9 real-life giants who made a career in sport

When you’re this big and heavy, sport is probably the most logical career choice.

Peter Iantorno November 16, 2014

When thinking about the world's sporting giants, illustrious names like the great Muhammad Ali, LeBron James or dare we say it, Cristiano Ronaldo spring to mind.

As well as the unique talent, mental toughness and dedication these athletes possess, there's no doubt that size and strength have played a part in their success too. But compared to the people on this list, their sizes pale into insignificance.

We're not claiming that this is the definitive list and we're not even going to try to put them in size order, but it's certainly a decent selection of some of the most giant-like men to have made their careers in sport.

Nikolai Valuev - Height: 2.11m, Weight: 159kg Nikolai Valuev vs david hate face off.

Nicknamed "The Beast From the East", Nikolai Valuev is a former Russian professional boxer who held the WBA World Heavyweight Championship twice during his career.

The largest boxer ever to win the world title, he decided to retire from the sport in 2009 when he lost his belt on a majority points decision to plucky Brit David Haye.

Yao Ming - Height: 2.29m, Weight: 141kg Yao Ming. Standing at a nosebleed-inducing seven feet and six inches, amazingly, Yao Ming isn't actually the tallest basketball player ever (that title is believed to go to Suleiman Ali Nashnush, a Libyan player who stood at over eight feet), but he's certainly one of the most famous athletes in the world.

He combined his incredible stature with way more natural talent than most, and featured on the NBA All-Star team eight times during a highly successful career for the Houston Rockets.

Kristof Van Hout - Height: 2.08m, Weight: 110kg Kristof Van Hout, Delhi Dynamos. Currently playing his trade in the Indian Super League for Delhi Dynamos, Kristof Van Hout is a Belgian goalkeeper who claims the title of "tallest professional footballer in the world".

After a stop-start career in his native Belgium, this year he decided to take the plunge and move over to India to compete in the brand new ISL. So far he's played all eight of his side's matches, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Ivo Karlovic - Height: 2.08m, Weight: 105kg Ivo karlovic. Despite being the tallest tennis player ever to play on the ATP Tour, compared to most of the others on this list, Ivo Karlovic is positively tiny, standing at six feet and 11 inches. But what makes Karlovic so special is that he has an awful lot of genuine talent to go with his imposing size.

He once held the record for the fastest serve (251kph), but much more than just being a flat-track bully, Karlovic has won five titles in his career and at one point was the 14th best player in the world.

Big Show - Height: 2.13m, Weight: 193kg The Big Show. Paul Donald Wight, better known by his stage name, Big Show, is one of the longest-serving and most successful American professional wrestlers of all time. And before anyone comments, yes, we know it's scripted, but that doesn't make the athletes who compete any less impressive!

Wight actually suffered from a hormone imbalance which meant that by the time he was 12, he was well over six feet tall and weighed more than 100kg. Although he had an operation to halt the progress of his condition, he still reached an incredible seven feet and one inch and a peak weight of 425lbs.

Margo Dydek - Height: 2.18m, Weight: 101kg Margo Dydek. The only woman who makes this list, Margo Dydek was a Polish professional basketball player who, at an unbelievable seven feet and two inches in height, towered over most in even the men's iteration of the sport.

Unsurprisingly, she's the all-time leader in blocks and defensive rebounds in the Women's NBA. Tragically, in 2011, Dydek suffered a severe heart attack while pregnant with her third child, and died as a result.

Mohammad Irfan (also main image) - Height: 2.16m, Weight: 117kg Mohammad Irfan. The tallest player ever to play first-class and international cricket, Mohammad Irfan is a Pakistani fast bowler who stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the sport.

Measuring seven feet and one inch tall, and capable of bowling at speeds up to 145kph, amazingly Irfan nearly quit cricket to work in a pipe factory instead.

Loek van Mil - Height: 2.16m, Weight: 117kg loek van mil. The tallest player in professional baseball, Loek van Mil is a Dutch pitcher who plays for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles based in Japan.

Originally a catcher when he played the sport as a child, as van Mil continued to grow taller, eventually reaching his current height of seven feet and an inch, his coaches quickly deployed him as a pitcher to take advantage of his slingshot-like throwing arm.

Dwayne Leverock - Height: Unknown, Weight: 127kg

A big man but by no means the heaviest on this list, you may be wondering exactly why Bermudan cricketer Dwayne Leverock has been included. And to be perfectly honest, although he's rather more portly than your average cricketer, we just wanted a good excuse to show you this video.

In the 2007 World Cup, Leverock took this stunning one-handed catch to dismiss India's Robin Uthappa in only the second over of the game. His physique may not lend itself to professional sport, but he produced a moment of magic that defied his wobbly stature, and for that moment alone, Leverock qualifies as a giant of the game.