While it’s true that the more strategic team usually wins basketball games, players’ physical advantages also pose a big factor in the outcome of NBA matches.
We’ve seen scouts salivate over NBA prospects with ridiculous wingspans, but another rather underrated attribute is the size of a player’s hands.
Having mittens for hands does pose a great advantage for players on offense, as they could easily palm the ball away from a defender’s reach. The glove-like claws also come in extra-handy on defense, allowing players to easily swipe the ball away and control the passing lanes.
We’ve seen how smaller guys with abnormally large hands like Rajon Rondo be quite the handful (pun intended) on the hardwood, by maximizing his physical tools on both sides of the ball.
On the contrary, we’re also quite familiar with the tragic tale of the 6-foot-11 Kwame Brown and his inability to catch the basketball consistently due to his small hands.
Ultimately, having gargantuan hands gives players clear advantages in terms of overall ball control. In fact, the NBA has begun measuring hand size since the 2010 rookie combine — which consists of checking hand length and hand span.
While an average male has a hand length of around 7.4 inches, several athletes have been measured to exceed above 10 inches.
Let’s take a closer look at the 10 NBA players with the largest recorded hand sizes in terms of length and span.
10. Wilt Chamberlain: 9.5/11.5 inches
The Big Dipper overwhelmed the competition in the ’60s and early ‘70s thanks in large part to his superior physical gifts. At 7-foot-1, the late superstar towered over everybody, while his ridiculous hand size allowed him to toy with multiple defenders at a time.
While next-generation 7-footers eventually had bigger hands than Wilt, his was indeed significantly greater than players from that generation. Chamberlain’s hands were 3.3 percent longer and 15 percent wider than the average player of his height.
9. Kawhi Leonard: 9.75/11.25 inches
Leonard’s freakishly-huge hands look eerily similar to that of a velociraptor’s, making his badass monicker aptly fitting. “The Klaw” has developed into the best two-way player in the league today, which speaks to his work ethic and dedication to improve.
Leonard has the ability to lock up even the best superstars of this generation, and his above-average hands have something to do with that. Apart from his two titles and two Finals MVPs, the 6-foot-7 winger already has two DPOY citations under his belt.
In perspective, players of Leonard’s size usually have hands measuring between 8.8 and 9.5 inches.
8. Michael Jordan: 9.75/11.375 inches
There isn’t much to say about Michael Jordan’s greatness that hasn’t been said already. While his GOAT status has pretty much been cemented, not a lot of pundits have focused on how his large hand size benefited him greatly.
Jordan only wears a size 13 shoe, which is quite peculiar for a man who stands at 6-foot-6. However, he more than made up for it with hands bigger than most centers.
His Airness could easily glide through the air palming the ball with one hand, all the while deceiving defenders with that beautiful ball fake of his. Legendary great Phil Jackson even claimed that Jordan would win in a hypothetical match over fellow all-time great Kobe Bryant simply because of his enormous hands.
7. Julius Erving: 9.5/11.75 inches (estimate)
Dr. J was indeed a freak of nature and one of the best dunkers of all time in his NBA career. A big part of Erving’s finishing prowess was his huge mitts that gave him a tremendous grip on the basketball. Erving’s signature “rock the baby” cradle dunk wouldn’t be made possible if he had average hand size.
But since the league was not recording hand size at the time, Erving’s true measurements are still up for debate. The only reference people have is when Erving compared his hands to Noah Vonleh back in the 2014 NBA Draft.
6. Noah Vonleh: 9.75/11.75 inches
Speaking of Vonleh, the former Hoosier shot up the 2014 Draft boards mainly due to his impressive physical tools. The 6-foot-10 slotman recorded an 8 percent longer and 21 percent wider hand size than players his height.
His story, however, is proof that not everyone with massive hands gets to enjoy successful careers in the league. The former loterry pick has yet to find his footing in the NBA and has already played for six franchises in six seasons.
5. Connie Hawkins: 10.5/11 inches
Although he wasn’t a household name, the late Connie Hawkins enjoyed an amazing career in the ABA and the NBA. Just by looking at his unusually large hands, It was quite evident from day one that Hawkins was a gifted baller. By comparison, the former ABA MVP boasts the same size and built like LeBron James.
However, The King’s hands are an inch shorter than Hawkins’ mitts. Even more impressive is the fact that Hawkins’ had measured the same as the tallest player in the league today, Tacko Fall.
4. Greg Smith: 9.8/12 inches
The only notable thing about Smith’s career in the league was the fact that he had boulders for hands. Despite standing at just 6-foot-9, Smith recorded the biggest hands in the 2011 combine, beating out behemoths like Nikola Vucevic, Enes Kanter, and Jonas Valunciunas.
Statistically, Smith’s hands are 9 percent longer and 21 percent wider than players of his height.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 9.85/12 inches
The reigning NBA MVP has limbs and wingspan for days, and his hands are like hams as well. Antetokounmpo’s outrageous measurements certainly played a big part in his progression to superstardom in recent years. In hindsight, Giannis’ hands are longer than fellow European star Rudy Gobert and even wider than that of the 7-foot-2 Bol Bol.
Antetokounmpo enjoyed a growth spurt while already playing in the NBA and it’s likely that his hands grew even bigger during the process.
2. Shaquille O’Neal: 10.25/12 inches (estimate)
The most immovable force in all of basketball understandably had gigantic hands that put other centers in their place. While Shaq’s hands were also never officially measured, fans had a closer look at that monstrosity when he put it side by side to Kawhi Leonard’s.
The Diesel was a mammoth of a man who wore size 22 shoes, so it’s quite a given that his hands would be massive as well. While it does have its advantages, some say Shaq was a poor free throw because the ball was too small for his hands.
1. Boban Marjanovic: 10.75/12 inches (estimate)
The jolly Serbian giant boasts the largest hands in the history of the league, and it’s possible that he could even contend for the largest in the world. In perspective, Boban literally looks like he is holding a grapefruit each time he receives a pass from his teammates.
Marjanovic’s larger than life hands even birthed the hilarious Reddit thread called “Boban holding things”.
Sadly, the Dallas Mavericks center’s hands haven’t been officially measured, so we don’t have the exact number. The assumption was made from the numerous photos of Boban comparing his hands to other NBA players.
His measurement is perceived to be somewhere in the 12-12.25 range, which is not that far from the owner of the world record for hand size.