Top 10 (Literally) Larger-Than-Life Athletes
Some athletes are blessed with amazing speed, some are blessed with amazing skills, and some are blessed with an amazing work ethic. This list, though, celebrates those athletes who excelled largely because they were BIGGER (and sometimes stronger) than the competition.
10. Danny Almonte
In 2001, the Little League World Series was abuzz about a pitching prodigy named Danny Almonte. Playing for the Bronx, New York Little League team, young Almonte was already 5’8”, and threw a fastball at 75 miles per hour. Opposing parents howled that there was no way Almonte was 12 years old (the maximum age of the participants), but Danny’s parents produced documents from the Dominican Republic verifying his age. Almonte went on to pitch a perfect game in the tournament, the first since 1957, leading the Bronx team to the U.S. Championship game.
The team finished third overall, as rules prohibited Almonte from pitching back-to-back games (and no one else on his team was quite as good or freakishly ginormous). Afterwards, a private investigator released information that Almonte’s father had falsified his birth certificate and Danny was, in fact, at least 14 years old. Ironically, even if Almonte really was 12 years old, which he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have met the residency requirements to participate with the Bronx team; he should have competed with a Dominican team (in 1999).
9. Zdeno Chara
The Slovakian-born Chara has the distinction of being the tallest player in the history of the National Hockey League, at 6’9”. Adding a few more inches of height for being on skates, and carrying a 260 pound frame, that’s an imposing presence barreling down on a goaltender. In 2012, he broke the record for Hardest Shot in the NHL, at 108.8 miles per hour. Chara captained the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011, and has played for the Slovakian National Team since 1999.
8. LeBron James
I’m not talking NBA superstar LeBron James, I’m talking about the LeBron James that took St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, Ohio to three state championships in four years between 2000-2003. When James played with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he wasn’t even the biggest guy on his own team. But High School Legend LeBron dominated the high school scene, physically towering over teammates and the opposition alike. He then chronicled his conquests in both book and movie form. Just an aside, no one has ever talked more about their High School career, except for maybe Al Bundy.
7. Cecil Fielder
People forget that, at the beginning of Cecil Fielder’s career, he could barely make a Major League Baseball team. When most players were peaking professionally, Fielder found himself on a boat to the Japanese Central League. Once there, the 6’3”, 280 pound Fielder went on to lead the Hanshin Tigers in home runs. The Japanese called him the “Wild Bear,” as he outweighed practically every teammate by 100 pounds. In 1990, Fielder returned to America’s Detroit Tigers and continued to hit monster home runs (and strike out). Younger fans may recognize Cecil’s son Prince, famous for his $200 million Detroit Tigers contract, signed a generation later in 2012.
6. Willie Henry “Fatty” Foulke
Back at the turn of the last century, Foulke was the starting goalkeeper at the highest level of English soccer for the Sheffield United Football club. Though not the best goalkeeper in England’s history, he did lead his team to three FA Cups and a League Championship. Faulke was 6’4” and weighed in at over 300 pounds, which isn’t impressive for an offensive lineman, but is damn impressive for a soccer player, especially during his era of 1894-1907. Foulke doesn’t hold any league records, but is in the Guinness Book of World Record under the category of Worlds Largest Goalkeeper.
5. Akebono Taro
Sumo wrestlers are big by definition, but Hawaiian-born Akebono was the biggest grand champion in the history of Japan. Before his health gave out, Akebono, who weighed in at over 500 pounds, was unmovable in the Sumo ring. At 6’8”, his height as a Sumo was as unusual as his girth. Between the years of 1992 and 2000, the only thing that seemed to stop Akebono was a series of injuries. Since Akebono retired in 2001, other foreign born Sumos have been wider, but none have reached the exalted status of the Yokozuna.
4. Babe Ruth
The greatest home run hitter in the history of baseball (no matter what the record books say), Babe Ruth was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame almost immediately upon his retirement. The physically-smallest person on our list, at only 6’2” and 225 pounds, it must be noted that Ruth broke into the major leagues in 1914, almost 100 years ago. That was before steroids, weight training, supplements, you name it. When Ruth was part of the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” Lineup, he was the only Yankee to weigh over 200 pounds. During the 1921 season, Ruth hit more than twice as many home runs (59) than the player who hit the second most home runs (24). Though Lou Gehrig closed the gap by the time Ruth had his magical 60-home-run season of 1927, Ruth was an almost mythically bigger-than-life personality, on and off the baseball diamond. Babe Ruth was named the Greatest Baseball Player of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated, due to his dominance in his own era.
3. Jim Brown
Jim Brown is arguably the greatest running back in the history of the National Football League. He retired early from the Cleveland Browns in 1965 to make his way to Hollywood and feature films. His biggest post-football hit had to be the 1967′s The Dirty Dozen. But, way back in Brown’s college days, he also played college lacrosse, being the second leading scorer in the nation his senior year. Can you imagine being a Duke Lacrosse player, watching Syracuse’s 6’2”, 232-pound star running back powering down the field right toward you? Incidentally, Brown is also in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
2. Andre the Giant
Wrestling may be more entertainment than sport but, in a land of steroid-enhanced monsters, Andre the Giant was the largest wrestler in the world. Beloved inside the ring and out, Andre crossed into the mainstream as an entity upon himself. He appeared in movies, television series, and, most importantly, moved the casual viewer to wrestling. By 1993, Andre weighed over 500 pounds, at 7’4” in height. Acromegaly both gave him his amazing size, and sped his body into a premature death at 47.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
A generation before every team in the NBA had a 7 footer, the largest basketball player in the 1960′s was Wilt Chamberlain. At 7’1”, and topping out at 325 pounds late in his career, Wilt was a 2-time NBA champion. Chamberlain’s resume only begins there, for his size caused the NBA to institute multiple rule changes, including the widening of the lane, and he holds dozens of individual records, including the NBA’s only 100-point game. Chamberlain was also a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, where audiences around the world marveled at his skill and his height. Besides being in the Basketball Hall of Fame, Chamberlain is also in the Volleyball Hall of Fame for his contributions.
For those of you unfamiliar with Chamberlain’s dominance, you might ask yourself, “if he was so dominant, why did he win only two championships?” Good question. The smaller Bill Russell, who won 11 championships, famously called Chamberlain a “malingerer” and many whispered that he was a distracted player. Distracted, hmmm? Maybe by the 20,000 women he notoriously claimed to have slept with during his lifetime?
Written By Fred Hunt