One of the tallest men in NBA history helped some of basketball’s smallest players at Eagle Ridge Middle School in Ashburn Saturday morning.
Gheorghe Mureșan, at 7-foot, 7-inch tall, is tied for tallest man in NBA history with Manute Bol. But he stands even taller at his basketball camp, the Giant Basketball Academy, where elementary and middle school-aged children learn basketball from Mureșan and his staff of coaches.
“I didn’t have camps when I grew up, I never went to camp,” Mureșan said after the camp. “So when I did my first camp like 14 years ago, I was so impressed in five days how much kids have improved.”
As a child in Romania growing up under the rule of notorious Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, Mureșan describes his rise to NBA stardom—and a movie alongside Billy Crystal—as “more than the fulfillment of the American dream.”
“I would call it a global dream of working hard and playing by the rules in order to do something meaningful with your life,” Mureșan said in a separate prepared statement telling his story.
After playing for his college team in Romania and one season professionally in France, Mureșan was drafted by the then-Washington Bullets in 1993 and played until 2000. Since then, he has appeared in commercials and the eponymous character in the Billy Crystal movie “My Giant.”
And in 2004, he founded Giant Basketball Academy, with camps for children aged 6-14 around the DC region.
“When you see how much kids improve, it’ll make you appreciate your job,” Mureșan said. “It makes you feel good.”
Saturday, more than 100 kids gathered for the camp, where they worked on the fundamentals of the game, led by a team of coaches. Mureșan loomed over all of them, stepping in to hand out advice and encouragement from one of the game’s greats. One of those coaches is his own high school-aged son. His other son attends Georgetown University, where he also plays basketball.
Giant Basketball Academy still has camps coming up in June and July.
“I love this place,” Mureșan said. “There’s very nice people here, very beautiful communities, and I know a lot of people around here. I have a lot of friends.”