Sports always give us bizarre stories to tell at a minimum level, but when it comes to major leagues, the expectations and hype reach very high standards. We all want to know about milestones nearly impossible to reach given their nature, observe and admire them like there is no tomorrow and sometimes sports manage to bring out some of the most curious stories.
Basketball has been one of the recurrent games where records are set and broke with relative regularity, but the one we’re going to talk right now is very unlikely to be broken anytime soon; this is one of those records that people want to see at least once in their lives, and even more knowing that it is related to basketball.
Over the years, basketball has been considered the sport of heights and with all reason. We have witnessed the careers of players like Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley, two ballers that were extremely tall and successfully made a living in the NBA, but today we’re going to talk about a guy that had a shot to make it to the big leagues, but failed.
If you like this sport and want to read a curious and bizarre story, this is the one; this is the story of Sun Mingming.
Just check the photo above, with a former NBA player Yao Ming 7'6", Sun Mingming 7'9" and Kaka 6'1", the soccer player in the middle.
Sun Mingming is a Chinese player with a very visible and intimidating characteristic: his height. Mingming is 7 ft 9 in (236 cm) and weighs 370 pounds (168 kg) at this moment, which make him one of the tallest players to ever play the game.
Mingming was born in a small town called Bayan near Harbin, China, in the Heilongjiang province. Little knew that small town how big one of its natives would become one day -literally and figuratively. Sun started playing basket when he was a teenager, almost too late according to several people, when he was 15 years old. At that time he already was 6 ft 7 in.
After that, his life changed, going through several and different situations that have delivered the man we know now. Mingming traveled to the U.S. in 2005, planning to have an NBA career and starting to train for that purpose; after he declared eligible in the 2005 NBA Draft, he spent a little tryout period with the Los Angeles Lakers, but at the end was not selected in the draft. However, that didn’t change anything for Sun, he kept chasing his goal and decided to try luck playing in minor leagues.
He’s been retired three years now, but before stepping out of the courts he managed to have a very interesting career, playing at any place he wanted to do it. At the moment of his retirement, Mingming had played for seven teams in his career, alternating stays in the U.S., Mexico, Japan and of course, China.
Mingming had rough times before becoming a kind of celebrity thanks to his height, as the Chinese was diagnosed a benign brain tumor attached to his pituitary gland that was stimulating the over-production of growth hormone, a potentially fatal condition known as acromegaly. At that time, he didn’t have health insurance or enough money to pay the upcoming huge medical bill, but thanks to his agent and the generosity of several people, doctors could remove the tumor ten years ago.
Being 7 ft 8.75 was his cover letter and all the teams that had his services took advantage of that, selling out venues with people interested to see the Chinese giant. Back in his days with the Maryland Nighthawks, Sun was arguably the biggest star of the failed ABA’s comeback project alongside Jason Williams, maybe, but there is no doubt that everywhere he went, people attended.
He suddenly became a superstar, being a recurrent face in YouTube -that was far from being what it is today, but still he managed to be relevant on the sites, he was invited to several TV shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live! In 2006, he was the subject of a documentary television show called Anatomy of a Giant that saw the light in 2006 when the Discovery Health Channel broadcasted it on that far October. He also appeared in a fight scene with actors Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the film Rush Hour 3.
Although he never played in a big league, he had a little tenure in Mexico, playing in one of the most important teams in the country at that time and even nowadays, Fuerza Regia, but only spent 4 months in the organization due to a surgery in 2007.
As we said before, he’s now retired, working mostly as an actor and making sporadic appearances every once in awhile. Sun Mingming was taller than giants such as the mentioned Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley. He even was part of the tallest lineup in the world, a Guinness World Record, with four players over 7-foot.
This guy is going to be remembered no matter what as one of the tallest people in the world, but more knowing that he had the guts to play basketball and making it in a good level.