For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, you have to be able to look at the height, weight, speed, and body compositions of guys who play in the NBA and legitimately wonder if they’re the same species as us “regular” human beings.
Some of those guys, over the course of their careers, have been able to completely transform their bodies from incredible athletic specimens to borderline Greek Gods. And others have gone from athletic thoroughbreds to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man once their athletic days were behind them.
Here are 30 of the most dramatic NBA body transformations we could find – in both directions:
Claim To Fitness: Stood 6’8 and 240 lbs at only 18 years old, and gained 20-40 lbs of muscle since entering the NBA.
It’s amazing to watch how the relatively wiry basketball prodigy from Akron, Ohio evolved into one of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes perhaps of all time. Already lauded for his “NBA-ready” body at the age of 18, James “filled out” to become one of the most devastating athletic forces that anyone can remember.
Considering he checks in anywhere between 260 and 280 lbs over the course of the season, he’s like a football defensive lineman that plays basketball.
Claim To Fitness: Put on 52 lbs and grew an inch since being drafted in 2013.
Giannis Antetokounmpo went from a wiry, spindly prospect from the Mediterranean country of Greece to the muscle-bound basketball prodigy known as “the Greek Freak.” After weighing less than 200 lbs when drafted in 2013, Antetokounmpo completely transformed his body through lots of weight lifting and boxing.
Claim To Fitness: Showed off a ripped, chiseled body in a 2017 Instagram photo
It’s no secret that the 2015-2016 season for the Houston Rockets was a train wreck. That season started off the wrong way, with James Harden coming into camp in terrible shape, after reportedly spending a lot of time dating a reality TV star.
But after an offseason of rededicating himself, Harden looked to be in the best shape of his NBA career by 2017.
Claim To Fitness: “Broke the internet” in 2018 when a photo showing his physique went viral
In 2018, the Sacramento Kings tweeted out a photo of Mike Bibby. From the neck up, he looked like the same guy, but from the neck below, he looked more like a middleweight boxer as opposed to a retired NBA point guard. Bibby went from a seemingly regular dude to someone who could moonlight as a bouncer at a nightclub.
Claim To Fitness: Works closely with the Philadelphia 76ers training staff to stick to his unique workout regimen.
Given Joel Embiid’s documented history with injuries, the training staff of the Philadelphia 76ers really focused on trying to fill out his frame the right way. They described his transformation being more about the way he needs to take care of himself, and how to maximize his athleticism and power at his size.
Claim To Fitness: Lost 15 lbs (in 24 days) and transformed his body after joining the Indiana Pacers.
After being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Indiana Pacers, Victor Oladipo totally overhauled his diet. His primary focus was on cutting out fried foods, upping his protein intake, and drinking a gallon of water a day. In only two months, he went from having a soft exterior to shredded abs.
Claim To Fitness: Dropped his body fat percentage down to 3% after getting control of his candy “addiction”
When he was with the Houston Rockets, a team physician stated that Dwight Howard was consuming “the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day.”
The nutrition staff actually treated him like an addict (to sugar), and were able to get him down to as low as 3% body fat thanks to reducing all his sugar intake.
Claim To Fitness: Put on 15-20 lbs of weight (mostly muscle) between his rookie and sophomore seasons
After realizing the wear and tear it would put on his body when playing against grown men, Lonzo Ball worked to put on a bunch of muscle after his rookie season. He stated that the extra bulk helped him in both attacking the basket, and guarding bigger players.
Claim To Fitness: Revamped his diet and fitness when joining Cleveland, knowing he would play in a faster-paced offense.
After admitting to battling bouts of being overweight when recovering from nagging injuries in Minnesota, Kevin Love began working with renowned nutritionist Dr. Philip Goglia in Los Angeles. At one point, Love was even aiming to have a six pack abs for an ESPN photo shoot.
Claim To Fitness: Put on 33 lbs of weight (mostly muscle), while maintaining a body fat percentage around 10%, since being drafted.
After weighing in around 220 lbs when he became the #1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis has steadily worked to put on muscle onto his frame. By his fourth season in the NBA, the 6-foot-10 Davis was up to 253 lbs, while maintaining 10 percent body fat.
Claim To Fitness: Former head coach Scott Brooks called him “the strongest, most physical guy in the league”
Steven Adams is so strong and so difficult to move around that NBA star Jimmy Butler jokingly accused him of being from Krypton. Adams has developed a mastery of utilizing his frame to make him impossible to maneuver, and admits to utilizing a lot of principles of jiu-jitsu to do so.
Claim To Fitness: Lost nearly 100 lbs since graduating high school.
Even during his early years in the NBA, center Marc Gasol was paunchy by most standards (especially in comparison to his brother, Pau Gasol). But after arriving in Memphis, he worked closely with the team’s training staff to stay healthy. His dietary regimen includes periods of fasting, as well as lots of salmon, vegetables, and sweet potatoes.
Claim To Fatness: Reportedly owns as many as 30 Burger King restaurants
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is one of the rare professional athletes who makes more money in his post-playing days than he did while playing. The legendary NBA star-turned Los Angeles business mogul, however, hasn’t been as successful in staying in playing shape. Some of the images of Johnson floating around the internet portray him carrying a lot of extra “wealth” up and down his torso.
Claim To Fatness: Started using the hashtag “#mambathick” acknowledging his weight gain in retirement.
Kobe Bryant was renowned for a legendary work ethic during his playing days in the NBA, but he’s clearly enjoying the retired life. In 2017 he posted a shirtless photo of himself with the caption “Objects on camera may appear larger than they do in the mirror…,” thanks to his protruding belly and total “dad bod.”
Claim To Fatness: Former New Jersey Nets teammate Jayson Williams said Derrick Coleman looked “like a fat old elephant”
Derrick Coleman was always known for his maddening combination of generational basketball talents and a total lack of anything close to a work ethic. As a result of the latter, he battled bouts of not being able to keep his weight in check. In his book Loose Balls: Easy Money, Hard Fouls, Cheap Laughs, and True Love in the NBA, former New Jersey Nets teammate Jayson Williams suggested that Coleman’s entourage should’ve told Coleman how the latter needed “to start workin’ out and lose some of that blubber.”
Claim To Fatness: In 2012, Lamar Odom’s head coach (Vinny Del Negro) said about Odom: “He’s lost some weight; He needs to lose more.”
In the summer of 2014, shortly after his NBA career ended, photos emerged of forward Lamar Odom that showed him carrying quite a bit more “excess” around his midsection, especially in comparison to the athletic and lithe player he was during his career. While there are rumors of Odom being addicted to other illicit things, his penchant for eating incredible amounts of candy are very well documented. Clearly, bad habits like what catch up.
Claim to Fatness: Put on upwards of 60 lbs between his time at LSU and when playing in the NBA
A one-time teammate of Shaquille O’Neal, many people believed that Stanley Roberts was one of the great “wasted talent” stories, in terms of NBA prospects. A first round pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, Roberts was consistently plagued by weight issues throughout the course of his NBA career, which was perhaps the main culprit in him wasting his potential. It’s no surprise that some of his former teammates on the Orlando Magic gave him the nickname “Big Garbage.”
Claim To Fatness: Cast as an alien creature on the Sci Fi Channel’s TV Movie Showdown at Area 51.
A member of the Georgetown University team that featured Allen Iverson and Othella Harrington, Jahidi White played seven mostly meaningless seasons in the NBA. But most people remember him for his girth, which was the only thing that really progressed as far as his professional basketball career. All you need to do is go back and look at the stretch marks on his upper shoulders.
Claim To Fatness: He reportedly put on about 30lbs between when he first arrived in Orlando and his 30th birthday (but many believe that number is actually much greater).
The Diesel. Superman. The Big Aristotle. The Big Shaqtus. By whatever nickname you called him, Shaq was always larger than life… in more ways than one. When he arrived in Orlando, he was a lithe athletic freak who could run the floor like a power forward, but possessed the power of a professional wrestler. But after his career took off and he left town for Los Angeles, his body mass index began to grow as much as his NBA success and his star power.
For all of his generational talent, the weight he carried began to affect his rebounding, lateral movement, and overall ability to get his shot off in different ways. It’s a testament to that talent that he was still one of the most dominant forces in the NBA, despite those self-induced shortcomings.
Claim To Fatness: Former teammate Brent Price once cracked that Reeves should no longer be nicknamed “Big Country,” but rather “Big Continent.”
Bryant Reeves looked like a player hungry for success early in his NBA career. His rookie numbers grew from 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game to 16 points and just under eight rebounds per game in his second season. But after signing a six year, $65 million extension with the (then) Vancouver Grizzlies, the only thing that grew was his waistline. He reportedly showed up to one Grizzlies training camp being 40 lbs overweight.
Claim To Fatness: During an NBA Development League Tryout, he was said to weigh somewhere around 450lbs.
When Michael Sweetney came out of Georgetown University in 2003, he was a six-foot-eight, 262 lb power forward with a soft touch, coming out of a school that produced legendary big men like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo. Five seasons later, he was on the way out of the NBA, barely playing for his second NBA employer (the Chicago Bulls) after his weight shot up over 400lbs.
Claim To Fatness: His weight ballooned up to 323 lbs at one point in his career
Oliver Miller was already close to 300 lbs when he graduated college, but was still taken in the first round of the NBA draft when teams prized big men more than anything else. He did have one season where he averaged just under 13 points, 3 assists, and two blocks, as well as over seven rebounds per game, but issues with his weight greatly overshadowed whatever he did on the court. At one point, he even checked into a food rehab program.
Claim To Fatness: Admitted to weighing as much as 370lbs in high school, despite playing three different sports
While his weight was generously (if not erroneously) listed at 289 lbs, even at 6’9, the 300+lbs that Glen “Big Baby” Davis carried around makes him look like quite the hefty man. He’s definitely far more known for his size and girth than he is for his actual basketball skill. Even former teammate Austin Rivers once called out Davis for being “constantly out of shape” when the two were teammates on the Los Angeles Clippers.
Claim To Fatness: The Sacramento Kings even put an incentive clause in May’s contract, which would pay him $100,000 if he made it to a respectable playing weight.
Sean May went from one of the most unstoppable players in college basketball to an injury-riddled bust in the NBA. For a player that was already both huge and hefty, the string of injuries he suffered shortly after arriving in the NBA couldn’t have been more disastrous.
The microfracture surgery he had on his knee caused him to miss 18 months of getting anywhere near playing shape. He was never the same player after that. His NBA career soon ended, and he bounced (figuratively or literally) to France, where he finished his basketball career overall.
Claim To Fatness: Went from weighing in the neighborhood of 230 lbs while in Seattle to close to 260 lbs while in Cleveland
Shawn Kemp went from one of the most exciting and spectacularly athletic players in the NBA, to one of the fattest and most depressing. After forcing a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1997 after he could not get the Seattle Supersonics to sign him to an extension of his liking, Kemp’s career turned for the worse as his weight skyrocketed during the NBA’s 1998-1999 lockout.
The Cavaliers, after handing Kemp the extension he sought, even offered to “sweeten” the deal (no pun intended) by hiring a nutritionist and personal chef to help Kemp with his weight gain. However, former members of the organization stated Kemp simply lacked the discipline to get his weight under control. He only played one more season in Cleveland after that.
Claim To Fatness: Reportedly weighed over 350lbs before he even turned 30 years old
The Chicago Bulls, who drafted Eddy Curry in 2002, believed that Curry might have been predisposed to a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is entirely possible that this condition severely limited his conditioning and overall ability to stay in.
His stats and overall ability continued to decrease as his weight became more and more of an issue for the rotating cast of coaches he played for; Scott Skiles once said that Curry needed to actually “jump” if he wanted to be a better rebounder, and Mike D’Antoni openly said that Curry would need to lose weight if he wanted to play for him. In 2009, even after losing 30lbs, a Knicks trainer once said that it was “delusional” to think that Curry would ever return to his listed playing weight of 285 lbs.
Claim To Fatness: In 2011, he became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, which he reportedly used to lose over 70 lbs.
There’s a reason he was nicknamed “The Round Mound of Rebound.” He became a fan favorite because of his intense playing style, his ability to snatch rebounds despite his lack of height compared to his peers (he’s listed at 6’6), and his ability to block shots and throw down dunks in spite of his hefty frame.
In high school, an Auburn University assistant described Barkley as “a fat guy… who can play like the wind.” He was a big boy throughout his NBA career, and his waistline continued to grow after his career was over.
Claim To Fatness: He earned the nickname “Big Snacks”
Jerome James parlayed a hot stretch of play in with the Seattle Supersonics during the 2005 NBA Playoffs into a (disastrous) five year, $30 million contract with the New York Knicks. Months after signing the deal, James — surprise, surprise — showed up out of shape to training camp, and his issues with his weight plagued him during his tenure in New York.
In fact, his girth became such an issue that the Knicks even tried to rid themselves of James’ contract by using a medical exemption. But, the NBA ruled that fatness wasn’t exactly a medical situation.
Claim To Fatness: His former head coach, Gregg Popovich, publicly admitted: “Boris has never been in shape”
Boris Diaw was known for two things over the course of his NBA career: his outstanding basketball IQ, and a rather paunchy exterior. Former teammate Tony Parker even cracked that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich played Diaw for so many minutes because the sheer energy expelled playing basketball could lead to Diaw losing weight.
It’s been reported that the Spurs even put in financial incentives worth up to $500,000 if Diaw would keep his playing weight below 254 lbs through the course of an entire season.