each 6’8”, and a younger brother that measured 5’9” at age 7. Along with basketball, Fall majored in computer science at UCF, originally hoping to become an electronics engineer.
4. Yao Ming - 7’6”
Teams: Houston Rockets
Years in the NBA: 2002-2011
Career Averages: 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks (486 games)
Standing (very) tall at 7’6” and weighing in at 310 pounds, Yao Ming was one of the most dominant players in the early 2000’s.
Yao was the number 1 overall draft pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, and measured up to all of his potential. In his eight seasons, he made eight All-Star rosters, was named to the All-NBA Team five times, averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds a game, and was a 3-time Olympic gold medalist.
He was known not only for his physical and athletic superiority, but also for his intelligence and knowledge of the game. Unfortunately, a hairline stress fracture and a series of other injuries led to his retirement. Since retirement, he has been honored with an induction into the Hall of Fame in 2016, has been named Chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, and has opened his own winery (using the sales to protect endangered animals).
5. Shawn Bradley - 7’6”
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks
Years in the NBA: 1993-2005
Career Averages: 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks (832 games)
Nicknamed “The Enormous Mormon,” out of BYU, Shawn Bradley was the 2nd pick in the 1993 NBA draft. Despite a career with more than 2,000 blocks and an average of 2.5 blocks per game, many believed Bradley didn’t live up to the hype of his mammoth height and 90-inch frame.
After retiring from the NBA, Bradley worked as a vice principal and athletic director at a school in Utah for at-risk teens. It was this experience that helped him form bonds with the three children of his current wife, Carrie, whom he married in 2017.
He would need this support as he faced his current struggle - paralysis. On January 20, 2021, Bradley was involved in an accident while riding his bike, which left him paralyzed and wheelchair bound.
6. Sim Bhullar - 7’5”
Teams: Sacramento Kings
Years in the NBA: 2014-2015
Career Averages: 0.7 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.3 blocks (3 games)
Sim Bhullar, nicknamed “SimCity,” is known not only for his extraordinary height and build, but also for being the first Indian player in the NBA. Recruited by coaches at the early age of 10, he excelled at basketball in high school and went on to play for New Mexico State before signing with Sacramento.
Though he played minimally for the Kings, he continued to play in the NBA Development League, the Super Basketball League, the National Basketball League, and the Taiwanese P League.
Sim comes from a family full of height - his father is 6’4”, his mother is 5’10”, and his younger brother is 7'2"!
7. Pavel Podkolzin - 7’5”
Teams: Dallas Mavericks
Years in the NBA: 2004-2006
Career Averages: 0.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.2 blocks (6 games)
Russian-born Podkolzin was drafted as the 21st pick in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft to the Utah Jazz. Traded to Dallas, he was waived by the Mavericks after two seasons, only appearing in six games. He was originally eligible to go into the 2003 NBA draft, but withdrew due to acromegaly, a pituitary disease suffered by many athletes of his size.
Pavel was a member of the junior Russian national basketball team, winning a silver medal at the 2000 European Cadets Championship. He continues to play basketball internationally.
8. Slavko Vraneš - 7’5”
Teams: Portland Trailblazers
Years in the NBA: 2003-2004
Career Averages: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 blocks (1 game)
Vranes played only one game in the NBA, but it only takes one to be included as one of the tallest NBA players in history. His NBA career consisted of three minutes playing in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A native Yugoslavian, he returned home and played internationally between 1997 and 2018.
9. Chuck Nevitt - 7’5”
Teams: Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs
Years in the NBA: 1982-1994
Career Averages: 1.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 blocks (155 games)
Although his height was a huge asset, he didn’t get much playing time in the NBA. In eleven seasons, he played a total of 155 games, totaling 826 minutes.
His biggest accomplishment was being part of the 1985-86 L.A. Lakers championship team. (This feat makes him the tallest player in NBA history to win an NBA title!)
10. Rik Smits - 7’4”
Teams: Indiana Pacers
Years in the NBA: 1988-2000
Career Averages: 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks (867 games)
“The Dunking Dutchman” had one of the most consistent careers out of all the tall players on this list. Drafted 2nd overall out of Marist College, he was part of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1988, and was an NBA All-Star in 1998. For a decade he played alongside Reggie Miller, helping the Pacers succeed, and reaching the Finals in 2000 to end his NBA career.
Smits developed nerve damage in his feet from wearing tight shoes as a teenager, and injuries plagued him throughout his NBA career. He has had four surgeries to repair the nerve damage, he underwent intensive back surgery to repair a cracked joint, he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, and had bone chips removed from his left ankle.
Since retiring, Smits has taken up collecting and racing vintage motocross motorcycles. He has been featured (along with his collection) in Yahoo! Sports for his participation in motocross racing.
11. Priest Lauderdale - 7’4”
Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets
Years in the NBA: 1996-1998
Career Averages: 3.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.4 blocks (74 games)
Selected 28th overall in the 1996 draft, Priest had a short NBA career. With his height and a weight of 325lbs, he was too big to keep up with other players. After the 1998 season, he played in the CBA before taking his talents overseas. He played in China, Venezuela, Cyprus, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Spain, England, and the UAE.
Since then, he has been serving as a coach at youth camps in Germany.
12. Mark Eaton - 7’4”
Teams: Utah Jazz
Years in the NBA: 1982-1993
Career Averages: 6.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.5 blocks (875 games)
Eaton spent his entire NBA career playing for the Jazz. Joining a team that had a losing season his rookie year, (with a record of 30-52), he helped the Utah Jazz make the playoffs in the following 10 seasons of his career. Eaton’s career was part of their 20-year postseason appearance run.
His height was an essential part of making him one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Eaton was an NBA All-Star in 1989, and was also the Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1989. Although he never won a championship, his number 53 jersey was retired by the Jazz when he ended his basketball career due to a degenerative back ailment.
Eaton stayed busy after retirement, becoming a commentator for Utah Jazz and University of Utah basketball games. He was also a partner in multiple restaurants, president of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, founder of the Mark Eaton Standing Tall for Youth Organization, a motivational speaker, and publisher of the book The Four Commitments of a Winning Team.
13. Ralph Sampson - 7’4”
Teams: Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings
Years in the NBA: 1984-1993
Career Averages: 6.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.5 blocks (875 games)
One of the most talented players on this list, he was half of the “Twin Towers,” playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon on the Rockets. A three-time College Player of the Year at UVA, he was the number 1 overall draft pick in 1984.
As a rookie, he played all 82 games and was awarded Rookie of the Year. He averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game his first three seasons. In 1985, he was the MVP of the NBA All-Star game, and helped lead the Rockets to a finals appearance in 1986.
After retiring, Sampson went on to coach or assist at James Madison University, for the Richmond Rhythm, and for the Phoenix Suns. His love of basketball and passion for sports was passed on to his two sons, who played at Minnesota and ECU/Georgia Tech, and also to his daughter, who graduated from Stanford and began working at ESPN.
14. Boban Marjanović - 7’3”
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks
Years in the NBA: 2015 - present
Career Averages: 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.3 blocks (286 games)
Prior to signing with the Spurs in 2015, Boban began his professional career with the Serbian professional team Hemofarm in 2006.
With almost a decade under his belt before joining the NBA, he quickly became one of the “most lovable” players in the league. His contributions to his teams go far beyond his hard work ethic and his ability on the court. Just one example of this is when he finished runner-up for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award in 2021-22.
Along with a pro basketball career, he has also starred in Hollywood movies: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Hustle, and We Will be the World Champions.
15. Hasheem Thabeet - 7’3”
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Oklahoma City Thunder
Years in the NBA: 2009-2014
Career Averages: 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.8 blocks (224 games)
After a stellar three-year college basketball career at UConn, including two years in a row honored as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Thabeet went 2nd overall in the 2009 NBA draft (ahead of both James Harden and Stephen Curry). This pick made him the first ever Tanzanian-born NBA player.
Although Thabeet didn’t leave his mark in the NBA, he continued to play in the Summer League and G League, as well as internationally in Taiwan and Japan.
16. Zydrunas Ilgauskas - 7’3”
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat
Years in the NBA: 1996-2011
Career Averages: 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks (843 games)
Nicknamed “Big Z,” Ilgauskas is known as one of the Cavaliers’ best defensive players of all time. He is known for his accuracy, rebounding, and for his perseverance, overcoming numerous injuries throughout his career.
Drafted 20th overall, he was named to the 1997-98 All-Rookie First Team. During his time with the Cavs, he was a two-time All-Star and played in the 2007 NBA Finals. He is the Cavaliers’ career leader in blocked shots, and had his jersey (number 11) retired by the team.
After retiring from the NBA, he became a special advisor to the Cavaliers’ organization. In 2009, after a tragic loss of premature twins, he and his wife adopted two sons from his hometown of Kaunas, Lithuania.
17. Kristaps Porziņģis - 7’3”
Teams: New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards
Years in the NBA: 2015 - present
Career Averages: 18.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks (337 games at the end of 21/22 season)
Drafted 4th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, Kristaps is one of the tallest active players in the NBA. Unlike most of the other players on this list who excelled as centers, Porziņģis plays both center and power forward.
Kristaps followed in the footsteps of his parents and older brother, playing basketball at a young age. Once he was old enough, his older brother (who played in the European League) would take him to offseason training sessions. After a successful few seasons with Baloncesto Sevilla, he decided to enter the NBA draft.
The “Unicorn,” who has faced many different injuries over the course of his career, was named a First-Team All-Rookie in 2016, and was an NBA All-Star in 2018.
18. Randy Breuer - 7’3”
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings
Years in the NBA: 1983 - 1994
Career Averages: 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks (681 games)
After four years at the University of Minnesota, Breuer was selected 18th overall in the 1983 draft. His best professional year was his 87-88 season with the Bucks: he played in 81 games and averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He excelled at hook shots, assists, and blocking.
Throughout the course of his career, he played in 681 games and scored 4,599 points. His talent and work ethic was always evident, playing one game with cracked ribs. After retiring from the NBA, he coached high school basketball and took an interest in Harley Davidson motorcycles and Quixtar (an internet resale site). He also enjoyed time with his two sons, Kevin and Chris, who also play basketball, and a daughter named Kelly.
19. Aleksandar Radojević - 7’3”
Teams: Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz
Years in the NBA: 1999-2000; 2004-2005
Career Averages: 1.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.2 blocks (681 games)
Aleksandar didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16 years old, after playing football and water polo. He originally intended to play at Ohio State, but was found ineligible after accepting money to play overseas. He ended up playing at Barton County Community College.
After college, he was drafted 12th overall by the Raptors. His first season did not go as expected - he only played in three games before being sidelined due to an injury. His following season was no better, recording no playing time before being traded to the Nuggets and Bucks.
With no court action, he returned to play in Europe where his stats finally began to improve. He returned to the NBA for a brief stint with the Utah Jazz before ending his career back in Europe in 2012.
20. Ha Seung-Jin - 7’3”
Teams: Portland Trailblazers
Years in the NBA: 2004-2006
Career Averages: 1.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.3 blocks (46 games)
Born in South Korea, he led his high school team to a national championship. He originally intended to enter the 2003 draft, but decided to play in college first. This was quite the accomplishment since he was still only a junior in high school. After playing only seven games, he changed his mind and declared for the draft in 2004.
After a lackluster showing at Portland, averaging only 5.5 minutes in 19 total games, he played in the NBA D-League before returning to South Korea to play there. He won the 2009 and 2011 KBL playoffs, and was also named the MVP in 2011. In 2019 he became a free agent, electing to retire instead.