Andre The Giant
When it comes to large athletes, you can’t even start the conversation without mentioning Andre the Giant. Sure, professional wrestlers aren’t strictly competing with one another, but they perform exhibitions of coordinated effort and skill just as figure skaters or gymnasts do. Consider the photo below: Hulk Hogan was 6’7″ and about 300 pounds himself and Andre towers over him!
Large athletes are particularly scary when they’re trying to beat you up, so Nikolai Valuev is a very menacing sight. The 7′ tall, 328-lb. boxer really stretched the meaning of the word “heavyweight” while compiling 50 wins as a professional. Even beside the fear of being hit by such a man, consider trying to hurt him! You have to pretty much jump to even punch his head, and his body is so thick that your punches are unlikely to do any damage. Yikes.
Hong Man Choi
Nicknamed the “Techno Goliath,” Hong Man Choi wasn’t particularly successful as a mixed martial arts fighter but was still quite notable for his ridiculous size at 7’2″, 352 lbs. He famously put a whoopin’ on former baseball star Jose Canseco and earned a few other wins, but was beaten quickly when he faced top talent, despite his considerable size advantage.
It’s a different era now than it was when Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the bodybuilding world, and whether you like the uh, “synthetic” look of today’s super-jacked bodybuilders or not, you have to gawk in awe at Ronnie Coleman’s physique at 5’11”, 300 pounds. Arnold was much lighter than that as a several-time Mr. Olympia and he was 6’2″!
Hockey, now there’s a sport. Imagine a sport where you can get in a fistfight with an opponent and your punishment is just to sit in a box for a few minutes! Well, you wouldn’t want to fight Zdeno Chara, who was 6’9″ and could punch downward at opponents in fights. He had skills, too, winning the hardest slapshot challenge at five straight All-Star games from 2007 to 2012.
Many of our large athletes so far have been tall, but Mariusz Pudzianowski is a different case. He’s 6’1″, which is not a big deal, but he’s also 300 pounds of solid muscle. The former five-time winner of World’s Strongest Man competitions has since moved on to mixed martial arts, where he hasn’t reached an elite level but has still compiled a respectable 12-4 record.
When Yao Ming was selected with the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets, he was meant to change the league forever. There had been other centers who were 7’6″ or taller, but he had skills that were much more well refined than the likes of Shawn Bradley, Gheorghe Muresan or Manute Bol. He made five All-NBA teams and was an eight-time All-Star, but unfortunately was hampered by ankle and foot injuries during the later part of his career.
William “The Refrigerator” Perry
William Perry was an NFL player so big that they nicknamed him “The Refrigerator.” And it wasn’t just his 335 pounds that made him big, but also his personality. The Fridge came to personify the swagger, personality, and skills of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears, but even on that championship team, he stood out. While the average man’s ring size is a 9 or 10, his Super Bowl ring had to be size 25 to fit him!
Eric “Butterbean” Esch
While Butterbean may not have won any prestigious titles during his many appearances in the squared circle, he’s still a well-known, beloved, and dangerous fighter. From the wrestling ring to boxing matches, MMA fights, or even a retail store fight with Johnny Knoxville of Jackass, Butterbean always brought it. And his 425 pounds made it hard to hurt him, helping him retire with a 77-10-4 boxing record and a 17-10 MMA record, to boot.
Ice hockey skates at about three inches to your height, so just imagine what 6’8″ John Scott looked like on the rink. Scott towered over friends and foes alike and few were willing to tangle with him during his NHL career, considering most wouldn’t even be able to reach his head with a punch during a fight. He may not have been the most skilled player, but he was a valued presence on the teams he played for nonetheless.
Troy “Escalade” Jackson
Troy “Escalade” Jackson was built like a Mack truck at 6’10”, 400 pounds, but the name of his game wasn’t really rim-rattling dunks. Instead, he liked to use nimble crossovers and deft passes to make the crowd “ooh” and “ahh” on the And-1 Mixtape Tour. He even played for the University of Louisville, though they undoubtedly expected him to play a more conservative style than streetball encourages.
Pitchers always tend to be taller than other baseball players. After all, the extra height gives them an advantage as they sling powerful fastballs and biting curveballs down toward hitters. Jon Rauch stands at 6’11”, so he has size to spare. Rauch was even taller than the legendary Randy Johnson, though his resume doesn’t quite compare.
It may be surprising to find out that Peter Crouch is not the tallest player to play in England’s Premier League, despite being 6’7″. However, he’s definitely a higher level player than the extremely tall players that have come before him. Crouch’s resume includes a pair of World Cup appearances and has not only scored over 100 Premier League goals, but also the most headed goals in history, thanks in part to his height.
Manute Bol stands alongside Gheorghe Muresan as the tallest player in NBA history, even above Shawn Bradley and Yao Ming. Unlike Muresan, Bol actually achieved a lot of success in his career, often leading the league in blocked shots and accumulating 2,086 total. He actually blocked more shots than he scored points, though he did somehow make 6 three-pointers in one half in a game.
Football player turned MMA fighter, kickboxer, and all-around entertainer Bob Sapp is 6’5″, 350 pounds and as scary as they come for the thirty seconds until he gets tired in his fights. Though he had a few decent wins over the years, he was also involved in enough very dubious fights to cast a real shadow over his fight career, no matter how intimidating his frame was.
Ivo Karlovic is a tennis player that stands out whenever he walks onto a court, owing to his 6’11” size. His size clearly helps him develop leverage for his serves, which have been recorded as fast as 156 miles per hour. He wasn’t a world beater, but he once rose to the 14th rank in the world and clearly was someone nobody was too excited to play against.
Margo Dydek stands at 7’2″, making her the tallest female professional basketball player in the world. She was the first pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft and led the league in blocks eight times during her ten year career. She holds the all-time WNBA record for blocks with 877 and was chosen for a pair of All-Star games, as well.
Dalip “The Great Khali” Singh Rana
Though his birth name is nearly anonymous, Dalip Singh Rana is known to millions by another moniker: The Great Khali. Under that name, the 7’1″ monster wrestled in the WWE for years, becoming the first wrestler of Indian descent to do so. While Khali may not have been the most coordinated wrestler, his size alone made him quite an attraction.
Eddy Curry was a professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks. Though he was 7′ tall, that’s nothing particularly special in the NBA. What set Curry apart was his weight, which got as high as 400 pounds during its peak before he got in shape for a successful title run with the Heat in 2011.
Paul “Big Show” Wight
Like Andre The Giant before him, Paul “Big Show” Wight has always been a big man in a sport full of huge guys. At 7′ tall and about 400 pounds, the Big Show has been a mainstay in the WWE for decades now and had a successful stint in WCW before that. He has also found himself starring in movies such as The Waterboy and Jingle All the Way due to his size.
Football is another big sport where large athletes are common, but it’s the way that Nate Newton carries his 335 pounds that sets him apart. Very few players have sported a paunch quite like Newton, who nonetheless was somehow able to move around with surprising quickness and agility. He earned six Pro Bowl selections and won three Super Bowls, too.
Even someone like Nate Newton would have to move aside if Emmanuel Yarbrough wanted to walk through. Why? Because the former sumo wrestling standout stood at 6’8″ tall and weighed over 800 pounds at his highest! He was an All-American college wrestler (at a much smaller weight) before moving into sumo wrestling and an unfortunate (and short) career in the early years of the UFC.
It may not be surprising to see large athletes in physical sports such as football, MMA, boxing, or hockey, but what about golf? Phil Blackmar played 15 years on the PGA Tour while standing at a remarkable 6’7″ tall! Blackmar even earned five Tour wins while playing with what had to be custom clubs tailored for his ridiculous height.
John Isner is another tall man who succeeded in tennis, as he stood at 6’10” when he first walked onto a pro court in 2007. Since then, he has won at least one title nearly ever year, earning a top 10 ranking with many big wins as he builds an impressive resume year-after-year. He even had the fastest serve recorded by the ATP at 157.2 miles per hour.
Shawn Bradley was 7’6″ and famous for many things in his NBA career: being a card-carrying Mormon, blocking the 14th most shots of all time, and earning a role in Space Jam, for instance. He’s unfortunately also famous for regularly being dunked on by much smaller players, to the point where it became a meme before we even knew what memes were.
Loek Van Mil
It’s too bad that the 7’1″ Loek Van Mil never got so much as a cup of coffee in the major leagues, because he would have been the tallest player in MLB history if he had. Instead, he played in the minor leagues, reaching as high as AAA but never getting the call. Since he gave up on that dream, he has played in Japan, the Netherlands, and Australia, allowing him to hear “wow, you’re tall” in four different languages instead of just one.
It may depend on your national heritage, but some say that Paul Millar is the tallest soccer player ever, standing at an incredible 6’10”. Others say it’s Belgian goalkeeper Kristof Van Hout. Anyway, the Scottish player was a professional until 2016, when he had a difficult time fully recovering from a 2014 ACL injury and chose to retire.
While most of the large athletes on our list grew up, John Daly grew a different direction: out. He got to nearly 300 pounds before having lap band surgery in 2008, although he looked bigger to our eyes. He stood just 5’11”, at any rate, and had quite a belly even for a sport that doesn’t require much more than walking. At his peak, he drank up to 28 cans of Diet Coke per day. Good thing he chose Diet!
At 7’7″ tall, Gheorghe Muresan was tied with Manute Bol for the honor of being the tallest player ever to walk on an NBA court. Unfortunately, like many very tall people, injuries took their toll with Gheorghe, who led the league in field goal percentage two times before he retired. He did make appearances in music videos and films such as My Giant due in large part to his size.
Although Sharran Alexander is 6′ tall (which is taller than most women, though not crazy or anything), the real kicker is that she’s 448 pounds! It made her the heaviest sportswoman according to the Guinness Book of World Records, but it was also a huge advantage for her in her sumo wrestling career, when she competed for Britain.