SUN MING MING has
a simple goal. "I hope to make it big," he says. In one sense he
already has. At 7'9", Sun, who last week signed with the Maryland
Nighthawks of the ABA, is the tallest player in professional basketball
history. "He makes Greg Oden look like Nate Robinson," says one NBA
scout, referring to Ohio State's 7-foot phenom and the 5'9" Knicks point
A native of
Bayan, China, Sun, 23, started playing basketball at 15—when he was 6'10".
With his sights set on the NBA, he moved to the U.S. in 2004 but was diagnosed
with acromegaly, a pituitary-gland disease, and had surgery to remove a benign
tumor from the gland in 2005. Sun then played sparingly for the Dodge City
Legend of the USBL before signing with the Nighthawks. Maryland owner Tom Doyle
says he hopes to showcase Sun alongside former NBA giants Manute Bol and
Gheorghe Muresan (both are 7'7"), but Sun has his sights set higher. "I
want to play in the NBA," he says. Scouts aren't so sure that will happen.
"He's horribly slow," says one. "He can't move laterally. He has
bad hands. Guys shoot layups over him because he can't get his arms up fast
enough." In his debut last Saturday, Sun had eight points and three blocks.
If the NBA didn't take notice, fans did. The game was played before a sellout
crowd of 1,800.