Nancy Mulkey has earned national headlines here and elsewhere in recent years for her starring role on the state champion Cypress Fair girls basketball team in suburban Houston. Mulkey has led Cy-Fair to the 2014-15 Texas state title, all while navigating life as the nation’s tallest girls basketball player, a 6-foot-9 giant in a world of tall, but not that tall, athletes.
“Giant” isn’t our word; it’s the one used by producers at TLC, which used one of the episodes of its “Life as a Giant” TV program to document what life is like on a daily basis for Mulkey, who splits time between hanging out with friends at Cy-Fair and traveling the world as an elite youth basketball player, most notably with her age group’s Team USA squad.
Mulkey recognizes that her height is a dual-edged sword. It has given her remarkable opportunities, including a college basketball future at Oklahoma, where she committed to play before her junior season. She has already seen a number of exotic locations, and has given her entry into any basketball game or conversation, a network of like-minded — and almost like-sized — athletes who form a ready made community anywhere she goes.
Yet, it also means plenty of curious (if cursory) glances from onlookers, almost none of which are welcome.
“I do hope that people realize it’s not nice to stare and point and take pictures. I mean, they look at us like we’re zoo animals, like we aren’t humans, and so I hope that they get that,” Mulkey told the Houston NBC affiliate KPRC. “We’re just like normal-size people but we’re taller. Like my mom always says, you wouldn’t stare at someone because they’re heavy.
“(But) I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now if I wasn’t tall.”
She is tall (very), she does have those opportunities, and now the rest of the world gets at least a brief window into that life thanks to her willingness to smile for the cameras, onlookers who are welcome, at least for a little while.