The tallest person in the world has always been a subject of interest, whether it’s the official world record or just an internet rumor.
But with so many conflicting sources, sometimes it’s hard to tell—who is the tallest person alive.
At a towering 8 feet 2.8 inches tall, 39-year-old Sultan Kösen of Turkey is currently the tallest person in the world.
He weighs 300 pounds and wears size 28 shoes.
In 2009, Sultan Kösen claimed the titles of “Tallest Man Alive” and “Tallest Person in the World” when he became the first person to be measured over 8 feet tall by the Guinness World Records in more than two decades. Two years later, Sultan Kösen was again measured in Ankara, Turkey, and was recorded at 8 feet 2.8 inches (he rounds up to 8 feet 3 inches tall).
Guinness World Records has only confirmed that, at most, 10 people have ever grown past the 8-foot milestone.
Who Is Sultan Kösen, “The Tallest Person In The World?”
Sultan Kösen was born on December 10, 1982, but you might be surprised to learn that his parents and four siblings are remarkably average in size.
Sultan Kösen’s growth spurt accelerated around age 10, when he blasted past his classmates and family members.
Sultan Kösen never finished school, due to logistical challenges posed by being, you know, the tallest person in the world. He instead took up work as a part-time farmer.
Sultan Kösen faces a lot of the same challenges as any other tall person, only much more exaggerated. For instance, he says, it’s not easy to travel. He also has a hard time finding clothes and shoes that fit.
It’s no wonder—his legs measure 49.61 inches and his arms measure 38.19 inches. His feet, meanwhile, measure a massive 14.4 inches for the left foot and 14.0 inches for the right foot. Sultan Kösen, who weighs 300 pounds, wears size 28 shoes, which are custom made for him. By comparison, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal wears a size 23. That gives you a sense for just how tall the tallest person in the world truly is.
As a teenager, Sultan Kösen signed with Galatasaray S.K., a professional basketball team based in Istanbul, Turkey. However, Sultan Kösen was allegedly deemed too tall to play (yes, you can be too tall to play basketball, apparently).
Here’s Sultan Kösen with current NBA player and countrymate, Enes Kanter Freedom:
Me (6’11) standing next to
“World tallest man”
Sultan Kosen (8’3) 🤯@uzunadamsultan
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) July 7, 2020
How Did Sultan Kösen Get So Tall?
You might be asking, “If Sultan Kösen’s parents and his four siblings are average in height, how did he get so tall?” How did he become the tallest person in the world?
Sultan Kösen’s staggering height is actually caused by a condition called “Pituitary Gigantism“, which is the result of an over-production of growth hormone. The growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland in the brain, but if the gland has a tumor on it, it can release an excess of this growth hormone. This causes extremely large hands and feet and facial features, super thick bones, and abnormal growth all around. It’s also called “Gigantism” or “Acromegaly.”
According to Mayo Clinic, Acromegaly can also cause any of the following:
- Coarse, oily, thickened skin
- Excessive sweating and body odor
- Small outgrowths of skin tissue (skin tags)
- Fatigue and joint or muscle weakness
- Pain and limited joint mobility
- A deepened, husky voice due to enlarged vocal cords and sinuses
- Severe snoring due to obstruction of the upper airway
- Vision problems
- Persistent or severe headaches
- Menstrual cycle irregularities in women
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Low libido
Many other abnormally tall men and women suffer from this rare condition, which can cause significant joint pain and drastically shorten life expectancy. Sultan Kösen walks on crutches as a result of his condition.
Sultan’s World Records
At the time of his entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, Sultan Kösen said:
Of course, “Tallest Man Alive” isn’t the only world record Sultan Kösen holds. He also owns the record for largest hands on a living person, with each hand measuring 11.22 inches from his wrist to the tip of his middle fingers.
In September 2009, Sultan Kösen shared that he hoped his newfound fame and attention from becoming the tallest person in the world would impact his life for the better.
Newfound Attention And Fame
After stepping into the spotlight, Sultan Kösen saw his life change in major ways.
First, he was able to have a free life-saving surgery in 2010, courtesy of the University of Virginia, to stop the production of his growth hormone and prevent him from getting any larger. The doctors at the university actually measured him at 8 feet 4 inches tall, citing poor posture and scoliosis in previous, smaller measurements.
On top of the no-cost medical procedure, Sultan got a free mouth makeover (valued at $50,0000) from a San Clemente, California, dentist, he received a free apartment in Ankara from the Turkish government, and he even got featured on the documentary, “World’s Tallest Man: Still Growing.”
All of the attention also meant he could finally wear custom-tailored clothing to fit his mammoth frame and travel the world in comfort.
And to top it all off, Sultan saw another dream realized—he got married. In October 2013, Sultan tied the knot with 5-feet 9-inch Merve Dibo, who’s nine years his junior and nearly two-and-a-half-feet shorter than him.
If you’re measuring in bowling pins (and why wouldn’t you?), Sultan is two bowling pins taller than Merve Dibo.
However, late in 2021, it was revealed that Sultan Kösen and Dibo had divorced and that he was traveling from Turkey to Russia in search of a new wife willing to bear him a son and a daughter.
In an interview, Sultan Kösen had previously noted that the biggest issue with his wife was communication. Entering into the relationship, he only spoke Turkish and his ex-wife only spoke Arabic. Despite the language barrier, their marriage lasted several years until the couple recently divorced.
During an appearance on a tv show on Dec. 20. 2021, Sultan Kösen said he decided he wanted a Russian bride to bear him a son and a daughter.
Is Sultan Kösen The Tallest Person Ever?
Though he’s nearly 8 feet 3 inches tall, Sultan Kösen is actually not the tallest person ever—not by a longshot. In fact, Sultan Kösen, the current tallest person alive, is only the seventh-tallest person ever.
That title belongs to one Robert Wadlow, who at 8 feet 11 inches tall, is the undisputed tallest person ever.
Wadlow, known as the “Alton Giant” and the “Giant of Illinois” died in Manistee, Michigan, in 1940 at just 22 years of age.
What Is The Tallest Person In The World Doing Now?
Sultan Kösen is almost a household name, now more than a decade removed from his Guinness World Record Book entry. He’s become nearly universally recognized (after all, it’s pretty hard to overlook the tallest person in the world).
Sultan Kösen even got offers for a few movie roles, accepting his first part in the 2016 film “Achieving the Impossible.”
In 2016, he linked up with the Magic Circus of Samoa and traveled all across the Indian Ocean.
In the past 13 years since becoming a world record holder, Sultan Kösen has received life-saving medical treatment, joined the ranks of Hollywood actors and traveled the world.
The story of the tallest person in the world continues to inspire people across the world. And he’s just getting started.