Gheorghe Muresan must have been the world’s tallest stay-at-home dad, a 7-foot-7 diaper changer who also mowed the lawn and did the plumbing.
That was how the former Washington Bullets center and one-time movie actor — he appeared with Billy Crystal in “My Giant” — spent most of the past few years: being with his wife, tending his two sons and taking care of their home in Franklin Lakes, N.J.
It was a difficult adjustment at first.
Muresan arrived in Washington in 1993 a monumental man of mystery and in a short time became a basketball celebrity. No player in NBA history was taller, a distinction he shared with former Bullets center Manute Bol and one that quickly made him a fan favorite.
But his body wouldn’t hold up under the strain of pro basketball. After six years in the NBA, he played one final, injury-riddled season in exile in France. He retired for good three years ago at the age of 30 because his broken-down body couldn’t take it anymore.
“My legs didn’t get the same power because my back was very damaged. Enough was enough,” said Muresan, who may need a third operation on his back soon. “I had the nicest life in the world until I retired. It was very hard to transition to retire. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I did nothing — absolutely nothing — for a year.”
The fallen giant is feeling better these days, and he flashed a quick smile as he ate a California roll at a sushi restaurant downtown. He talked about the pleasures of home life and his plans for the future.
“This is my dream,” said Muresan, a Romanian who spent four seasons with the Bullets. “I had a dream to play in the NBA. Now, my dream is to be around my kids and have fun with them playing basketball.”
And others’ kids, as well.
Muresan is beginning a second career as an entrepreneur in the business of basketball.
He plans to teach the game to youngsters at a chain of basketball schools he is working to set up in the Washington area. The first year-round “academy” is scheduled to open in September.
The idea came to him during his quiet year after retirement, when he was soul searching and contemplating life after the game. In fact, spending time with his 6-year-old son, George, inspired the project. Muresan figured working with George and his other son, 3-year-old Victor, was the perfect post-playing career.
“I want to do this so I can spend more time with my son,” said Muresan, who turned down an offer to coach the Romanian national team to pursue this venture. “He likes to play basketball. I was 15 when I started to play basketball. If I didn’t get that opportunity, I wouldn’t have played in the NBA.
“Maybe I will help somebody get a scholarship or get to the NBA. At the same time, I will be with my kids, having fun on the court. This is the only thing that I know — basketball.”
Muresan could have pursued other opportunities. He dabbled in films with “My Giant” in 1998, and he showed charisma in commercials he made during his playing days. He received feelers to return to Hollywood and was asked to be in a movie in France, but Muresan has little interest in being the world’s tallest thespian.