5 Jorge Gonzalez
Jorge Gonzalez is the only athlete in this list who also played in a sport other than basketball. Born in Argentina in 1966, he started his career as a basketball player for Argentinean professional teams and the national basketball team. He was even drafted to the NBA by the Atlanta Hawks and played there for a short time but then changed gears and started a career as a professional wrestler in the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. His ring name was Giant Gonzalez. Although promoters claimed he was 8 feet tall, he was—according to the 2000 edition of the Guinness Records—7 feet 6 inches tall.
4 Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan
At 7 feet and 7 inches and tied for fourth place are basketball players Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan. They also share the title of tallest players in the history of the National Basketball Association. Manute Bol was born in Sudan and was first drafted by the Washington Bullets, where he shared locker rooms with the then shortest player in the NBA, Tyrone Bogues, who was 5 feet and 3 inches tall. Gheorghe Muresan came from Romania and was also first drafted by the Washington Bullets.
3 Sun Ming Ming
At 7 feet and 8.75 inches, Sun Ming Ming was—as of 2013—the tallest person to ever play professional basketball. Therefore, he is probably also the tallest professional athlete of all time. Throughout his career, he has played for minor league basketball teams, such as the Dodge City Legend, the Maryland Nighthawks and the Grand Rapids Flight, and for the professional Mexican team Fuerza Regia and the Hammatsu Phoenix in Japan.
2 Sultan Kosen
Although the 2013 Guinness World of Records gave the title of tallest basketball player to Suleiman Ali Nashnush, it also named Sultan Kosen—at 8 feet and 3 inches—the tallest living man. Sultan Kosen also played basketball and was even scouted by Galatasaray, a professional Turkish basketball team, in the 2002-03 season. This illustrates the complexities of deciding who are tallest people in a category as open ended as that of “athlete.” According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, an athlete is a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina. If you accept that broad definition, Sultan Kosen was, as of 2013, the tallest athlete for whom there are reliable measurements.
1 Suleiman Ali Nashnush
According to the 2013 edition of the Guinness World of Records, Suleiman Ali Nashnush was—at 8 feet and 1/4-inch—the tallest basketball player ever. He is, arguably, also the tallest athlete in history. He was born in 1943 and died in 1991, and played as a center for the Libyan national team and was the above-mentioned height when he played in 1962.