Who Has The Biggest Hands in the NBA Ever?
One of the most interesting things about professional combines is that most sports now measure hand size when evaluating future players. In last year's NFL draft, as an example, Pittsburgh quarterback, Kenny Pickett, was measured with only 8.5 inch hands, smaller than any QB in the league (he still managed to get drafted in the first round).
Having large hands certainly doesn't predict success. However, the ability to easily maneuver the ball, especially in a sport like basketball, is certainly an advantage.
How Does The NBA Measure Hand Size?
The NBA measures hand size by taking two different measurements: hand length and hand span.
Hand length is measured from the tip of the middle finger to the base of the hand where it meets the wrist. Hand span usually refers to the distance between a player's thumb and pinky finger when the hand is fully extended. Both measurements can be important factors in evaluating a player's ability to catch and control the basketball, as well as their ability to defend and block shots.
NBA players with larger hand spans often have an advantage when it comes to ball handling, shooting, and rebounding. For example, a player with a larger hand span may be able to palm the basketball more easily, giving them greater control and allowing them to execute certain moves and techniques more effectively. Similarly, a player with a larger hand span may be able to block more shots or deflect more passes due to their increased reach and ability to cover more ground.
NBA scouts and coaches often use hand size as a factor in evaluating players because it can be an indicator of a player's ability to grip and control the basketball, as well as their overall athleticism and physical potential.
So Who Stands Out?
Given the height and length of NBA players, most have above average hand size. The photo below is Jahlil Okafor's hand when he was playing at Duke University. Okafor led Duke to the 2015 NCAA championship and was drafted 3rd overall by the Philadelphia 76er's. His hand length is 9.5 inches long and hand span 11.25 inches. Unfortunately, his NBA career hasn't amounted to much.
The legendary picture below of Giannis is striking first and foremost for the physical gains he's made since entering the league. Take a second look, though, and you can't help but notice his hands. Giannis has a hand length of 9.85 inches and hand span of 12 inches. His ability to easily maneuver the basketball comes as no surprise.
It's almost impossible to talk about hand size without mentioning Shaquille O'Neal.
With hand length of 10.25 inches and a hand span of 12 inches, Shaq had the largest hands in the NBA for a long time.
That is, until this man entered the league.
Enter Boban Marjanovic, whose hand's span is the same as Shaq's at 12 inches but is slightly longer at 10.75 inches. While his stats on the court will never wow you, he now lays claim to the largest hands in NBA history. He's also become somewhat famous promoting Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish on television.
Shaq used to claim that because such a large % of his hand covered the ball, that's what made free throw shooting so challenging. From the outset, he's got a point, but is it really true?
Of the 4 players we mentioned, can you guess who has the highest career FT % (during their NBA careers)?
I'll give you a hint: it's not Shaq, who shot 52.7% over the course of his career.
The answer is actually Boban, who is in his 8th NBA season and has shot an impressive 76.6%. Giannis, who most perceive to be a bad free throw shooter, has a career percentage of 71%. Okafor is at 67.6%.
So, the next time you come across someone with extremely large hands that can't show free throws, tell them to get in the gym and keep practicing!
But What About Shorter Players?
Good question. Everyone mentioned thus far is 6"10'' tall or taller. There is only player below 6'6" on the NBA's list of top 15 largest hands ever. His name?
Rajon Rondo, who stands only 6'1" tall has a hand length of 9.5" and a hand span of 10". Rondo has also a 6'9" wingspan, giving him two physical attributes that are quite unique for the point guard position. Just for comparison purposes, his career free throw percentage? 61.1%, which ranks below all of the big men except for Shaq.
Are Large Hands Truly an Advantage?
At first glance, the short answer would be yes. However, large hands appear to be connected to overall physical and athletic ability.
The one player we didn't mention was Michael Jordan. Jordan had a hand length of 9.75 inches and a hand span of 11.375 inches. When you look at that picture of Jahlil Okafor palming the basketball, just think: Jordan's hand was actually bigger than that. His ability to famously palm the ball on the perimeter wasn't some fluke. However, his large hands were part of his overall above average physical gifts.
Giannis, Shaq, Rondo, Jordan...most would consider these guys to be athletic freaks, where their physical tools didn't just exceed their peers. They far exceeded them.
In future NBA combines, talent evaluators won't be evaluating players on hand size alone. However, if it happens to be the first measurement, you can guess that the players' other athletic gifts will certainly shine through as well.
For more basketball content, check out the Basketball section of our blog.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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