In 2018 I had a chance to talk with Washington Bullets center, the tallest player in the NBA history, Gheorghe Muresan.
You have been drafted by the Bullets in 1993 with the 30th overall pick. What did you feel? Was this the moment when your dream came true?
I was very happy, but even after I was drafted I never expected to play in the NBA. I had a very good contract with Barcelona. I never dreamed of playing in the NBA. My goal was just to work hard and get better every day.
What was it like when you arrived in Washington D.C. for the first time? With your height you rather can’t walk through the city and stay unrecognized.
I fell in love with DC as soon as I arrived. It’s hard to remember everything, it was 20 years ago. But I remember everything being bigger and cleaner. The cars were nice. The weather was very humid. Not speaking English was difficult. Not on the court, but off the court the language barrier was tough. I was well known in Romania and in Pau I became more well known as the season progressed. I was already used to not having anonymity.
How did you feel in the coaching system of Wes Unseld? Was there any kind of pressure on you because he was a Hall of Famer?
The team was very bad in the 93-94 season when Wes Unseld was the coach. I didn’t feel pressure. I was just very focused on improving my game and working hard to get better.
In 1994 you had a chance to play on one team with Manute Bol, for very short period. What was it like? You both were 7’7″ tall!
Manute Bol lived in Washington DC during the summers and every summer we would train together. He was my teammate for just 10 days. Manute was an extremely nice person, very funny. He was a big talker.
You gained more playing time in 1994-95 which resulted in better season, but then came the best season of your NBA career, when you averaged 14.5 PPG and 9.6 RPG. You received the Most Improved Player award, way ahead George McCloud on the voting list. What do you remember from that year?
That year there was a lockout. I was in France for almost two months playing. I was training very hard and felt very good in my training. I was in great shape. Every day I had one goal and that was to get better.
Your career points per game average is around 10 PPG, but in 1995 you set your career-high (31 PTS vs Hornets), which really helped Bullets winning the game. Did you feel like it was your day, your moment?
I just had a good day. I was moving very well on the court.
You had to wait for your first NBA playoffs appearance until 1996-97, when you faced the Chicago Bulls in the first round. You lost all three games by total amount of only 18 points. Do you think that you (as a team) could have won one or maybe even two games in this series?
Of course, I thought we had a chance to beat the Bulls. But we didn’t. We knew we had to go against Michael Jordan. We didn’t have a player that could stop him. He was the best player in the game at that time. In the end of the game we couldn’t stop Michael. I was injured in that series. I came back early to play against Cleveland to qualify for the playoffs. During the Bulls series I had to put hot packs on my back whenever I came off the court.
Can you name any player who was the toughest for you to guard? Was there someone that you really had troubles with?
Every NBA player is tough to guard. These are the best players in the world. I can’t name one. The toughest games were back to back nights against All Stars. Shaquille O’Neal was very strong and fast. Olajuwon was very skilled and had amazing footwork. Alonzo Mourning was a very hard worker. Ewing was very experienced. I can’t name one. Every night was different and challenging.
One more questions also about the players. Who was the guy that you enjoyed the most playing with (or against)?
Chris Webber and Rod Strickland were great to play with. They were very talented passers and offensive players.
What is the highlight moment from your years in Washington? Do you remember any game, situation?
Every game we won was a highlight.
What do you think about current NBA? Would there be any chance for a player of your height to play nowadays?
The game is faster. I think I could still be successful, but these hypothetical questions are hard to answer.