The NBA first hit the scene in 1946, and a lot of weird stuff has happened in the almost 70 years since.
Of all the American sports, the NBA does the most to promote its players as personalities, not just athletes. That has led to a lot of unique, high-profile characters. Think of Charles Barkley, who made gambling news by claiming to have lost $10 million at blackjack tables.
George Muresan of Romania was the tallest NBA player ever
Scott Skiles notched 30 assists in a game in 1990
Pau attended the Barcelona School of Medicine
Due mostly to presence of wacky and weird players, the NBA has often been a carnival of weirdness. Here are 10 wacky and weird NBA facts you probably never knew.
#1: The tallest player in NBA history was almost eight feet tall
Gheorghe Muresan of Romania is credited as the tallest player ever to appear in an NBA game, measuring up to seven feet and seven inches in height. Muresan played eight NBA seasons with Washington Bullets and New Jersey Nets, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award during the 1995-96 season.
Muresan is perhaps most famous for starring alongside Billy Crystal in the 1998 film My Giant, which performed poorly at the box office and failed to impress critics.
#2: The shortest player in NBA history barely cracked five feet
Muggsy Bogues was the shortest player ever to appear in an NBA game, measuring in at only 5’3. Bogues, who played on the same team as the 7’6 Manute Bol, the second-tallest player in NBA history, was able to rely on his unique skills and superior athleticism to last 14 seasons in the NBA, including several as a starter for the Charlotte Hornets.
#3: Pau Gasol attended medical school
This is a tidbit that few people know. The former Lakers star and captain of the Spanish Olympic men’s basketball team could have been a medical doctor, but chose basketball instead.
Gasol’s mother is a doctor, and he followed in her footsteps by enrolling in medicine at the University of Barcelona. As it turned out, the allure of professional basketball proved to be too strong, and Gasol quit after only one year.
#4: The oldest NBA player was almost 46 years old
Nat Hickey became the oldest man ever to appear in an NBA game when he took the floor for the Portland Steamrollers at 45 years and 363 days old. That was back in 1947, a time when strange things happened in the NBA a lot more often than they do now.
The oldest player in the modern era was Kevin Willis, who played five games at age 44 for the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
#5: The youngest player ever was just past his 18th birthday
Andrew Bynum became the youngest player ever to appear in an NBA game in 2005 when he took the court for the Lakers less than a week after his 18th birthday.
That’s right, at a time when most of us were trying to invent ways to waste the last few months of our high school careers, Bynum was getting a fat paycheck while appearing on the court with Kobe Bryant.
#6: Only one player has notched 30 assists in a game
Online sportsbooks in the US and Canada allow bettors to wager on player props, things like most points scored in a game, rebounds, assists, etc. John Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists, and most expect that we would have the single game record for assists as well. Well, think again.
In 1990, Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic notched 30 assists in a game against the Denver Nuggets, breaking the previous single-game record of 29. The feat proved to be defining moment of Skiles’ career, as he failed to become an All-Star in 10 NBA seasons.
#7: The Celtics and Knicks are the only original NBA teams never to have moved
The NBA first appeared as the American Basketball Association in 1946, featuring 11 teams in its inaugural season. Of that original bunch, most have folded, including the long-defunct Washington Capitols, Chicago Stags, and Toronto Huskies.
Other teams, such as the Philadelphia Warriors, have since moved to other cities. The only remaining original teams are the Knicks and Celtics, which along with the Los Angeles Lakers (formerly of Minneapolis) form the league’s most iconic trio.
#8: 23% of current NBA players were born outside of the US
Basketball was invented by James Naismith, a high school gym teacher in Massachusetts. And it’s always been considered an American game. But what if I told you that almost one quarter of current NBA players were born overseas?
The game has become more popular in Europe, Latin America, China and Australia, and current stars such as Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili are all foreign imports.
#9: South Korea has produced an NBA player
The NBA has no shortage of foreign-born players, most of which hail from Canada, Argentina and various European countries. Even South Korea, a country not known for athletic prowess, has produced one NBA player.
In 2004 Ha-Seung Jin suited up for the Portland Trail Blazers. He lasted only two seasons in the NBA, but returned home a hero and continues to play basketball professionally.
#10: Will Perdue won four NBA championships
If you don’t remember Will Perdue, let me refresh your memory. Perdue came into the league in 1988 with a great deal of promise, being a seven-footer with surprising athleticism. He quickly became Michael Jordan’s personal verbal punching bag, being constantly berated for his clumsiness and lack of effort.
While roundly considered a below-average to terrible player, Perdue managed to hang around on the Bulls bench long enough to win three championships, then grab a fourth several years later with the San Antonio Spurs. Perdue was terrible, but unterrible enough to win four titles.