The average height of an NBA player is 6-foot-7, which is only a tad taller than the 5-foot-9 the average American male stands. The tallest NBA players, however, all hover above seven feet, and some of them use their freakish height as a stepping stone to Hollywood.
These skyscraper human beings may not compare to the man whose head peeks into the stratosphere and owns the Guinness World Records tallest man distinction, but basketball’s beanstalk-like ballers are some of the largest humans to walk the United States, and the Earth for that matter.
The NBA Hall of Fame is littered with them — Yao Ming, Ralph Samson and Arvydas Sabonis — and many of the tallest to ever play a game in the league hail from countries outside the states (Sudan’s Manute Bol, Romania’s Gheorghe Mureșan, Russia’s Pavel Podkolzin, Germany’s Shawn Bradley). Many of these players had some very odd careers. Bol, for example, is the only player in NBA history to block more shots than baskets made during his NBA career.
Currently, the largest of the NBA’s tall players are all at least seven feet tall. In a league where players are getting taller and taller while being more athletic and versatile, it seems like every team has a skilled 7-footer these days. Standing right at the seven-foot mark are guys like Tyson Chandler, Thon Maker, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Jokic, Mo Bamba, Joel Embiid, Lauri Markkanen, Brooke Lopez and Hassan Whiteside, each of which bring their own skill set such as being their team’s shot blocker and dishing assists from the post. Whether you’re the Milwaukee Bucks or playing in the All-Star Game, it doesn’t hurt to have one of these defending the goal.
But just who are the other gargantuan humans we see every NBA season, and who are the tallest in NBA history? Let’s take a look.
Tallest Active NBA Players
Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs: 7-Foot-1
The Austrian center was the ninth overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, but his most famous NBA contribution to this point was as trade bait alongside DeMar DeRozan, when San Antonio sent Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green north to Canada. Poeltl set a career-high in rebounding with the Spurs this past season, and is growing into one of the league’s better rim protectors.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: 7-Foot-1
There’s no doubt Gobert is one of the best centers in the NBA (even NBA.com says so), and his height has a lot to do with that. The “Stifle Tower” was born in France and quickly became one of the better defenders in the league after the Denver Nuggets drafted him in 2013 and traded him to the Utah Jazz. He led the NBA in blocks for the 2016-17 season has won three NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, making him one of 4 basketball players in history to win the honor three times.
Moses Brown, Boston Celtics: 7-Foot-2
One season with the UCLA Bruins was all Moses Brown needed to make an impact. The McDonald’s All-American from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens was named to the Pac-12 Conference’s All-Freshman team before declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft. Brown went undrafted and didn’t make a huge impact with the Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, but maybe he’ll turn things around in Boston.
Luke Kornet, Boston Celtics: 7-Foot-2
All Kornet did at Vanderbilt University before landing in the NBA with the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls was set the school’s all-time record for blocked shots in a career. He also set the NCAA record for three-pointers made by a player at least 7 feet tall. Kornet will get a chance to put his skills on display as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Kornet comes from a vertically-advantaged family. His father, Frank, is a former NBA player and his sister, Nicole, played basketball for Oklahoma and UCLA.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks: 7-Foot-3
Porzingis became a household name with the Knicks after he was drafted fourth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 7-foot-3 Latvian center was an All-Star in 2018 after averaging more than 22 points per game. His nickname, Unicorn, was given to him by Kevin Durant for his array of abilities — shooting, defending, you name it — all at 7 feet and 3 inches tall. He started playing basketball at 6 and by age 12, he was already 6-foot-8.
Boban Marjanovic, Dallas Mavericks: 7-Foot-4
Boban has the ability to make any human on this earth look tiny. From his hands to his head to, well, his entire body, he’s a larger than life man. The 7-foot-3 beast from Serbia plays center for the Mavericks and has played for the Clippers, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers. At 14 years old, he was incredibly already 6-foot-10. If you haven’t seen him hold a basketball the way most people hold baseballs, you should check it out.
Tacko Fall, Boston Celtics: 7-Foot-5
Tacko Fall took the world by storm while at UCF. His oh-so-effortless dunks captivated fans, as did the touching story of when his mother got to see him play live. At 7-foot-5, Fall is the tallest active member of an NBA team. The Senegal native plays center for the Boston Celtics, and while not as well-rounded as some of the names before him on this list, his rare skyscraping height makes him a unique commodity when it comes to gobbling up rebounds and shooting a high field-goal percentage. It also makes him one of the tallest living humans on Earth.
It’s worth noting that three of the seven tallest guys in the league play for the Celtics. Stick those guys around the basket and a trip to the NBA Finals is almost guaranteed.
Tallest Players in NBA History
- Gheorghe Muresan, 7’7″ (Washington Bullets/Wizards, New Jersey Nets)
- Manute Bol, 7’7″ (Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat)
- Yao Ming, 7’6″ (Houston Rockets)
- Shawn Bradley, 7’6″ (Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks)
- Chuck Nevitt, 7’5″ (Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs)
- Pavel Podkolzin, 7’5″ (Dallas Mavericks)
- Slavko Vrane, 7’5″ (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Sim Bhullar, 7’5″ (Sacramento Kings)
- Mark Eaton, 7’4″ (Utah Jazz)
- Ralph Sampson, 7’4″ (Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Washington Bullets)
- Priest Lauderdale, 7’4″ (Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets)
- Rik Smits, 7’4″ (Indiana Pacers)
The Shortest Player in NBA History
- Muggsy Bogues, 5’3″ (Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors)
This article was originally published December 16, 2019.