We’ve all seen various players make highlight reels and plays that make our jaws drop. In order to do that, a great vertical leap is usually required, so the question that presents itself is, who was the highest vertical jump in NBA history that we’ve seen so far?
What is a vertical jump, and how do you measure it?
A vertical jump is simply a person raising their center of gravity by the power of their own muscles. In sports, it is used to measure an athlete’s ability. But in sports like basketball, it’s almost a requirement for top-notch players. When a player has the ability to jump vertically, they can use their skill to control the ball better. Some of the highest vertical jumps have increased an athlete’s value for the team.
The jump is measured from a standing position of the athlete, and they go airborne. The higher the jump is, the more amazing and valued the athlete can be classified as. The vertical jump is usually too fast to be really seen by the naked eye, making the jump best in a slow-motion replay. This is the best way to view the jump anyway because, in slow motion, a fan or analyst can really pick apart the jump and see what the athlete has accomplished.
Here are the top leapers that have graced our TV screens and awed us over the years.
1. Wilt Chamberlain – 48″
Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Chamberlain was one of the most dominant forces in NBA history. He is the only man to have scored 100 points in a single game. Standing at 7’1,” you wouldn’t think someone of that size had a vertical jump of 48 inches. It isn’t just his jumping prowess that was great; he was an exceptional all-around athlete running the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds, doing a triple jump of over 50 feet, throwing a shot put over 56 feet, and winning the high jump 3 consecutive years in the Big Eight conference in the NCAAs.
2. Darrell Griffith – 48″
Darrell Griffith also makes this list because of his forty-eight-inch vertical jump. This is the same height as Michael Jordan, but Griffith only makes it to number two on most lists. Measuring in at six feet and four inches tall, he played for the Utah Jazz from 1981 to 1993; when he left, his Jazz number was retired. While Griffith never received any slam dunk awards, with a vertical jump of forty-eight inches, he still gets a mention on the list. His head, when jumping, goes a full four inches above the rim, which is only two inches lower than Jordan’s. While most people haven’t heard of this guy, he was just as capable of an athlete as Michael Jordan was.
3. Michael Jordan – 46″
Known as ‘Air Jordan’ for his high-flying ability, Michael Jordan revolutionized the dunk just as Julius Erving did some years before him. Winner of multiple NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, numerous MVP titles, and Slam Dunk competitions, he is still one of the most regarded dunkers of all time. Known for his elegant dunk from the free-throw line, Jordan’s listed vertical jump was just a shade under 46” based on records from the University of North Carolina, where they extensively tested jumping ability. According to the document, Jordan had a 36” standing vertical (no steps), and a 46” max. vertical (running start). His jump was close to 42” when dunking with one hand and just under 41” when using two hands. The 42” sounds quite about right since we see him in a few photos with his head right on the rim. At 6’6” and the rim being 10′, that comes out to 42”. It would also make sense to assume that his vertical did increase after going to the NBA as he visibly got stronger.
4. Zach LaVine – 46″
The newest addition to the highest vertical leap club is 6’5” Zach Lavine, who won the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest and was a runner-up in the 2016 Dunk Contest behind Aaron Gordon. LaVine is said to have a 46-inch vertical leap that lets him glide through the air and have a lot of hang time. If you’ve watched any of his games, especially during his time with the Timberwolves, you’ve probably seen him wow the crowd with some great dunks.
5. Spud Webb – 46″
At 5’7”, Anthony ‘Spud’ Webb is an anomaly in that he makes acrobatic dunks and played 14 years in the NBA. We don’t see a lot of guys under 5’10” making alley-oop 360-degree dunks to themselves, much less play that long in the NBA. Spud Webb’s vertical comes in at 46 inches giving him the ability to make up for his shorter stature (when compared to the NBA giants). It is also what allowed him to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest back in 1986, where he bested teammate and legendary dunker Dominique Wilkins.