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News - Opinion - April 20, 2014

What Could Have Been: Gheorghe Muresan

Height is everything in the game of basketball. If the average human being sees a young boy towering over his peers, a frequently asked question would be “do you play basketball?” While it could certainly help you dominate the game, extreme height on the basketball court could derail a career very quickly.

In the second segment of “What Could Have Been,” CourtsideBuzz.com profiles former 1995-96 Most Improved Player of the Year and 7’7″ giant, Gheorghe Muresan. If it weren’t for a series of back, ankle, and nerve injuries, Muresan may have been even more dominant than he looked. Standing a monstrous 7’7”, when drafted 30th in the 2nd round of the 1993 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets, Gheorghe Muresan was an instant fan favorite. Looking like 92.4 inches of a brick wall, Muresan could swat the pint-sized basketball like a bug, rebound with ease, and use his impeccable height to operate in the post-sinking a sweet hook shot into the net.

It all began in his home country of Romania in 1991. 20-year-old Gheorghe Muresan turns professional for Romania’s CS Universitatea Mobitelco team and the next year, played for France’s Pau-Orthez. Though he used his height to an extreme advantage, Muresan’s skills were not sharp; he was growing as a man, as well as a player. Once he hit the NBA draft in 1993, he worked his tail off with Washington Wizards trainers to hone his skills, and become an NBA center. In his rookie year, Muresan’s averages were just 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in just 12.0 minutes per game; the next year, they jumped to 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds while playing 23.6 minutes per game. Finally comfortable in the league, Muresan would have the best season of his short career in the 1995-96 campaign.

Gheorge Muresan won the 1995-96 Most Improved Player of the Year award after raising his scoring numbers by 4.5 points, rebounds by 2.9, and blocks by .6. The Bullets finished fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 39-43 record, which was an impressive 18 game improvement over their previous season. However, they missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year. His season was so phenomenal he recorded a career high in points (15.5), rebounds (9.6), and blocks (2.3); he also led the NBA in field goal percentage that year shooting 58.4% from the field.

“I was working like crazy to be a good player. It made me feel and good that my work was appreciated. I feel I accomplished something. I had a very good season that year and was in very good shape and took care of my body,” Muresan said of his 1995-96 season in a 2013 interview with HoopsHype.com.

The next year, Muresan’s scoring numbers fell to just about 10.0 points per game but was still producing as an everyday starting center for the Washington Wizards. Now a member of the New Jersey Nets from 1998-2000, Murean suffered two major foot injuries which put an end to his career; he played in just 31 of 164 games over two years. Due to the first foot injury that never seemed to get better, doctors learned he had a pinched nerve that was possibly acquired by eating bad fish; this prolonged his injury that much longer.
Muresan retired from the from the NBA in 2000 but returned as a professional in the early 2000’s in France and for the American Basketball Association (ABA).

What if Muresan didn’t sustain these injuries? What if he wasn’t one of the tallest men to ever play the game
of basketball? Say he was 7’2 (five inches shorter), would he have had these injuries? Would he have become a top center in the NBA?

Well, I believe, if Gheorge Muresan did not get injured those two years, his scoring and rebounding numbers would have looked like 18.0-20.0 points per game and 12.0-13.0 rebounds per game; better than most bigs in the NBA. Sure, he was not flashy, but he proved his height could be a major force down low. This man once dropped a career-high 27 points to go with 11 rebounds and 4 blocks on an impressive 11/15 shooting against Michael Jordan and the 72-10-to-be Chicago Bulls in 1996.

The potential and skill were there, but being so tall significantly plagued his career.

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