Let’s be honest, Romania is hardly renowned for their conveyor belt of basketball talents. In Gheorghe Muresan though, the nation has a player that developed into a cult hero within NBA circles.
Here we take a look back at the life and career of Muresan, Romania’s greatest basketball player.
Gheorghe Muresan’s early years
Muresan was born on Valentine’s Day of 1971 to parents, Maria and Ion. The family resided in Cluj County where Muresan spent his formative years. It quickly became clear that Muresan was going to be somewhat of a ‘different’ person; the now 49-year-old suffered from a condition affecting pituitary gland, which is responsible for controlling the release of growth hormones.
As a result, Muresan grew rapidly and quickly outstripped his average sized parents.
As it transpired, the condition that saw Muresan’s height settle at 7 ft 7 lent itself nicely to his passion and ability on the basketball court. As a 20-year-old, ‘Ghita’ – as he is commonly known – took his first steps into the professional game with Universitatea Cluj.
He won the National Championship with his hometown club before a move to France yielded more success; this time in the shape of the League Cup in 1993.
Breaking into the NBA
Muresan’s performances – and build – in Europe were catching the eyes of those responsible for scouting Stateside. In 1993, he was selected as a round two pick by the Washington Bullets.
His rookie year in the NBA wasn’t a breeze as he adapted to the step up in quality, but 54 appearances helped him find his feet. The following years saw his time on the court double with Muresan averaging the best part of 24 minutes per game having started 58 matches – up by 56 on the previous season. As a result, Muresan’s statistical output pretty much doubled too.
The giant center, who might not be among the top 10 best NBA centers of all time, but is the biggest, had his best year in his third season with Washington. For starters, he started 76 games averaging half an hour of action each time but it was his league leading field goal percentage that put his name in lights alongside career bests of 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 14.5 points per game.
It was a season that saw him named the Most Improved Player. The following year, his last with the Bullets, again saw him outperform everyone else in the NBA on field goal conversion with a personal record of 60.4%.
With Mursean’s developing profile and unique frame, opportunities away from the court presented themselves and prior to trading Washington for the New Jersey Nets for the 1998/99 season he somewhat randomly turned his hand to acting as he landed the lead in the film ‘My Giant’.
Back on the court, his form for the Nets never got back to the level he showed capable of in Washington. This was far from a mentality issue though with injury blighting his time there; he managed just three starts across a two-year spell.
With the elite of the NBA in his rear view mirror, Mursean returned to France and, more specifically, to Pau-Orthez where he’d enjoyed success in his early career. He only spent a year with the Pro A side but added a League Championship to his modest trophy haul before calling time on his career.
Mursean wasn’t ready to wash his hands of the sport he loved though and has spent his post-playing days with his fingers firmly in the basketball pie. He founded the Giant Basketball Academy, which is a coaching system targeted to children and adolescents whilst he’s still involved with Washington too, although they’re now known as the Wizards.
There you have it, the career of Romania’s best ever basketball player, Gheorghe Muresan. Hopefully Romania gets a player back in the NBA soon!
Photo: Jonathan Daniel Getty Images