Being tall isn't necessary to succeed in the NBA, but it certainly helps. At one point in NBA history, big men ruled the league. George Mikan, standing at 6-foot-10, won four of the first five NBA championships as one of the best centers of all time.
Centers were also awarded 22 of the NBA's first 28 MVP awards. While most offenses nowadays are built around guards and fast players, being tall also has its advantages.
Bigger players are able to control the paint, grabbing easy rebounds, blocking shots and seeing over defenses. 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award two of the last three years due to his ability to use his height to his advantage.
But who are the tallest players of all time? Here is a list of the friendly giants who have dominated the NBA.
10. Mark Eaton
Height: 7-foot-4 inches
At 7-foot-4, Eaton was the starting center for the Utah Jazz from 1982 to 1993, playing in 875 games and tallying 5,216 career points. His 11 seasons with Utah are the third-most in team history behind Jazz legends Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Eaton won Defensive Player of the Year in the 1985 and 1989 seasons, setting the record for the most blocks in a single season in the 1984-85 season.
His career average of 3.51 blocks per game ranks as the best in NBA history. Eaton died in May after a bicycle crash at age 64. His No. 53 jersey was one of the first to be retired by the Jazz.
9. Tacko Fall
Height: 7-foot-5 inches
Fall, who signed a one-year non-guaranteed deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, spent his first two NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics.
At 7-foot-5 he became an instant fan favorite in Boston and generated plenty of chants and standing ovations every time he entered the game. Fall has averaged 2.7 points, 2.6 rebounds in 26 total appearances so far in his NBA career.
8. Sim Bhullar
Height: 7-foot-5 inches
Bhullar became the first player of Indian descent to play in an NBA game in 2015, joining the Sacramento Kings on a 10-day contract. The 7-foot-5 inch center played his college ball at New Mexico State but went undrafted in 2014. He played for the NBA G-League Reno Bighorns in 2014, where he averaged 10.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
7. Pavel Podkolzin
Podkolzin was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2004 draft. The 7-foot-5, 260-pound center only made six NBA appearances, averaging 0.7 points and 1.5 rebounds. He played two seasons for the Dallas Mavericks before his career was derailed due to foot injuries.
6. Chuck Nevitt
Chuck Nevitt played in 155 career games as a 7-foot-5 center but only averaged 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds during that time. Nevitt moved around teams during his career, playing three seasons with the Detriot Pistons, two in Houston, two with the Los Angeles Lakers, and one each with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs. Nevitt’s best season was his rookie year in 1982-83 when he averaged 10.7 points per game.
5. Shawn Bradley
Bradley was the No. 2 pick in the 1993 draft by the Philadelphia Sixers. He averaged 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks during his 12-season NBA career, playing for the Sixers, Mavericks and New Jersey Nets. He spent his final nine seasons with Dallas, playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash. Bradley retired from the NBA after the 2004-05 season and remained out of the spotlight. In Jan. 2021, Bradley suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.
4. Yao Ming
Ming is easily one of the most decorated big men to play in the NBA. The eight-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection used his size and skill to overwhelm opponents, averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over his eight-year career. Ming was forced to retire at age 30 after dealing with multiple foot injuries over the course of his career.
3. Slavko Vranes
Vranes was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 2003 draft and then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers shortly after. He then proceeded to play three minutes and failed to make much of an impression in the NBA. However, he did have success playing overseas as a three-time Serbian Cup champion.
2. Manute Bol
Manute Bol was one of the best shock blockers to ever step foot on an NBA court. Standing at 7-foot-7, the Sudan native led the league in blocks during the 1986 and 1989 seasons and ranked in the top 10 in blocked shots seven out of his 10 years in the NBA. Bol was one of the first big men to evolve his game and develop a 3-point shot later in his career. On March 3, 1993, he hit six 3-pointers in a half against the Phoenix Suns. The Bol name still lives on in the NBA today as his son, Bol Bol, currently plays for the Denver Nuggets.
1. Gheorghe Muresan
Muresan ranks as the tallest player to participate in an NBA game. His career was much more than a novelty act.
The 7-foot-7 center from Romania led the NBA in field goal percentage in back-to-back seasons (1995-96 and 1996-97). Muresan was also named the league's Most Improved Player in 1996, averaging 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks for the Washington Bullets.
After six seasons and 307 games, Muresan was forced to retire due to a debilitating back injury.