A gruelling 82-game NBA season requires players to be in top condition. They have to be able to perform at the best of their abilities over and over throughout the season.
Most players are ultimate athletes who can handle this kind of relentless pressure to maintain exceptional standards of health and fitness. But there’s an awful lot of running and jumping to be done and those can take their toll.
Especially if you’re overweight
It is surely true that, if you are a basketball player of above-average height and weight, you have a certain advantage over those who do not.
There’s no true ideal physical stature needed to succeed in the NBA (although we could make the argument that there’s a mental one, but that’s for another article). Guys of all sizes have come to the National Basketball Association and made a decent fist of it.
The NBA has seen its fair share of heavyweights over the years and not all of them have been hindered by excessive weight. Some of the biggest names in NBA history have been among the heavier guys in the game.
And some let it get out of hand and ruin their chances of furthering their careers.
Let’s take a closer look at the heaviest NBA players ever to take to the court and see what we can find…
GHEORGHE MURESAN – ROMÂNIA
7’9″ (2.31M) – 303 LB (137 KG)
Muresan is the tallest NBA player ever at 7’9” (2.31m) in height. That kind of height doesn’t usually come without some corresponding weight, and the Romanian star is also one of the heaviest NBA players of all time.
The Romanian NBA star played for two different teams in a career of just 6 years and in 1995-96 won the Most Improved Player award. That season he averaged an impressive 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.
The physical problems associated with his enormous stature eventually overcame his enthusiasm and dedication, and he was not able to continue his career any further. This is one of those exact scenarios where a player weighs a lot simply because he is so tall. The Washington fan favourite soon became beloved by the nation as a true gentle giant. As a result, Muresan starred in a movie with Billy Crystal called ‘My Giant’.
DEXTER PITTMAN – USA
6’11” (2.11M) – 306 LB (139 KG)
Miami Heat took Dexter Pittman as the 32nd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and his career never really took off from there.
Like any plane with him on it.
That’s a bit cruel, but let’s be brutally honest. Pittman’s obesity did not suit the rapid, back-and-forth nature of the NBA and he never settled in any team. Playing basketball at this level takes so much more than just stature.
He bounced around for 5 years and then abandoned the NBA dream. Pittman only averaged 2.3 points per game and 1.8 rebounds per game. Not enough for a big man. He went from team to team and left the NBA after just 5 years.
GARTH JOSEPH – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
7’2” (2.18M) 315 LB (143 KG)
The only player from the Dominican Republic to ever play in the NBA had a short run.
He played two games each for the Toronto Raptors and the Denver Nuggets in the 2000/01 season and was never really able to make use of his weight for either of them.
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MENGKE BATEER – MONGOLIA
7’0” (2.11M) – 310 POUNDS (141 KG)
The great Mongolian man came to the USA following in the footsteps of players like Wang Zhi Zhi and Yao Ming.
Bateer had made his name as one of the best players in China, where he plied his trade.
Sadly, the transition to the NBA was too much for him technically and he did not flourish. The game was simply too advanced for him and he only lasted 3 years.
Bateer scored 3.4 points per game during his time playing for 2 different teams in the NBA. He remains one of the heaviest players ever to do so.
YAO MING – CHINA
7’6” (2.29M) 310LBS (141KG)
Yao Ming is not only of the tallest NBA players ever but also one of the heaviest.
At 7’6”, being 310 lb is not necessarily overweight. Be that as it may, it remains a lot of weight for one person to carry.
In spite of the problems that his height and weight caused him physically, he still managed to have an extraordinary, if relatively short, NBA career.
He averaged 19 points per game over 8 years. Ming was on the All-Star team 8 times and the All-NBA team 5 times.
ROBERT TRAYLOR – USA
6’8” (2.07M) 320LBS (145KG)
Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor was chosen in the NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks as the 6th overall pick in 1998. That put him ahead of players like Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce!
The tale is a sad one from there.
Taylor’s weight got the better of him once he made it to the NBA and he failed miserably to maintain a disciplined and healthy lifestyle.
It made a slow player even slower and his lack of athleticism made him a liability on court.
Only able to play for seven seasons in the NBA, he averaged just 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Tragically, Robert died at the incredibly young age of just 34
He was playing for the Vaqueros de Bayamon squad in Puerto Rico in 2011 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. RIP big man.
KEVIN DUCKWORTH – USA
7’0” (2.13M) – 320 LB (147KG)
Kevin ‘Duck’ Duckworth joined the NBA in 1986 but gave a turgid performance in his rookie season. He rose to the challenge and was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 1988.
In his fifth year in the league, he averaged 18.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He even had a few minutes on the court against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1992 finals.
It was when his weight crept up that Kevin Duckworth struggled to make the grade and lost the speed that he had no right to have had in the first place at his size.
Still, nobody can deny that Kevin had staying power and he carved out a 12-year NBA career for himself in spite of his weight issues.
At The Jump Hub, we review the latest odds for the NBA futures markets, including one of the most popular NBA Futures bets, the NBA Most Improved Player Betting market.
PRIEST LAUDERDALE – USA
7’4” (2.24M) – 325LBS (147KG)
Priest Lauderdale played 35 games in one season for Atlanta and failed to impress. His one season in the NBA was not destined to go any further and he only averaged 8.8 minutes per game when he did play.
THOMAS HAMILTON – USA
7’2” (2.18M) – 330LBS (150KG)
Thomas Hamilton was taken on by the Boston Celtics for the beginning of the 1995-96 season after going through the NBA Draft without being picked.
He appeared in 11 games and was not seen as an NBA player again for the next three seasons.
Returning in the 1999-2000 season, Hamilton was signed by the Houston Rockets but he was not able to turn the situation around it seems. He made seven starts in a total of 22 games played but only managed to earn 3.7 points per game.
He was duly released and consigned to oblivion.
MICHAEL SWEETNEY – USA
6’8” (2.03M) – 348LBS (124KG)
Michael ‘Sweets’ Sweeney was selected 9th in the 2003 Draft by the New York Knicks. They were hoping to pick up a useful power forward but Sweetney failed to make an impact over two seasons with them. He averaged just 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and was subsequently traded to the Chicago Bulls.
A constant battle with his weight led to Sweetney being dropped and his NBA career petered out after just 5 short years.
EDDY CURRY – USA
7’0” (2.13M) – 350LBS (159KG)
Eddy ‘Baby Shaq’ Curry was drafted from high school at 18 by the Chicago Bulls. in the 2001 Draft.
His stats were decent, peaking in his 7th season when Curry averaged 19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game for the New York Knicks.
He had become a genuine offensive threat.
But struggles with his weight began to cause problems and any speed he had previously possessed was compromised.
Even so, Eddy Curry ended up winning a championship with the Miami Heats in 2012.
11 years in the NBA is no mean feat for anyone. Let alone a guy who weighed 350lbs. Could Curry have been an all-time great if he had managed to shed weight and improved his athleticism? Possibly, but he didn’t do too badly for a big guy!
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL – USA
7’1” (2.16M) – 360LBS (162KG)
Shaquille O’Neal made his first NBA game appearance in 1992 and was an instant hit. At that time he weighed just 294lbs (133kg) and could be considered athletic and muscular.
When Shaq moved to LA he made a conscious decision (or was it laziness, Kobe Bryant seemed to think so) to gain weight and was up to 341lbs by 2002.
He didn’t seem to suffer as a result and as the awards came in his weight went up. There are rumours that he reached a, genuinely staggering, 370lbs (168kg) A severe Achilles tendon injury put an end to Shaq’s career after 19 years in the NBA. He is certainly the most successful of all the heavy guys on this list. By some margin.
With 15 All-Star and 14 All-NBA selections, Shaq is also a Hall of Famer.
Check out how skinny he is in these clips:
OLIVER MILLER – USA
6’9” (2.06M) – 375LBS (170KG)
Oliver ‘The Big O’ Miller is the heaviest NBA player in history.
He started his 11-year NBA weighing just 270 pounds (120kg).
This went through the roof over time until he reached a shocking 375lbs at his biggest.
This adversely affected Miller’s ability to actually play basketball and he moved around from team to team and in and out of the NBA itself. He even got involved with the Harlem Globetrotters last one point. But it is hard to see how he could have matched their athleticism even as former professionals.
The fact remains that Oliver Miller hung on for an 18-year basketball career. 9 of those were spent in the NBA, where he amassed 493 games and a point average of 7.4 per game.
Our hats are off to you Oliver Miller. Top of the list of heaviest NBA players ever to step foot on the court.
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WHO IS THE LIGHTEST PLAYER IN NBA HISTORY?
ANTHONY JEROME WEBB – USA
5’6″ (1.68 m) – 113 lb (51 kg)
‘Spud’ Webb was a point guard in the NBA from 1985 to 1998
He was just below average height for a typical American, let alone the average height of 6’7″ for a basketball player in the NBA. His height wasn’t what stood out as much as the fact that he weighed only 133 lb (51 kg). That’s LESS THAN A THIRD of the heaviest player on the list above.
WHO IS THE SHORTEST PLAYER EVER IN THE NBA?
TYRONE CURTIS BOGUES – USA
5’3″ (1.60 m) – 136 lbg (61 kg)
‘Muggsy’ Bogues is the shortest player who ever played in the history of the NBA. At a diminutive 5′ 3″ (1.60 m) in height, Muggsy looked like a child on the court. But, as always in life, looks can be deceiving! He spent 10 seasons in the NBA and was a thorn in the side of many an opponent. Bogues eventually participated in 889 matches, getting 7.7 points per game!
This list of the heaviest players in NBA history was fun to put together and discuss here in The Jump Hub office. But in many ways it was bitter-sweet. The majority of stories here are of unfulfilled potential and chances that slipped away because of weight issues. Don’t get us wrong, these guys don’t need our sympathy. They still achieved more sporting success than 99.99% of everyone else. Many of them forged themselves an NBA career that millions would kill to have had. It’s just that some of them could have been so much more.
There are not many sports where professional athletes can be so chronically overweight and still function on the court or field (albeit not to their fullest potential). The heaviest NBA player here weighs as much as 23 of the biggest bowling balls on the rack.
Far be it from us to cast aspersions on the state of American lifestyles and attitudes towards food. But it does seem a touch more than mere coincidence that so many of the guys on this list are Americans.
We leave that observation here without further comment. Make of it what you will.