In the NBA, bigger often tends to mean better. Height has always been a large part of the league, as have big frames or sizable bodies. Heft goes a long way when fighting for position, while size helps on defense. That’s why hand size matters so much too.
There have been many big men to play in the league who have had extremely large mitts. This guide will study the top end of that spectrum by looking at Shaq’s hand size (which is measured at 10.25 inches from palm to the tip of his middle finger), how he used it to his advantage, as well as how it compared to other all time greats.
From Bottom to Top, and Across
In the NBA, hand size is measured in two ways: length and span. Hand length is how much space there is between the base of the palm all the way to the tip of the middle finger, and it’s a good way to see how well a player can grab the ball on offense or contest a shot on defense.
Hand span, on the other side, is the measurement between the tip of the thumb on a fully outstretched hand all the way to the tip of the pinky. Span tends to be slightly longer than length, but for regular people both are right around each other. That’s not always true of athletes.
The average hand length for an adult male is 7.4 inches and the average span is 8.5. In contrast, those measurements are 9.5 inches and 10.5 inches for NBA players. That shows just how much bigger their hands tend to be.
The Big Hand Effect
Having big hands is a distinct advantage in basketball because it enables players to easily palm the ball. That’s quite helpful on offense because it makes it much easier to dunk, and it also allows athletes to hold the ball away from the defender when getting ready to make a move.
For those reasons, it also makes passing much easier. Players with smaller hands can definitely succeed on the court, but they have to spend more of their time fighting to gain control than those with much longer mitts.
On that note, big hands matter when it comes to defense as well. Basketball is a game of inches, where one small change can be the difference between a turnover or a scored basket.
If someone has a larger hand, they can reach up to deflect a shot or disrupt a passing lane much more easily. They are also much more effective at getting out and actively bothering shooters going up for deep shots. It also makes fighting for rebounds a breeze.
The Big Diesel
Though hand sizes differ across the league, there are quite a few players who have spans and lengths of equal sizes. That’s not the case for Shaq, who has some of the biggest hands of anyone to ever play.
The big man’s hands measured 10.25 inches from palm to the tip of his middle finger, while his span measured twelve inches even from thumb to pinky. That’s massive, especially because those two measurements push the two inch differential that almost no athlete exceeds.
That also means Shaq is in the top five biggest hand sizes of all time. His mitts are extremely large, with only Boban Marjanovic being bigger. He put those hands to good use, and it’s one of the reasons he could so easily overpower defenders down low.
Shaq’s hands aren’t just big, they’re some of the biggest of all time. Even in a league of huge players, he stood out from the pack. While they weren’t the only reason he succeeded, his meaty palms definitely went a long way in allowing him to score or defend at will.