Georgetown held Senior Night over the weekend. Among those seniors was George Muresan, son of Gheorghe Muresan. George appeared in 19 games for the Hoyas this season. His entire family was there to celebrate the end of his college career and they gathered at halfcourt to take a picture with coach Patrick Ewing and another person who is clearly not related.
As usual, it was great to see Gheorghe, still the tallest player to ever appear in an NBA game at 7-foot-7. It's been two decades since injuries forced him to retire. Over the last 20 years he's raised two very tall children with his 6-foot-1ish wife, Liliana, and run a successful basketball skills camp in Virginia. It's incredible how far he's come.
Gheorghe was drafted 30th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft and he was in the building that night. Craig Sager interviewed him with the help of a translator because he didn't speak any English at the time. Well, almost no English. He had picked up the era-appropriate "I love this game," which he dropped on Sager to everyone's delight.
Gheorghe quickly became a fan favorite in Washington as he was in his home country of Romania where he was eventually named one of the 100 best Romanians ever. He had a short, but decent NBA career that was derailed by injuries. His career peaked during the 1995-1996 season when he averaged 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in just under 30 minutes per game and was named Most Improved Player. Two years later, his career was basically over.
Yet all these years later, people still love Gheorghe. Considering how many truly tall people have appeared for brief moments in the NBA, Gheorghe is extra special for the impression he left on fans. He filmed a movie with Billy Crystal and made some truly memorable commercials.
Muresan missed the entire 1997-1998 season after maybe suffering an injury while shooting the film My Giant. Whatever originally caused the injury, it's highly likely his body would have broken down at some point anyway, which makes his teammates' anger all the more misplaced. Via the Desert News:
""Either you want to be a movie star, or you want to be a basketball player," said forward Harvey Grant. "You've got to realize which one really pays the bills."
Keep in mind this was at the height of Hollywood's NBA era. Space Jam was released in 1996 and the Shaquille O'Neal movies Kazaam and Steel were released in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Even if Crystal, a diehard Clippers fan, had hit Gheorghe in the knee with a shovel, you can't really blame the big man for taking the opportunity.
My Giant was a flop that earned just over $8 million at the box office, which is just a little less than what Muresan earned over his seven years in the NBA. He never appeared on the silver screen again, but Gheorghe did manage to make some classic commercials.
The Snickers cologne ad is probably the best ever, but dancing to the SportsCenter theme is right up there.
Gheorghe was just a lovable character who made the most of every opportunity he was given. It was nice to be reminded of all that when he showed up on the court at Georgetown last weekend.