“Wow, you’re so tall.” “Do you play basketball?” “How’s the weather up there?” When you have legs that are longer than the legs of others, there’s no real way to hide them. It’s near impossible to blend in with the crowd or disguise yourself because you’ll tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Everywhere you’ll go, people will feel the need to point out how tall you are, like you aren’t already aware of your height. They’ll always ask if you play basketball, even if you don’t exactly have the best hand-eye coordination.
It’s just one of those frustrating experiences that comes with the height. But what about if you’re unusually tall? Like one of the tallest-people-in-the-world tall?
If you’re one of the tallest people in the world, you’ll undoubtedly attract lots of attention, whether you want it or not. Those who find themselves setting records for their height just have to take it in stride. Some actually embrace the fame they garner, while others run away from it.
So prepare to be amazed and feel short while you read this list of 15 real-life giants you won’t believe exist.
Uljana Semjonova couldn’t be stopped whenever she stepped onto the basketball court. This Soviet-Latvian powerhouse was destined to dominate the world of women’s basketball during her playing career. She was the top dog of women’s basketball players in the world during the 1970s and 1980s, single-handedly making the Soviet Union rule the sport. She led the team to Olympic gold in 1976 and 1980 and World Championships in 1971, 1975 and 1983, and also helped the team pick up 11 European Championships. In addition to that, she was voted the most popular athlete in the country 12 times between 1970 and 1985. Even more, when Semjonova was on the team, the Soviet Union never lost an International game. Semjonova also made history in 1992 when she became the first non-American to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
14. ZAINAB BIBI—7’2
Zainab Bibi may not be the tallest woman in the world, but she is the tallest woman in Pakistan. However, she probably wishes she never grew so much to claim that title. Several years ago, Bibi sought out asylum to stay in Britain because she claimed her height made her a target in her home country. She said kids would pull at her clothing and throw stones at her. Bibi’s friends and family were surprised when they heard of her plea for asylum, since they never would have imagined that Bibi felt like this. Bibi used her height to her advantage and made plenty of money from public appearances in Pakistan and abroad. Luckily for her, her application for asylum was accepted in 2009, and she has remained in England since.
You’ve seen a lot of tall models, but you’ve probably never seen a model like Ghulam Shabbir. Ghulam Shabbir was born to a family of farmers in an agricultural village in Pakistan. By the time he was 10, he soared over his family and classmates. Wanting to exchange the rice fields he toiled in for foreign lands, he hired an agent at the age of 17 and found a career in modeling. He was placed in a number of print and TV ads, as well as promotional events. The 34-year-old, nicknamed the “Gentle Giant”, now owns his business in Dubai, and doesn’t mind the crowds of onlookers that gather wherever he goes. He has lived somewhat of a difficult life though, noting how he needs 11 meters of cloth just to sew a suit.
Sun Fang doesn’t only hold the title of being the tallest woman in China, she also holds the title of: Tallest woman in the world. That’s right, now you know who the tallest woman in the world is. Due to similar appearances, people used to always mistake her for the late Yao Defen, who at the time, was in fact the world’s tallest woman up until her death just a few years ago in November of 2012. Yao Defen held the title for her 7 ft and 8 in frame. Unfortunately, there isn’t much known about the current tallest woman in the world, 33-year-old Sun Fang other than the fact that she is 7 ft and 3 in tall.
The youngest giant on this list is 19-year-old Michigan teenager Broc Brown. Brown was only five years old when he was diagnosed with Sotos syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes tremendous physical growth during the first years of life. He grows six inches every year. He was 5’2 in kindergarten, 6 feet by middle school, and 7 feet when he reached high school. However, being young hasn’t prevented Brown from developing health issues like others on the list. His family also faces financial problems because custom-made clothes and shoes that fit his frame are costly and Brown grows out of them very quickly. His local community raised $100,000 for clothes and shoes that Brown ended up outgrowing the following year. He says he eventually wants to find a job and live a normal life, despite his size.
10.IGOR VOVKOVINSKIY—7’8 1/3 INCHES
Igor Vovkovinskiy is not only one of the tallest people in the world, he’s the tallest person living in the US. Vovkovinskiy was born in 1982 in Ukraine, but moved to Minnesota when he was seven to be treated for his excessive growth condition. He was already six feet at the time. Now Vovkovinskiy is a law student and an occasional actor. In recent years, he starred in several commercials and films, including the 2011 film Hall Pass. But even though Vovkovinskiy has had many amazing experiences in his life, he’s also had his share of difficult of experiences. According to Vovkovinskiy, he can’t ride with his friends in their cars and he can’t visit other people’s homes as freely as he would like to because he’s worried he’ll break their furniture. He warns people not to take the little things in life for granted.
9.BRENDEN ADAMS—7’8 1/3 INCHES
The 21-year-old Brenden Adams held the record for the world’s tallest teenager back when he was a teenager. Adams’ growth rate wasn’t because of a mutation in his pituitary gland like others listed here, but of a mutation in his DNA. During embryonic development, a piece of his 12th chromosome broke off for one reason or another, flipped itself over, and then reattached itself to the rest of the chromosome. This messed up a gene in Adams’ body that controls the body’s growth, which led to his bones growing to extreme lengths. At 12 years old, Adam was already pushing 7’3 and was showing no signs of stopping. Eventually, he was given treatments to halt his growth at 7’8, and he hasn’t grown since. Doctors believe that if Adam continued to grow, he could very well be over eight feet by now.
8.RADHOUANE CHARBIB—7’8 1/2 INCHES
Meet the tallest man in Tunisia, Radhouane Charbib. It wasn’t until Charbib turned 15 years old that his height took off. He had no problem with his increasing height as he quickly became one of the tallest people in the world. Charbib likes to revel in his fame as an international celebrity of sorts. Surprisingly, Charbib is very happy with his height because he feels he was given a special gift. And while many people would feel uncomfortable if a passerby stared and gawked at them while they were out in public, Charbib actually loves the attention and doesn’t mind the gaping in the slightest. Good for him!
Some of the giants on this list experience varying levels of discomfort as they go about their lives while trying to deal with the problems that come when you’re one of the world’s tallest people. Leonid Stadnyk, former record holder for the world’s tallest man until his death in 2014, said he never cared for the fame that came with his title. Bao Xishun is a different story. Nicknamed “The Mast”, Xishun was born in Inner Mongolia, China in 1951. He used to be a secluded herdsman, but quickly accepted and loved the fame he received when he was once known as the world’s tallest man. He used some of this fame to find a wife, a saleswoman named Xia Shujuan. They got married in 2007 and Shujuan gave birth to a son the following year, making Xishun the world’s tallest father.
6.SUN MING MING—7’9
If you’ve seen Rush Hour 3 (in its entirety), then you’ve seen Sun Ming Ming before. He was that really tall guy Lee and Carter fought (well attempted to fight) when they visited the kung-fu studio, who beat them both without even trying. Remember now? Good. Sun was born in 1983 in a small town in China. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15, but he managed to eventually become a professional basketball player. He’s currently a free agent who not only played in his home country, but also played for different leagues in Mexico and Japan, as well as the minor leagues in the US. He currently holds the record for the world’s tallest basketball player. Not only that, but he and his wife, who measures 6’1, hold the record for the world’s tallest married couple.
Several people of astonishing statures have originated from Pakistan, standing well over seven feet in height. Naseer Soomro is just one of them. But Soomro has a lot more credits to his name besides being the tallest man in Pakistan and one of the tallest people in the world. He is a journalist, a linguist, a critic, and a bilingual poet. The 52-year-old is also a freelance editor, as well as the author of many published works and books. His acclaim around his hometown however, is accredited more to his height than his professional works. Authorities in his hometown of Shikarpur and the city of Karachi have told him not go out on weekends because they have trouble controlling the crowds of people that congregate to see him.
4.ZHANG JUNCAI—7’11 1/4 INCHES
If you thought Bao Xishun and Sun Ming Ming were tall, then prepare to meet China’s tallest man, Zhang Juncai. At 7’11 and ¼ inches, he towers about 29 inches more than the average Chinese man. Juncai was born in 1966 to a family of peasants, but his rapid growth, starting from the age of 16, made him famous around his native village. Like others on this list, Juncai has gigantism caused by a mutation in his pituitary gland. Juncai played basketball when he was younger, and was so tall, he didn’t even have to reach up to dunk. He eventually had to give the sport up due to a host of health issues, including osteoporosis and heart disease. Because he is unable to stand up perfectly straight, it’s possible that Juncai’s true height may be more than what is currently listed.
Morteza Mehrzad is the tallest man in Iran. And there’s probably a good chance he won’t lose that title during his lifetime. Mehrad never had any tumors affecting his pituitary gland that would cause him to grow rapidly. However, a bicycle accident at the age of 16 would change his life forever. He suffered a pelvic injury and thus began growing at an extreme rate. Nevertheless, he’s found a way to use his height to his advantage. He’s a volleyball player for Iran’s National sitting volleyball team, and played during the 2016 Summer Paralympics. So he’s now not only the tallest man in Iran, but he’s also the tallest Paralympian in history, and automatically the tallest athlete in history. Talk about breaking records.
Brahim Takioullah isn’t just one of the tallest people in the world; he holds the record for the world’s largest feet on a living person. His feet are over 15 inches in length. Let that sink in for a moment: His feet are each over a foot long in length. Born in Morocco in 1982, Takioullah was 18 when a school doctor took notice of his abnormal size and suggested he get a blood test. Takioullah was diagnosed with a tumor that altered his pituitary gland, causing increased levels of growth hormone in his body. Ever since then, Takioullah has faced more than one problem thanks to his extreme height. In order to have his weight supported, he has to wear special orthopaedic shoes, and he is unable to stand up straight in the flat he lives in. He also experiences difficulties riding in cars and taxis.
Sultan Kosen is the current record-holder for the world’s tallest person, standing in at a whopping 8’3. But the Turkey-born part-time farmer wasn’t always the tallest person wherever he went. He grew at a fairly normal rate until the age of 10; after that, his height skyrocketed until he was well over six feet and counting. Eventually, when his height became too much, he was forced to quit his schooling, and had to rely on crutches to get around. His rapid growth condition was due to a tumor affecting his pituitary gland. There was an attempt to remove said tumor in 2008, but the procedure failed to halt Kosen’s ever-increasing growth rate. Another procedure was performed in 2012, but it wasn’t easy. Special equipment had to be flown in from Sweden because of Kosen’s size. Fortunately, the procedure proved to be successful, as Kosen hasn’t grown since then.
Sources: sports-reference.com, rochestermn.com, mysanantonio.com, oddee.com, pakistaniat.com, telegraph.co.uk, thetallestman.com