With 42 players listed as 7 feet or taller, the NBA is a land of giants. Over the past few months, one of these real-life BFGs, has been capturing the imagination of fans around the world and quickly becoming a cult icon. Oh, and he doesn’t play for the Knicks.
It started out as a somewhat sarcastic gesture when the San Antonio Spurs were en route to another blowout victory. The packed crowd at the AT&T Center erupting as Boban Marjanovic made his way to the court.
This response from fans is becoming a regular occurrence and head coach Gregg Popovich expressed concern at the treatment of his rookie: "I think the crowd, they really get a kick out of him and all that, but he's a basketball player. He's not some sort of an odd thing."
Boban was born in Zajecar, Serbia in 1988, but asides from this there is little information available about his early life. Scouting videos confirm that Marjanovic has been playing professionally since 2006, where he featured for Serbian side Hemofarm Vrsac until 2010. From there, he made appearances for no less than five teams before landing a spot on the Atlanta Hawks 2013 Summer League squad.
Despite his experience, it was only when he joined Red Star Belgrade in 2013 that Boban became (both literally and figuratively) a huge player in Europe. Whilst there, he won three consecutive Serbian Super League MVPs, alongside being named to the All-Euroleague first team last season.
Last summer, the Spurs signed him to a $1.2 million, single season contract and Popovich admitted: "I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew he was tall”. At 7 foot 3, 290 pounds and with a 7 foot 8 wingspan to boot, Pop’s “tall” assessment is a bit of an understatement.
After a stint in the D-League, Boban made his NBA debut on 30 October 2015 and is quickly transitioning from spectacle to contributor behind a stacked Spurs frontcourt featuring Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldrige, Boris Diaw and David West.
Behind these established players, Boban is averaging 8.7 minutes per game. In his limited time, the rookie is putting up 5.7 points (on 61% shooting) and pulling down 3.7 boards.
The numbers don’t sound really impressive but, extrapolated over 36 minutes, the stats suggest Boban would be a force with averages of 23.7 points and 15.2 rebounds.
Of course, we can’t get carried away with circumstantial statistics, the majority of which have been logged against secondary units when the game’s outcome has already been determined.
But there are growing rumblings around the league that Marjanovic’s potential ceiling is very high. In fact, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller ranks Boban as the 26th most important free agent this summer – a meteoric rise in such a short space of time.
But that’s the uncertain future, and whilst Boban Mania has not yet reached the fervour of 2012’s Linsanity, it is rapidly spreading. Social media sites light up with “Boban Alert” and “Boban Fever” when number 40 checks into a game.
There is even a fan account on twitter, @DidBobanPlay, which has over 1,500 followers! The purpose of the account is simply to confirm whether or not the Serbian featured in that night’s game. But if there is one particular trait of his that is taking the internet by storm, it’s his unbelievably huge hands.
That’s right – Boban’s paws are the subject of a number of articles cropping up over a number of media outlets including; USA Today, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and Yahoo.com to name but a few.
There’s also a Reddit page simply entitled “Boban Holding Things”. In each one, his gargantuan hands highlight their incredible ability to make normal sized objects look small.
In a recent interview with Spurs broadcaster, Andrew Monaco, the two ended the conversation with a polite handshake that resulted in this incredible photo.
From the sound of things, though, San Antonio are confident that Boban and his hands are more than just a novelty act. Reports suggest that the big man’s dedication to his craft and commitment to improving have him regularly working out with Spurs staff before and after practice, as well as trying to absorb as much knowledge from the legendary Tim Duncan whilst he can.
As the big man continues to impress with his growth on the court, it may not be too long before he has the whole basketball world in his hands too.