Does extra height really give an advantage in a basketball game? Or is it mostly skill? After reading Sun Mingming’s story, you’ll find the latter matters most.
Stick around as we unveil the professional journey of the tallest basketball player in the world.
Sun Mingming is one of the tallest pro basketball players worldwide. His giant stature grabbed multiple media headlines, as he currently stands at a neck-straining 7”9 and weighs about 360 lbs.
That’s not the only record he holds. His wife, Xu Yan, is 6”2, making them the tallest married couple, according to the Guinness World Record.
Most of his fame and success come from his abnormal height. Despite having a tall advantage in basketball, his health issues held him back.
Mingming was born in 1983 on the 23rd of August in Bayan County, Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, China. Even though he lived in a relatively metropolitan city, the giant pro-player grew up in a low-income household.
It’s one of the reasons why he played his first basketball game at the late age of 15. Mingming grew up wearing smaller-sized shoes, which heavily impacted his toe bone formation. The disfiguration would later harm his professional prospects in the sports industry.
Besides that, his growth didn’t stop in his teenage years. He continued to grow in height until he reached 22 years old.
Mingming’s life primarily revolved around his leggy stature. It’s no surprise that he pursued a career in basketball. He also briefly entered Hollywood and acted among high-level stars like Jackie Chan.
By age 17, Mingming soon grabbed scout attention and enrolled in the Heilongjiang Youth Team in 2000. He was around 6”8 by that time.
Three years later, he attended the 2003 U.S. tour of the Chinese Men’s Basketball Olympic Hope Team. Upon landing on U.S. soil, Mingming grabbed a lot of NBA attention from scouts. In 2005, he flew once again to the States to try getting drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Unfortunately for Mingming, he failed to secure the life-changing NBA deal after a few training sessions.
In an interview that same year, the opportunistic basketball player said, “The NBA is a realistic goal.” He continued, “I love playing basketball and will do anything the NBA asks of me in order to get an opportunity.”
These difficulties were heavily attributed to his many health complications. Doctors noted that Mingming’s body operated similarly to a 60-year-old man. Despite the exacerbating conditions, he still held on t basketball.
Which Teams Did Sun Mingming Join?
Here are some of the teams that accepted Sun Mingming throughout his professional basketball career
USBL League – Dodge City Legends
After undergoing surgery to treat a pituitary tumor, Mingming joined the USBL league in 2006 with the Dodge City Legends. During then, he was rarely on the field and had registered nine DNPs of the 32 games. Overall, he played 23 games for the team.
In total, Mingming scored 28 points, eight blocks, and 25 rebounds.
One of his best plays was against a Long Island team, where he scored four points, a block, and three rebounds within eight minutes of action in the game.
ABA – Maryland Nighthawks
About a year later, after his unsuccessful season with the Dodge City Legends, Mingming joined the Maryland Nighthawks. Even with a lacking performance, the seats would always fill up. Audiences are curious to see the tallest basketball player in action.
Tom Doyle, the team owner, commented, “There’s no question that having Ming here sells tickets.”
While it may seem like an exploitative move, Mingming wouldn’t mind, since the large turnouts would help him raise money to cover his growing medical expenses.
You still can’t deny his height’s effectiveness in the game. The Nighthawks’ guard, Randy Gill, pointed out, “Every day, somebody’s going to get dunked on.”
IBL – Grand Rapids Flight
In early 2007, Mingming went on to join the Grand Rapids Flight team. He played over 14 games. Joining Grand Rapids seemed more of a strategic move, as the team’s coach, David Fox, convinced Mingming through his condition.
He said, “I’ve been talking to his agent, bugging his agent for six months now, and convinced him that this is the place for him based on the Grand Rapids medical community.”
Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional – Fuerza Regia
After ending his brief sign-up with Grand Rapids, Mingming stepped out of the U.S. playing field to join Mexico’s Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional. He stayed for 25 games before leaving to do surgery on his feet.
Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix – Japanese Basketball League
Between 2008 and 2009, Mingming decided to fly out to Japan and join the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix team.
He played 49 games with a significantly improved average from his previous experience with U.S. leagues. Mingming scored an average of 7.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 67 dunks.
Beijing Shougang Ducks – Chinese Basketball Association
In 2009, Mingming signed with the Chinese Beijing Shougang Ducks for a three-year deal. He scarcely played due to his lack of coordination. Nevertheless, he won a couple of championships before deciding to retire at age 31 in 2014.
While Mingming never made it to the NBAs, he did achieve an arguably more challenging feat, beating Jackie Chan in a movie fight scene. After that role, he landed over ten others between 2016 and 2022.
In 2005, Mingming was diagnosed with a tumor in his pituitary gland, which led to his acromegaly condition, causing his abnormal growth.
He underwent surgery in Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Fortunately, Mingming recovered and continued his basketball career.
Mingming’s story is filled with challenges and inspiration. From humble beginnings, he was able to gradually pursue his passion for basketball.
He underwent pain from his health complications and mockery from the audience, yet he persisted. Mingming dreams of NBA drafts and has no regrets about trying his best to achieve that goal.