World's tallest — and smallest — basketball players headed to Arena

DULUTH — It’s an everyday occurrence for Paul Sturgess, something he’s learned to take in stride.

What’s your shoe size? Are your parents tall? Have you always played basketball?

“Literally every question you can think of,” Sturgess said, “Pretty sure I’ve been asked it 100 times.”

The world’s tallest professional basketball player according to Guinness World Records, Sturgess, also known as “Tiny” when he plays with the Harlem Globetrotters, will visit the Arena at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday.

At 7-foot-8 and 325 pounds, Sturgess is two inches taller than both former NBA player Yao Ming and the previous tallest Globetrotter, Dut Mayar.

“It’s just one of those things, I’m going to be this way for the rest of my life and might as well get on with it,” said Sturgess, who wears a size 20 shoe. “People are always going to be curious.”

Sturgess has embraced his unique height, because he said it’s allowed him to travel the world.

“I like being different,” he said. “No one wants to go through their life being an ordinary person. I take pride in that. Having my height, I’ve been able to be a part of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.” Sturgess, 25, joined the Globetrotters in November of 2011 after he played on the NAIA level in college at Mountain State University in West Virginia. He joined the team after a tryout in Philadelphia soon after college.

Growing up in Loughborough, England, the first sports Sturgess enjoyed were soccer and golf, and he uses custom clubs. He didn’t show much interest in basketball until he was 13, but said it was his choice to pursue the sport.

“I took it more and more seriously,” he said. “It became more and more of an advantage. I definitely wasn’t pushed into the sport because of my height.”

Sturges said there are other tall people in his family, but not everyone is tall. His father is 6-8, but his mother is 5-5 and a younger sister is 5-6.

His favorite part of the show is when fans vote on several rule changes, such as using two basketballs, playing six on five, utilizing a four-point shot and double points.

“It’s a lot different than a normal basketball game,” Sturgess said.

After his basketball career, Sturgess said he wants to be a physical education teacher.

“I’m pretty happy right now, hopefully (I can) do this as long as possible,” he said.