The Tallest Basketball Players in the NBA.

The Tallest Basketball Player in the NBA

        The tallest basketball player in the NBA is a title that has changed hands several times in recent years. The majority of NBA players are well above the average size for a male. In the United States, the average male is 5 foot 9 inches tall. On the other hand, the average height of an NBA player is 6 foot 6 inches tall. Though we will focus on the NBA today, the principle also applies to the WNBA. The average height for a female in the United States is 5 foot 4 inches, while the average size of a WNBA player is 6 feet tall.

        Many basketball players have the talent to play in the NBA but lack the size. Though tall players have countless advantages on the basketball court, players with average height or below still have a fair chance of making it to the NBA. Players who lack exceptional height must develop their skillset to such an elite level that it allows them to compete with more physically gifted athletes. There have been several players throughout NBA history who even stood less than six feet tall. NBA players with average or below-average height make up for it by possessing world-class athleticism.

        The point guard is typically the smallest player on the floor for each team due to the position’s role. Point guards are required to have excellent lateral speed and frequent changes in direction. Point guards in the NBA have an average height between 6’2″ and 6’3″. However, point guards can still possess exceptional size in some cases. The tallest point guard in the history of the National Basketball Association is Ben Simmons, who stands 6 foot 10 inches. Magic Johnson, the most famous point guard in league history, stood 6 foot 9 inches.

The Tallest Basketball Player in NBA History

        The National Basketball Association has had two players in league history that stood 7’7″ tall. One of these players, the late Manute Bol, ironically played with the shortest player in NBA history. Muggsy Bogues stood 5’3″ and remarkably played fifteen seasons in the NBA. There was an astonishing twenty-eight-inch height difference between the two Washington Bullets teammates.

Manute Bol (7’7″)

        With the utmost respect, Bol came from a family of giants. The center from Sudan inherited his height from his parents, who were both exceptionally tall. His mother stood 6 foot 10 inches tall, while his father stood 6 foot 8 inches tall. Manute Bol’s grandfather was taller than him, an astounding 7 foot 10 inches tall. Moreover, one of his sisters is 6 foot 8 inches tall.

        Bol played in the NBA for ten seasons before rheumatism, a disease that causes pain mainly in the joints and muscles, forced him to retire. Though he didn’t put up eye-popping offensive numbers, he was among the most talented shot blockers in the history of the NBA. He led the league in blocks twice and made the 1986 NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team. Furthermore, Bol achieved the second-most blocks in a regular season game with fifteen against the Atlanta Hawks in 1986.

        Manute Bol also made a significant impact off of the court. He organized and assisted in several humanitarian efforts to assist those impacted by the Civil War in his home country of Sudan. Bol was a pioneer that helped open the door for other African players who dreamed of one day playing in the National Basketball Association. Without Bol’s impact on basketball, the NBA would never have seen talents such as Hall-of-Famer Dikembe Mutombo and 2022-23 MVP Joel Embiid. Manute Bol tragically passed away in 2010 due to kidney failure. His son, Bol Bol, carries on his legacy today. The twenty-three-year-old stands 7’2″ with a 7’8″ wingspan and plays for the Phoenix Suns in 2023.

Gheorghe Muresan (7’7″)

        Gheorghe Muresan is the only other player in NBA history who stood 7 foot 7 inches. The center from Romania had a 7 foot 10 wingspan and was drafted 30th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets. Muresan’s father was an average height for a male at 5 foot 9 inches tall, while his mother was 5 foot 7 inches tall, slightly above the average height for a female. It is astonishing that with parents that size, Muresan still became the tallest basketball player in the NBA’s history, along with Manute Bol. He grew to 7’7″ due to a rare disorder called acromegaly, caused by the body producing too much growth hormone. This disorder limited Muresan physically and made him more prone to injuries. Nevertheless, he showed unique potential early in his career and put up pretty good numbers.

        Muresan was awarded the National Basketball Association’s Most Improved Player award following the 1995-96 season. His 1995-96 season’s per-game averages were 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. Additionally, Gheorghe Muresan led the NBA in field goal percentage for two consecutive seasons. His league-leading field goal percentages were 58.4% in the 1995-96 season and 60.4% in the 1996-97 season. Muresan played in the NBA from 1993 to 2000 before a series of ankle and back injuries forced him to retire.

Who is the Tallest Basketball Player in the NBA Today?

        Last season, Boban Marjanovic was the tallest player in the National Basketball Association. The thirty-four-year-old from Serbia stands 7’4″ and has a wingspan of 7’10”. Like Gheorghe Muresan, Marjanovic’s parents are close to average height. He was diagnosed with a pituitary gland condition at a young age, which may have led to him developing gigantism.

        Just over a year ago, Tacko Fall was the tallest player in the league at 7’6″. The twenty-seven-year-old from Senegal broke records at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine for height, standing reach, and wingspan. Though there have been a few players in NBA history who were slightly taller, they never took part in the NBA Draft Combine. After going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, Fall signed with the Boston Celtics, where he played from 2019 to 2021.

        In 2021, Fall signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers before eventually being demoted to their G League team, the Cleveland Shock. In 2022, Fall signed to play in the Chinese Basketball Association for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. He was added to the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League roster in June 2023. It is still being determined whether or not Tacko Fall will play in the NBA in the 2023-24 season.

Why are Players in the NBA so Tall?

        Players in the National Basketball Association are, on average, nine inches taller than the average American male. The reasons for this discrepancy are genetics and the physical capabilities necessary to play basketball at the highest competitive level. When competing against the best athletes in the world, even a single inch in height or length can make a significant difference. Scouts prefer taller prospects with greater wingspans because they have substantial advantages over other players.

Taller players can cover distance more effectively, shoot over smaller defenders, and challenge the opposing teams’ offense more efficiently. The NBA has evolved in recent years, increasing the demand for taller players with plus length even more. Today’s tallest point guards are larger than most forwards and centers from fifty years ago. Further, the other professional basketball leagues worldwide stick to the same philosophy of focusing on players with above-average height and length.

Pros and Cons of Being 7 Feet Tall

        Height and length give players a significant advantage on the basketball court, especially at higher levels such as the NCAA and the National Basketball Association. Taller basketball players can typically defend, rebound, and score more efficiently. Furthermore, tall players can see the court better than others. Another advantage of being a tall basketball player is increased versatility and the ability to play different positions. Moreover, players with greater height can create mismatches and more easily block or alter opponents’ shots.

        Sports Illustrated’s Pablo Torre conducted a study utilizing data from the CDC. He estimated that 17% of men in the United States 7’0″ or taller between the ages of 20 and 40 would end up playing in the NBA. On the other hand, Torre estimated that only 0.07% of Americans between 6’6″ and 6’8″ and between the ages of 20 and 40 would make the National Basketball Association.

        Though greater height significantly increases the chance of a player making the NBA, some negatives come with being this tall. Individuals with exceptional size commonly develop knee, joint, and ankle issues due to the strain on their joints. The players’ longer limbs create greater separation from the ground, which results in hard falls that sometimes lead to injury. Taller players also have difficulty with quick movements and agility because of their higher center of gravity. Additionally, fatigue occurs much faster in taller players due to their larger frame and longer strides. 

Positives vs. Negatives

        The pros of being above 7 feet tall outweigh the cons. Approximately one in six males in the United States who are 7’0″ or taller will one day play in the National Basketball Association. The chances of making it to the NBA drastically decrease the shorter a player is. Though some negatives come with being among the tallest basketball players, there are far more negatives to being a smaller player. Taller basketball players will continue to have countless advantages over smaller ones. These advantages significantly impact the game and largely contribute to the success of many active NBA players.

References

Stats, height, weight, position, draft status and more. Basketball Reference. (Accessed 2023, July 20).  

Diamond, D. (2014, September 3). NBA draft: Is being 7 feet tall the fastest way to get rich in America?. Forbes.

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