The National Basketball Association has featured a variety of shapes and sizes who have reached greatness on the court. There have been a number of giants who dominated the paint on both offense and defense through the years.
We’ve seen giants like Shaquille O’Neal terrorize players under the rim. The Big Aristotle easily averaged 23.7 points per game in more than 1,200 career games – enough to earn 15 All-Star nominations and four NBA Championships.
But not all big men are created equal. There have been a number of disappointments in league history with men at, near or above seven feet tall who were only noticed for their size. Maybe they did or didn’t show potential playing college basketball before making their journey to the NBA. Height has never been an honest sign of the potential to be a star in the NBA.
Besides, there are a number of great basketball players who might have been considered too short to play with the giants of the NBA. Spud Webb was only 5-foot-7, but he was able to win the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
However, there are still big men brought into the NBA who have been unable to meet expectations suitable to being taller than most of their peers. The following are 15 NBA players whose talent was only their height.
15 Luc Longley
The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s had plenty of big name talents on their roster that included greats like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. And then there are players like Luc Longley who just happened to be on the team as a bench player who happens to get three NBA championship rings. During his five seasons with the Bulls, he was barely noticeable, despite standing at 7-foot-2.
Despite being a three-time champion big man, Longley only scored about 7.2 points per game and less than five rebounds in about 567 career games. That’s with having played an average of about 21 minutes per game. While certainly not the worst big man in NBA history, someone of his height should have done better, even when he wasn’t in the shadow of Jordan and Pippen and played for Minnesota, Phoenix and New York.
14 Will Perdue
Luc Longley wasn’t the least talented NBA Champion to earn a ring with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. The former Vanderbilt University star spent eight of his 13 professional seasons with the Bulls, most of which came between 1988 and 1995. Perdue was part of the first three-peat under head coach Phil Jackson. Perdue was standing at seven feet tall, but barely started a fraction of his near 800 career games.
Overall in his career, Perdue scored a career average of 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. And yet Perdue is a three-time NBA champion. Perdue merely benefited from being a bench warmer for Chicago at the right time in franchise history. The best year of his career was actually with the San Antonio Spurs with 8.7 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. Safe to say the 1996-97 season was a fluke.
13 Joel Anthony
Joel Anthony might be one of the smaller players on this list at 6-foot-9, but that’s still considered a good height for someone who plays at the power forward position. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat decided to make the move to center and it has stuck with him through his time with the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons and currently the San Antonio Spurs.
While Gregg Popovich has done some great things with the different players with whom he's worked, the track record Anthony brings is not very positive. In 471 career games in the NBA, Anthony has averaged only 2.2 points per game during almost 15 minutes per game. At least he has about one block per game average to his name. Maybe Popovich can help him become more efficient on the court.
12 Cherokee Parks
The Dallas Mavericks had some issues during the 1990s. Part of that has to do with some of the players they drafted during that time, which includes Cherokee Parks. Usually, players who come out of Duke University turn out pretty good in the NBA. However, Parks had a rough rookie season with 40.9 percent of his field goals made for less than four points per game. This led to him being moved to Minnesota, where things weren’t much better.
Things didn’t get much better in Minnesota, Vancouver, or Washington. The same goes for the handful of seasons between the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. In nine career seasons, Parks average of 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He was barely passable on the free throw line with making 61 percent from the foul line.
11 Uwe Blab
Remember when we said the Dallas Mavericks struggled drafting good players in the 1990s? It wasn’t much better in the 1980s. The Mavericks drafted German-born giant Uwe Blab from the Indiana University. At seven feet and one inch, there was a lot of potential for him to play as a center in Dallas, that was until he took the court. He was mostly a bench warmer who came in for less than 10 minutes per game.
There was a reason for the small amount of time actually being on the court. Blab only averaged 2.1 points per game in more than 200 career games in the league. Blab was one of the bigger disappointments in NBA history, literally. Someone who stands above seven feet should usually earn more time on the court and have more points, but he was just a large man standing there taking up space on the roster.
10 Darko Milicic
Darko Milicic was someone who was drafted into the NBA without any collegiate experience. The Serbian seven-footer was signed by the Detroit Pistons when he was just 18 years old. The footage of him playing in Europe was enough to get the Pistons interested in taking a chance on him. Unfortunately, Milicic wasn’t able to pan out for Detroit, or for anyone in the NBA.
In more than 450 games through 10 seasons in the NBA, Milicic averaged just six points per game with more than 18 minutes per game. He made only 46 percent of his field goals and a poor 57.4 percent from the foul line. While he underachieved in the NBA, he could still say he has a ring. He was on the Detroit roster when they won the NBA Championship in 2004.
9 Jack Haley
The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program has produced plenty of talented all-stars who found success in the NBA. Jack Haley is not one of those names. It wasn’t as if he had a great career playing for the Bruins in the mid-1980s. In fact, he only averaged 3.7 points per game in 86 appearances. Many probably thought he wasn’t ready for the professional game, but the Chicago Bulls drafted him in 1988.
He moved around the league for all of his nine seasons and averaged only 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. These numbers were low considering he stood at six feet and 10 inches and played as a power forward for most of his professional career. Like many untalented Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, he did receive a ring for his reservist role during the 1995-96 season in Chicago.
8 Johan Petro
Johan Petro looked the part of a strong center in the NBA when the Seattle Super Sonics chose him with the 25th overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft. Petro was seven feet tall and 247 pounds. He had developed quite the name in Europe, but the French-born center barely had any impact to help Seattle in their final years before the move to Oklahoma City. His problem was an inability to score points and have offensive chances in eight professional seasons.
Petro finished his career in 2013 after averaging only 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He wasn’t able to utilize his height enough with a career field goal percentage of 46.2 and only made 67.8 percent of his free throws. Despite being a big man, his defensive abilities left a lot to be desired. Petro only blocked an average of half a shot per game.
7 Slavko Vranes
One of the tallest players to ever take the court in the NBA was Slavko Vranes. He had developed quite the name for himself when he played for a variety of clubs in Turkey and Montenegro. But the Iranian-born basketball player was mostly noted for his height. When he was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 2003 NBA Draft, he stood at 7-foot-6.
But he was waived from the Knicks before the midway point of the season. He was quickly picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers and played only one game later that season. Vranes played a whopping three minutes with just one missed field goal attempt as his only NBA stat in a loss in Minnesota in January 2004. What a career...
6 Sim Bhullar
Sim Bhullar did make history during his very brief stint in the NBA. During a game against the Utah Jazz, Bhullar hits a hook shot late in an effort to be the first basketball player of Indian descent to score in the NBA (although he was born in Canada). In his three games with the Sacramento Kings in the 2014-15 season, those two points were the only ones he ever scored.
Everything about his game showed why he barely played above the NBA’s D-League. While he stood at 7-foot-5, he moved about as slow as maple syrup. Unlike maple syrup, it wasn't pretty to look at. While playing in the D-League’s Raptors 905, he had close to 10 points per game. His time in the NBA moved quickly as he now plays in Taiwan.
5 Chuck Nevitt
After playing for the very successful North Carolina State University in the 1980s, Chuck Nevitt was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the 1982 NBA Draft, but his success with the Wolfpack didn’t carry over into the NBA. Despite being one of the tallest men in NBA history at seven feet and five inches, Nevitt wasn’t getting enough points, even with the number of attempts he got as a bench player.
Through the 155 games he played over nine seasons in the NBA, he averaged only 1.6 points per game after making only 43.8 percent from the field. His foul line shooting was terrible at 58.9 percent. There’s a reason he bounced between the NBA and other professional leagues near the end of his career. However, he did receive a ring for his “contributions” to the Los Angeles Lakers, winning the 1985 NBA Championship. This made him the tallest player to be on a championship team.
4 Pavel Podkolzin
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this list is that height isn’t going to mean having the biggest numbers on offense. Pavel Podkolzin is another example of that as he was a bust in the NBA. The Russian-born player was picked 21st overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. Part of that probably had to do with standing at 7-foot-5. However, he was quickly traded to the Dallas Mavericks
Unfortunately, he was never able to translate into a great player despite draft experts praising his size, blocking and strength. In six career games between two seasons, Podkolzin scored less than one point per game. He only had one block during his brief career and that came in the only game he played in the 2005-06 season. Podkolzin was then waived by the Mavericks, ending his NBA career.
3 Shawn Bradley
When a basketball player comes into the NBA standing at 7-foot-6, points are going to be scored. It’s just hard to imagine someone who can nearly touch the rim without jumping to score less than 10 points per game, but scoring wasn’t necessarily the reason the German-born giant was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993. Bradley had plenty of blocks per game with more than three per game before his final years brought down his career average to 2.5.
However, he was still giving up a lot of dunks. This is inexcusable for someone as tall as Bradley. It was also bad when someone who mostly played near the hoop was only making 45 percent of his field goals. At 7-foot-6, there should have been more points and a higher field goal percentage.
2 Chris Dudley
You know it’s bad when Marv Albert criticizes your free throw shooting ability during the broadcast of a game. Announcers have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the sports they call. Chris Dudley was closer to the side of ugly, especially when he stepped to the free-throw line. And yet he spent 16 seasons in the NBA with more than 880 games for Cleveland, New Jersey, Portland, New York and Phoenix.
Dudley was usually someone who came off the bench and did okay on rebounds with an average of 6.2 per game, but he only scored 3.9 points per game with a field goal percentage of 41. As for the free throw shooting, he made only 45 percent through his career. Aside from rebounding, there wasn’t much that this 6'11" Yale graduate brought to the NBA.
1 Manute Bol
The tallest man in NBA history was Manute Bol. He stood at an impressive 7-foot-7. The South Sudan giant had brought enough attention to lead to a contract with the Washington Bullets before the 1985-86 season. Bol was never able to score a lot of points, but that’s not why the Bullets signed Bol.
He was known as one of the better defensive players with a career average 3.3 blocks per game. One would hope the tallest man in the NBA would have a good number of blocks. If only he could have scored more than 2.6 points per game averaged in more than 600 career games. While he’s certainly done better than many of the other giants on this list, it was hard for him not to have done that.