Sports

Larger-Than-Life Sports Stars Who Towered Over Competition

Darren - December 5, 2019
Sports

Larger-Than-Life Sports Stars Who Towered Over Competition

Darren - December 5, 2019

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

34. Lacina Traore

When fans nickname an athlete ‘The Big Tree’ it’s fair to assume that he is an NBA star. But in Traore’s case, this is not the situation. The towering Ivorian is one of the tallest soccer players on the planet. He is ridiculously tall and lean and looks more like a basketball player than Cris Clemons. Furthermore, Traore plays as a striker and is surprisingly skillful for his size.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

He also enjoyed success playing across Europe for teams like Monaco and Everton. With such a tall build, he automatically becomes a cult hero at every club he plays for. Meanwhile, Traore represented his country on multiple occasions. It is impossible to miss him when he steps out onto the soccer field because he is so tall. Definitely a larger-than-life athlete.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

33. Brittney Griner

One of the most recognizable athletes in the WBNA, Griner is the epitome of a larger-than-life star. She is a towering figure and possesses the perfect build for basketball. However, it must be difficult for her to buy shoes because it takes a US Men’s size 17. Griner is incredibly successful and is a former WNBA champion. Meanwhile, she is also a six-time All-Star.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Griner stands at six feet eight inches tall and weighs 205 lbs. Even in the WNBA, there aren’t many athletes as physically gifted as her. However, being big and being skillful are two very different things. But Griner manages to combine both attributes to great effect. The Phoenix Mercury star is also one of the most marketable athletes in the WNBA.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

32. Dave De La Rosa

De La Rosa only had a short career in MLB, but he was a larger-than-life presence throughout this time. During his four seasons in the Major Leagues, he played for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Angels of Anaheim. But he also enjoyed success in the minor leagues. Furthermore, De La Rosa was incredibly big for a baseball player and was one of the tallest players of his era.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He spent his career as a relief pitcher and had an ERA of 4.5 and recorded 78 strikeouts. At six foot seven inches, he didn’t look like a natural baseball player but he had a powerful pitch. After his retirement from MLB, De La Rosa briefly returned to baseball in the Atlantic League. But his comeback didn’t last very long. He wasn’t amazing but he was definitely larger-than-life.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

31. Tyson Fury

One of the best heavyweight boxers of his generation, Fury was also one of the tallest. He reportedly stands at a crazy six-feet-nine inches tall. Furthermore, this larger-than-life figure regularly joked about being a fat man. However, his physique was deceptive. This was because Fury was very fast for a heavyweight and possessed incredible footwork.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

His unique style helped him to defeat vaunted opponents like Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder. When a boxer has such a long reach and great technical skills, then they will always have an advantage. Fury is also an outrageous personality and occasionally created trouble for himself with controversial statements. But there is something mesmerizing about this man.

Mandatory Credit: AllSport

30. William Perry

‘The Refrigerator’ is quite simply a massive human being. Perry’s nickname stuck with him throughout his NFL career, because he was such a larger-than-life figure. But the former defensive lineman wasn’t just large, though. He was also a highly effective athlete, winning Super Bowl XX. However, things weren’t so easy for him as a young man.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

Perry carried a lot of weight as a child. Unfortunately, children can be very cruel as he found out. He turned to athletics because it made him feel empowered. Eventually, he was able to run the 100m in under 12 seconds. Finally, he became a footballer and played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, his Super Bowl ring is the biggest in NFL history.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

29. Choi Hong Man

This South Korean fighter is a true giant of the game. We mean that in the most literal sense possible. First of all, Choi stands a ludicrous 7’2″ tall. This kickboxer and MMA fighter fought for the likes of ROAD and DREAM in his career. The former K-1 Grand Prix winner typically fights as a super heavyweight because he is larger-than-life.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, the list of people he’s lost to is significant. Fedor Emelianenko, Badr Hari, and Mirko Cro Cop are just some of the big names to beat the Korean. However, he has beaten Mighty Mo, Bob Sapp, and Akebono. In short, his massive stature has made him a lot of money.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

28. Mamadou N’Diaye

A Senegalese basketball player, N’Diaye is a true colossus of a man. Born and raised in Dakar, he grew up playing soccer and had no interest in basketball. But then he suddenly started to grow very tall. N’Diaye was born to play on the court. Standing 7’6″ and weighing 300 lbs, the Senegalese star is a beast with a basketball.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

After moving to the US, he developed as a basketball player. He had an excellent college career but his professional experience has not been so positive.  N’Diaye played for the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons before moving to the LNBP in Mexico. At the moment, he’s without a club. 

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

27. Margo Dydek

Dydek is the tallest female basketball player of all time. Hailing from Poland, she stood a towering 7′ 2″. First of all, Dydek moved to the USA for the WNBA pre-draft camp. Then she joined the Utah Starzz and that kicked off a record-breaking WNBA career. The Polish star played in the division for 10 years.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The two-time All-Star holds the record for most blocks in WNBA history. She was also the leader in season total blocks nine times. Meanwhile, Dydek led Poland to European glory in 1999. But tragically, she died of a cardiac arrest while pregnant with her third child. She was only 37 at the time.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

26. Jon Rauch

If you don’t know the tallest player in MLB history, you do now. Rauch is the man who holds that record. Standing at 6′ 11″, he was ridiculously tall. The Kentucky native is an Olympic gold medalist and had a very respectable career in Major League baseball.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

They say taller pitchers are better. Rauch wasn’t the best, but he definitely was decent. He played for the likes of the Washington Nationals and Minnesota Twins across his career. Overall, he starred in the MLB for 11 years. He earned notoriety in 2012 for pouring water on Matt Harvey. To sum up, he was a larger-than-life character in every sense of the word.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

25. Adebayo Akinfenwa

This man is one of the most unusual soccer players on the planet. First of all, his body is like a bodybuilder’s. In short, his nickname is ‘The Beast’ for a good reason. Akinfenwa’s muscular physique has brought him cult hero status. Then his fame reached such levels that the FIFA videogame series made him their strongest player.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

But Akinfenwa actually hasn’t played at the highest level. Despite this, he’s still a very popular public figure. Most of the 37-year-olds wealth has come from sponsorships. Akinfenwa reportedly can bench press 440 lbs, almost double his own body weight.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Troy Jackson

A member of the AND1 Mixtape Tour, Jackson became a cult hero in the basketball world. Weighing in at 500 pounds, you can see why fans loved to watch him play. Despite his immense bulk, he was actually a very good player. This larger-than-life figure even appeared in Sports Illustrated. In short, he was doing something right.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

Jackson is a streetball legend. ‘Escalade’ traveled around the country and brought entertainment to basketball fans in a different way to the NFL. Sadly, he died in his sleep of hypertensive heart disease on February 20, 2011, at the age of 39. He is gone, but not forgotten.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

23. Nate Newton

Newton is one of the most colorful characters on this list. The former NFL guard played 198 games for the likes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. However, that’s not the full story. Newton was a massive individual, weighing a hefty 335 pounds at his athletic prime. But this larger-than-life figure wasn’t always in shape.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In short, the three-time Super Bowl winner had massive problems with his diet. He once weighed up to 411 lbs and had to have a gastrectomy. Furthermore, he ran into problems with the law. Newton was the ringleader of a dog-fighting ring. He owned 14 pit bulls bred for this purpose. The Florida native also spent time in jail for drug trafficking.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

22. Emmanuel Yarborough

Yarborough was an amateur sumo wrestler and MMA fighter. He also competed in judo, wrestling, and American football. So far that’s not so unusual. Yarborough was a massive individual, in all directions. In short, he was definitely a larger-than-life figure.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

He isn’t just very heavy, Yarborough is also very tall. The former fighter stands at 6′ 7″ and fought at super-heavyweight. Yarborough represented sumo in UFC 3, back in 1994. But he spent the majority of his career in Japan. That’s where he fought for Shooto and PRIDE. Tragically, he died in 2015 of heart failure.

Mandatory Credit: Sud Ouest

21. Gheorghe Muresan

Meet the tallest NBA player of all time. Muresan was a larger-than-life figure who stood at a ludicrous 7′ 5″. Hailing from Cluj, Romania, he became a national champion in his home country. Then he moved to France where his profile increased even more and he attracted the attention of NBA scouts.

Mandatory Credit: ECA

Muresan spent five seasons with the Washington Wizards. He was the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 1996. After that, he played in various leagues across the world. When he played for the Maryland Nighthawks, he came up against Chinese star Sun Mingming, the tallest player in the world. This was the only time Muresan wasn’t the tallest player on the court.

Mandatory Credit: SB Nation

20. Konishiki Yasokichi

Sumo wrestling remains a massive cultural tradition in Japan. These giant athletes have to follow a very strict regime if they want to be successful in the sport. But an increasing number of foreigners are participating. Konishiki is definitely one of the pioneers for non-Japanese sumo wrestlers.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

This massive, 633-pound behemoth was the heaviest sumo wrestler of all time. Furthermore, he’s also the first foreign wrestler to achieve the rank of ozeki. This is the second-highest honor in the sport. They used to call him ‘Meat Truck’ because he was so big. He even came close to becoming a Grandmaster.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

19. Andre the Giant

Hailing from Molien, France, Andre the Giant was a massive star in the wrestling world. Born Andre Roussimoff, he suffered from gigantism caused by an excess growth hormone. ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ was the first-ever WWE Hall of Famer. He famously feuded with Hulk Hogan and was also a WWF heavyweight champion.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Andre is also famous for his acting. His most famous appearance was Fezzik in The Princess Bride. The Frenchman used to go on insane drinking binges. He once consumed 119 cans of beer in just six hours. However, the staff at the hotel were unable to move him until he woke up. Sadly, this larger-than-life personality died of a heart attack in 1993.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

18. Tacko Fall

Fall is the tallest current NBA player. Hailing from Dakar, Senegal, this man is an absolute giant. According to NFL records, he stands 7′ 5″ barefoot. However, Fall actually has the record for the tallest-ever NFL player in shoes. In short, he’d be easy to find in a crowd. With a wingspan of 8′ 2″, he’s one of the biggest men in the world.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Senegalese center plays for the Boston Celtics. If you’re not convinced by how big he is, his shoe size is US 22. Meanwhile, the average male size in the United States is US 10. Furthermore, Fall’s hands measure 10.5 inches in length and width.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

17. Mariusz Pudzianowski

The former strongman is one of Poland’s biggest domestic stars. He won five World’s Strongest Man titles. According to the Guinness Book of Records, that’s more than any other athlete. After demolishing every major international weightlifting event, Pudzianowski turned to MMA.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

This made massive waves in Poland, where the domestic promotion KSW is even bigger than the UFC. “Pudzian” typically fights as a super-heavyweight. His record currently stands at 12-6. But the problem for him is that he gasses out very quickly. That’s typical in the heavier divisions.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

16. Shaquille O’Neal

O’Neal is one of the most famous basketball players ever. A four-time NBA champion, O’Neal played for six teams across his career. At 7′ 1″ tall and 325lbs, he was one of the tallest and heaviest players ever. ‘Shaq’ was a massive physical presence on the court. In short, his opponents just couldn’t handle him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

O’Neal is a 15-time All-Star. Furthermore, he is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star Game MVP, and Finals MVP awards in the same year. But this big man has transcended basketball. Meanwhile, he has a platinum rap record and has appeared in numerous films and reality TV shows.

Mandatory Credit: NBC Sports

15. Holly Mangold

This Olympic weightlifter is stronger than a truck. Mangold demolished her truck in a head-to-head collision. But she was able to avoid injury by pushing the steering wheel away from her as the crash happened. She completely broke it before it could make an impact on her. To sum up, she’s ludicrously strong.

 

Mandatory Credit: Boston Globe

Mangold is not very tall, but she is as strong as an ox. She represented Team USA in the London Olympics, back in 2012. The Ohio-native walks around at 350 pounds. In a recent appearance on The Biggest Loser, she actually weighed 370 pounds. Now she works as a weightlifting coach in Dayton, Ohio.

Mandatory Credit: Fitness Volt

14. Nataliya Kuznetsova

This Russian bodybuilder is the heaviest female bodybuilder on the planet. Kuznetsova weighs 225 lbs. This woman is pure muscle. She’s been open about her use of anabolic steroids and estrogen blockers to maximize her muscle gain. In short, a single glance at her should make that obvious.

Mandatory Credit: Fitness Volt

Kuznetsova has dedicated her life to bodybuilding. But you’ve got to go all-in if you want to win, and that’s what she has done. She holds the world arm lifting, bench press, and deadlift titles. To sum up, she can deadlift 529 lbs. This woman can basically lift two men up at the same time.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

13. Andy Fordham

Fordham might not seem like an athlete in the typical sense of the word. But this Englishman is a brilliant darts player and a former world champion, so we’re going to apply it to him. First of all, he won the 1999 Winmau World Masters and then the 2004 BDO World Darts Championship.

Mandatory Credit: Twitter

However, Fordham’s health has long been a concern. The Bristol native has weighed 434 lbs in the past. Furthermore, he also has a terrible drinking problem. On some nights he’d drink 28 bottles of lager. By 2004, his liver was 75% dead. This put him on the list for a transplant. Ironically, he was a track and field athlete in his younger days.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

12. Ronnie Coleman

Forget Arnold Schwarzenegger, Coleman is the greatest bodybuilder of all-time. He was a huge man that weighed up to 300 lbs for competitions. But Coleman won the Mr. Universe contest for eight years in a row. That should tell you how big of a deal he was in the world of bodybuilding.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

Furthermore, Coleman has the record for the most IFBB titles as a professional with 26. During his time as a bodybuilder, he was deadlifting 800 lbs. However, it’s no wonder that his body has deteriorated today. Sadly, Coleman is a shadow of himself as all that stress has taken a massive toll on him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch

‘Butterbean’ is a true combat sports cult hero. This massive individual is a former boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter who competed in the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions. You would not want to be responsible for feeding him. At his heaviest, Esch weighed an enormous 421 lbs. But he definitely wasn’t just a big target.

Mandatory Credit: Bad Left Hook

This larger-than-life fighter gained his nickname after his ridiculous diet for the Toughman competition. ‘Butterbean’ was an IBA Super-Heavyweight champion. Not only that, but he also fought in Japan for the likes of PRIDE and K-1. He was around for a long time, with a ridiculous 136 professional fights in all sports.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. Zdeno Chara

Chara is not your typical NHL player. Standing at 6′ 11″, Chara is the tallest person ever to play in the NHL. The Slovak is the team captain of the Boston Bruins, so he’s not half bad either. What is more, is that he’s only the second European captain to win the Stanley Cup. Overall, he’s an inspirational and popular figure.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

This larger-than-life man is also a brilliant defensive player. To recap, he won the James Norris Memorial Trophy for his excellent displays in 2011. Chara has also led his country in three Winter Olympics. Finally, the 42-year-old is currently the NHL’s oldest active player. Enjoy him while you can.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Andy Ruiz

On the face of it, Ruiz doesn’t look like an elite athlete. This roly-poly boxer is one larger-than-life figure. However, he is one of the most talented heavyweights on the planet. Furthermore, he is deceptively explosive and fast. Anthony Joshua found this out to his cost because Ruiz knocked him out in 2019. He became a four-belt world champion and also the first Mexican heavyweight champion in history.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

There is a misconception that boxers must have incredible physiques, but this isn’t true. Too much muscle can be harmful because it uses more oxygen. Most heavyweights are not built like bodybuilders, but Ruiz takes this to the extreme. Meanwhile, he has an addiction to Snickers’ chocolate bars. He lost his titles after he went off the rails and put on more weight.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. John Daly

Believe it or not, the majority of professional golfers will spend a significant amount of time in the gym. Many will focus on moderate strength work alongside mobility training to improve your game. You have to put in extra work if you want to be competitive at an elite level in any sport.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

But somebody has obviously forgotten to tell Daly that. The US golfer was brilliant when he broke onto the scene. However, now the heaviest thing he carries is his beer belly around the golf course. In summary, the hard-drinking and smoking PGA tour star doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him. This larger-than-life figure is living the dream.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Yao Ming

At 7′ 7″, Chinese basketball star Ming is outrageously tall. In fact, he was the tallest payer in the NBA at the time of his retirement. He is the only player from outside of the United States to lead the NBA in All-Star votes. The eight-time All-Star made a massive impact for the Houston Rockets.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Ming entered the Hall of Fame at the same time as Shaquille O’Neal. That should show you just how good he was. To sum up, the Rockets loved him so much that they actually retired his No. 11 jersey number following his induction. Furthermore, he has helped change perceptions of China in the Western world.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

6. Bob Sapp

Sapp is the ultimate reminder that bigger doesn’t always mean better. At 6′ 5″ and 350lbs, this is one seriously big man. Originally, he wanted to play in the NFL, but it didn’t work out for him. So he turned to martial arts. Sapp has fought in MMA and kickboxing, mostly competing in Japan.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

The US fighter had some early success in kickboxing, most notably beating Ernesto Hoost twice. But unfortunately, he has become a parody figure. After a ridiculous 12-fight losing streak stretching seven years, he finally won an MMA fight in 2018.  To sum it up, this super heavyweight typically gasses out very quickly.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

5. Steve McNulty

Now playing for York City, McNulty just doesn’t look like a soccer player. With his hefty frame, broad shoulders, and silver head of hair, you’d guess that he works on a construction site. Although opposition fans love to sing ‘who ate all the pies,’ McNulty is actually a great defender.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

In short, he’s a cult hero in the lower echelons of English soccer. McNulty has led six promotions, including a back-to-back pair with Tranmere Rovers. Although he doesn’t look like a lean, mean athlete, he’s actually a very commanding presence at the heart of his team’s defense.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Loek Van Mil

Van Mil was a Dutch professional baseball player. Despite never making it to the major leagues, he still had a decent career. But he’s on this list because he was outrageously tall. Standing at about 7′ 1″, he is one of the tallest players in the history of baseball. First of all, he played as a catcher. But then he actually got too tall for the position and became a pitcher instead.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

On the Netherlands national baseball team, he served as the team’s closer in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and the 2015 Premier 12 and appeared in the 2007 Baseball World Cup. We didn’t even know the Netherlands had a national baseball team, but they do. However, he died in 2019 after a fatal hiking accident.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

3. Peter Crouch

The former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs star is one of the most recognizable soccer players in the UK. First of all, his height is ludicrous. Standing at 6′ 7″ tall, he looks more like a basketball player than a Premier League striker. But he’s actually surprisingly mobile. Also, Crouch is famous for his bicycle kicks and robot dance celebrations. A larger-than-life personality, he also has a successful podcast.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

Crouch is a former England international and played at two World Cups. Furthermore, he has a very decent scoring record. The FA Cup winner has scored more headed goals than any other player in Premier League history. To be honest, that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Nikolai Valuev

Former WBA Boxing champion Valuev is an outrageously big man. The Russian fought at heavyweight and was one of the most difficult opponents to face in a boxing ring. Standing at seven feet and weighing up to 328 lbs, he was ludicrously imposing. 34 of his wins came by KO. This is a very powerful man.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

Valuev was more than just a big man, however. He went 50-2 in his career, including a victory over former undisputed champion Evander Holyfield. However, that was a much older version of the former four-time champion. Valuev’s final loss came against Britain’s David Haye. He struggled with the mobility of the smaller man.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Haftor Julius Bjornssen

This Icelandic strongman has become a cultural icon because of his role in the hit TV series Game of Thrones. After starring as Gregor Clegane AKA ‘The Mountain,’ his fame reached new heights. This enormous man has carried that nickname into the real world. But he is first and foremost a professional strongman.

Mandatory Credit: Twitter

First, he played basketball, but injuries ended his career. Then, he turned to strongman competitions. In short, it was a brilliant decision. Furthermore, he is the first person to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man, and World’s Strongest Man in the same calendar year. At 441 lbs, this man is a behemoth.

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