SUN MING MING hasa simple goal. "I hope to make it big," he says. In one sense healready has. At 7'9", Sun, who last week signed with the MarylandNighthawks of the ABA, is the tallest player in professional basketballhistory. "He makes Greg Oden look like Nate Robinson," says one NBAscout, referring to Ohio State's 7-foot phenom and the 5'9" Knicks pointguard.
A native ofBayan, 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 diagnosedwith acromegaly, a pituitary-gland disease, and had surgery to remove a benigntumor from the gland in 2005. Sun then played sparingly for the Dodge CityLegend of the USBL before signing with the Nighthawks. Maryland owner Tom Doylesays he hopes to showcase Sun alongside former NBA giants Manute Bol andGheorghe Muresan (both are 7'7"), but Sun has his sights set higher. "Iwant 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 hasbad hands. Guys shoot layups over him because he can't get his arms up fastenough." 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 selloutcrowd of 1,800.
JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP (SUN)
LONG STORY SHORT Sun, who met the media last Wednesday, speaks through 5'6" translator Larry La.