As a first-round draft pick from Brigham Young University, Shawn Bradley caused a hubbub during the 1993 NBA draft. That is because he was 7’ 6” tall.
That’s five inches taller than Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA superstar drafted the year earlier. Bradley could touch the rim without lifting his feet.
Now researchers who have had a look at Bradley’s DNA say they figured out why he’s so tall.
According to a team at Brigham Young University, Bradley doesn’t have some unusual mutation or a pituitary gland disorder like Andre the Giant.
Instead, he seems to have won the jump ball of genetic luck, inheriting a combination of entirely normal genetic variations that, in combination, helped make him taller than 99.99999 percent of people.
The research team was interested in applying a new technology called polygenic risk scoring. The basic idea behind such a risk score is to measure subtle pluses and minuses in someone’s genome and add them up to yield a prediction—of how tall the person will be, say, or how likely to develop heart disease.
Spotting outliers may be useful in medicine. In August, for instance, Boston scientists said they believed people should have these kinds of tests for heart risk. That was after they found that people with very highest scores really do have a worrisome chance of a heart attack.
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