- We got the chance to chat with NBA fan favorite Tacko Fall
- The 7’6″ big man discussed his evolving relationship with basketball, the misconceptions he’s battled, and what he wants to be remembered for more than anything else
- Check out more NBA stories here
In 2011, Sports Illustrated published an article containing an oft-repeated stat that asserted anyone who stands at 7’0″ or taller has around a 17% chance of making it to the NBA.
While that claim might not be grounded in reality, it reflects a reality that anyone who possesses what many people would describe as a “freakish” amount of height are forced to grapple with on a virtually daily basis.
I may not be part of the fairly exclusive Seven Foot Club, but as someone who underwent a decade-long growth spurt that eventually resulted in me boasting a 6’10” frame, I’m intimately familiar with the expectations that come with being that tall—whether it involves feeling obligated to play basketball or informing the disappointed strangers who utter some variation of “You’re tall” during almost any public excursion that you don’t play in the NBA.
Basically everyone who’s routinely subjected to those kinds of interactions abides by the “Tall Person Code,” an unspoken agreement to explicitly avoid mentioning the other person’s height when you encounter one of your fellow giants in the wild.
As a result, I was very hesitant to broach that particular topic with Tacko Fall when I got the chance to chat with him after he teamed up with Mountain Dew to provide fans with an immersive experience at “The Block” in Cleveland during last month’s NBA All-Star Weekend festivities.
It’s been a few years since the 7′6″ Senegalese native took the basketball world by storm after making a name for himself at the University of Central Florida before signing with the Boston Celtics (he was waived by the Cavaliers earlier this season but is still playing in Cleveland as a member of their G League squad).
Fall has taken a fairly unconventional path to get to where he is today. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16, but he was able to grind and earn the right to compete alongside premiere athletes who started honing their skills on a Fisher-Price hoop and never stopped.
He’s also had to deal with the lofty expectations and expectations that come with being as tall as he is, as many of the same people who saw Nate Robertson win a Dunk Contest and watch in awe when Ja Morant has to avoid hitting his head on the rim are baffled by why big men like Fall can’t instantly dominate any game they play in.
The last thing I wanted to do was bore a man whose Wikipedia page boasts the words “one of the tallest living humans” and once made headlines for entering concussion protocol after hitting his head on a ceiling with yet another conversation about his height. However, after a fair amount of deliberation, I realized I had a unique opportunity to address it from a (hopefully) fresh angle thanks to the common ground we shared.
I can’t say how glad I am that I did, as it spawned one of the more insightful and fascinating interviews I’ve been lucky enough to conduct over the course of my career—one where Fall was incredibly transparent about his relationship with a game he had to grow to love, addressed the biggest misconceptions people have about him, and detailed his plans to cement a legacy that transcends his height.
BroBible: How’s All-Star Weekend going so far? Can you tell me about what you’re doing with Mountain Dew?
Tacko Fall: We shot a fun commercial last week to tell people about The Block. It’s a pretty dope setup they have where I’ve gotten to hang out and interact with a lot of the fans. That’s been my favorite part so far.
I’m 6’10”. I know you’ve got me beat by a bit, but I don’t get a lot of chances to chat with people who know what it’s like to be super tall. I do want to talk about basketball, but I’d also like to focus on your overall experience and hopefully not ask you any questions you’ve already heard a million times.
You didn’t start playing basketball until you were in high school. I’m curious if you instantly fell in love with the game or if it was a process where you had to learn to like it.
It was a process. It took me a couple of years to really fall in love with it.
When I first started, it was really like, “You’re kind of tall” and I just got thrown into it, but as I got more experience and started making new friends, the whole process started to become more fun to me.
I was new to the game, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I got to a point where I got tired of being average. I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to do this, I have to be good at it.” From there, I started studying more and working on my body and training more, and I fell in love with all of that.
How did that change as you progressed to the college level and then the pros?
I’ve gotten more passionate about it—especially now that you get to see the best players in the world and get to play against them. It’s almost like a challenge. The focus for me has become, “How can I overcome this challenge?” That’s fun for me.
When you’re a part of the NBA, it’s like that for you basically every day. It’s changed a lot since I was in high school and college—especially the way I see the game and the way that I work on my body and my skills.
When you’re young and it starts to become fun, you’re all over the place. You watch Steph Curry, you watch the big men, you watch Jordan and you want to do all those things. When you get older, you have to find the specific things that you can do and develop on a consistent basis.
To touch on that, how has your relationship with your height changed? I know a lot of tall people have to deal with being self-conscious.
I honestly don’t think about it until people bring it up. I’m not very self-conscious. I don’t walk around thinking, ‘Wow, I’m so much bigger than everyone else.” I just walk around being me.
Obviously people see me around and you get “Oh wow, he so tall” and all of those comments, but for me, it’s not something I really think about.
There are also all of those expectations that come along with it. Are there certain things—whether it’s on or off of the court—that people take for granted and are surprised or even mad when you can’t do them?
There are so many things. When it comes to basketball, I’d say the biggest thing is something I’ve had to fight my whole career.
There haven’t been a whole lot of big men like me; around 7’3″ and up. A lot of the guys who’ve come before me or that people have seen, they have this label of “Oh, they can’t run the floor” or “Oh, they’re too slow” or “They’re too skinny.”
I might not be the fastest big, but for my size, I’m pretty mobile. That’s something I have to show on a consistent basis to avoid that label.
Tall people are often defined by their height whether or not they like it. If you had it your way, what would you like to be remembered for more than anything else?
I’m really huge about where I came from. I want to be able to represent the continent of Africa to the best of my ability; become an ambassador, do some philanthropy work, give back to the people back home, and make sure that kids have the same opportunities that I have.
I want them to have someone like me to be a mentor to them. I’ve seen a lot of things and I think I can guide a lot of people and help a lot of people. That’s definitely one of my goals down the road.
Parts of this conversation were edited for clarity.