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The biggest No. 1 draft picks in NBA history

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October 17th, 2019

Forget everything you've heard about three-guard sets and positionless basketball. Size still matters in the NBA, where big brutes are among the most prized commodities in the league. That's just one of the reasons centers have been nabbed with the first overall pick 45% of the time since 1947.

We've examined every draft class over the past 72 years and have identified the heftiest No. 1 picks in NBA history. Some were superstars and some were duds, but they were all large and in charge.

Michael Olowokandi (7-foot, 269 lbs)

Olowokandi wasn’t just one of the biggest No. 1 picks in NBA historyhe was also one of the biggest busts. Selected ahead of Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce in the 1998 NBA Draft, the Nigerian big man played his way out of favor in three different cities before he retired in 2007. Despite entering the league with plenty of hype, Olowokandi never averaged more than 12.3 points per game and only appeared in the playoffs once.

Kwame Brown (6-11, 270 lbs)

Few players have fallen harder or faster than Kwame Brown, who spent his first two seasons in the NBA as Michael Jordan’s personal whipping boy. The six-time champion methodically stripped down Brown’s confidence and swagger, which turned the former high school phenom into a jittery wreck. To his credit Brown managed to stick around the league for 13 seasons, but he only started 46% of the games he appeared in, and today is seen as a cautionary tale on how not to nurture teenage talent.

Elton Brand (6-8, 275 lbs)

The NBA has had plenty of big fellas over the years, but few of them have had as many glorious nicknames as Elton Brand, who was also known as Old School Chevy, Horse, Slant and Chief Beef. The longtime Clipper and Sixer spent 17 years in the league and is still a big part of the game as Philadelphia's general manager.

Zion Williamson (6-6, 285 lbs)

The first thing that strikes you about New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is his sheer size. The 19-year-old forward is already the third heaviest player in the league. Only Dallas Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic and Boston Celtics pivot Tacko Fall are bigger, and they're both towering giants straight out of a European fairytale. The fact that Williamson can dunk is less of an athletic achievement and more of a triumph over physics.

Yao Ming (7-6, 310 lbs)

Prior to Yao Ming most 7-footers were lumbering oafs who could grab rebounds and swat shots but do little else. The Chinese superstar changed that narrative with his outstanding footwork and exceptional touch. Yao shot 83.3% from the free-throw line during his eight-year NBA career and finished with averages of 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Shaquille O’Neal (7-1, 325 lbs)

Shaquille O'Neal's exact draft weight is a matter of some debate, but most pundits agree it was roughly between 300 lbs and an elephant. One thing that isn't debatable is his impact on the league. Shaq used his considerable girthand surprising athleticismto earn an MVP, two scoring titles, four NBA championships and 15 All-Star Game nods. Eight years after his retirement, he still ranks in the top 15 in career points and rebounds.

Honorable mention: Mark Aguirre (6-6, 232 lbs)

They don’t make ‘em like Mark Aguirre anymore, and for good reason. The three-time All-Star had an ass so large you could see it from the front. Aguirre made the most of his plus-sized derriere by bouncing defenders out of the lane and sending unsuspecting rebounders flying into the third row.




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