Do you have to be over 6 feet tall to dunk a basketball? What if you are only 5-foot-8 in height — does this imply you'll never be able to dunk?
A slam dunk is unrivaled in its ability to bring onlookers to their feet.
So, if you're an ambitious basketball player who wants to know if you have a chance, you've probably asked yourself these questions. Or, if you're a basketball lover like us who wants to know how to accomplish that impressive jump.
Let’s be honest, every basketball enthusiast has fantasized about making a spectacular slam dunk. However, you may believe that it is only reserved for people who are over 6 feet tall.
And that's hardly surprising, given the NBA's average height of 6 feet 6 inches.
To return to our original question, how tall do you have to be to dunk?
The simple truth is that it is probably not as tall as you believe. So yes, dunking needs more than simply height.
Let's delve a little deeper:
What Does It Take To Dunk?
An average basketball player's height is 6 feet, plus an additional 2 feet when they stretch their arms vertically, putting the player at 8 feet. The basketball hoop is usually about 10 feet high, so a 6-foot player needs to jump around 2.5 feet (30 inches) to perform a dunk.
Regardless, just because you aren't 6 feet tall doesn't mean you can't dunk. Some basketball stars have defied the odds, and so can you. For instance, Spud Webb won the 1986 slam dunk contest at 5-foot-7.
Spud managed to outrun his teammate Dominique Wilkins, who is 6-foot-8! Moreover, 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson, a former American professional basketball player, won three slam dunk contests in 2006, 2009, and 2010.
Before we dig deeper, let's look at the different types of dunkers in basketball. There are tons of ways to dunk a ball, but we will only highlight a few:
Probably the most well-known slam is the One-Handed dunk. The player holds the basketball in one hand, projects himself toward the hoop with one or both feet, and throws the ball into the ring.
In a Two-Feet dunk, the player launches with both feet while holding the basketball in both hands. This technique allows athletes to maintain a tighter hold while also improving control and balance.
The Alley-Oop Dunk
The Alley-Oop dunk requires two players. The first throws the ball up in the air, while the second player reaches for it mid-flight and slams it into the hoop.
Rock The Cradle Dunk
The Rock the Cradle dunk is a charmer. Holding the basketball between their wrist and palm, the player spins the ball from the bottom, letting it into the hoop.
Watch this video of the legendary Julius Erving doing the rock the cradle dunk.
So How Tall Do You Have To Be To Dunk?
While this question may seem like one that you can simply answer with numbers, this is not the case, as dunking takes more than just your height.
We are not saying that height is irrelevant in this case. The player's height has a considerable impact on their ability to dunk. But two other factors also come into play - their standing reach and vertical jump.
Let's look at each of these separately.
Standing reach refers to how high your arms can stretch when you are standing flat-footed. Standing reach is crucial in dunking, and it depends on the player's height and arm length.
While it is natural for taller people to have longer arms, this is not always the case. So, if you are short, this shouldn't worry you.
Looking at the Draft Combine Anthro, you will notice that taller players generally have a higher standing reach. But if you look closer, you will see several inconsistencies.
For instance, Ochai Agbaji stands at 6-foot-4 (without shoes), whereas Marcus Bagley is 6-foot-6 tall. Nevertheless, Ochai has a higher standing reach (8'7.5") than Marcus (8'6.5").
How Do You Measure Standing Reach?
Measuring standing reach is pretty straightforward. First, stand against a wall. Then, without lifting your feet, stretch as high as you can with your hands close to the wall. The highest point is your standing reach.
Now that you know your standing reach, let's look at the other important factor when dunking.
If you're not tall, nor do you have a high standing reach, don't give up hope just yet. There is another way – the vertical jump.
A vertical leap refers to how high you can jump into the air. It helps to close the gap between you and the rim.
Unlike height and standing reach, you can train your vertical jump. So, with practice, you can get better than most players boasting an impressive height and standing reach.
The average vertical jump for men is 16 – 20 inches and 12 – 16 inches for women. It also ranges by age, with the best being just before one turns 30 years old (about 20 inches). After that, it gradually starts to decline.
How Do You Measure Your Vertical Jump?
To begin, stand against a wall. Then stick double-sided tape to the middle finger of your hand that is closest to the wall.
Next, jump as high as you can and stick the tape to the wall at your best reach. Alternatively, you can apply chalk to your fingertips and tap the wall at the highest reach.
Repeat this exercise until you are comfortable with the results, and then measure the highest reach. You can calculate your vertical jump by finding the difference between your standing reach (as determined earlier) and your highest reach from this exercise.
Boosting Your Vertical Jump
Furthermore, you can improve your vertical jump through jumping exercises and training routines.
These exercises, termed plyometric training by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, help improve your speed, lower body strength, and explosive power – the critical requirements for a vertical jump.
The lower muscles responsible for vertical jumps include the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. You can strengthen these muscles through toe-raises, jump squats, split jumps, power skips, calf raises, and box jumps.
Additionally, the shoulders, back, arms, and chest also play a crucial role in the movements required in basketball. So, it would be best to combine lower and upper body exercises.
Core strengthening exercises can also help improve your vertical jump. The core links the upper and lower body, so better core control will enable you to be fast, jump higher and increase your strength.
All this is what you need to be a better dunker. Here are seven essential core exercises for basketball players to help you out.
Warming up before training is also crucial as it ensures improved blood circulation and muscle flexibility. Once you attain strength and speed, you will also need to practice your execution.
Be sure to schedule and control the workout and training sessions to avoid fatigue that may hurt your muscles or, even worse, your Central Nervous System (CNS).
Dunking Jump Required for Different Heights
The taller you are, the less energy you will spend dunking. However, your ability to dunk takes more than just your height. Power and velocity are crucial in bridging the gap between your size and the dunk.
Proper training will have you performing the exhilarating jump regardless of your height.
If anything, players such as Nate Robinson and Spud Webb have gone ahead to show us that nothing is impossible.
Let's assess the needed dunking jump at various heights.
We've used the standard rim height in our calculation, which is 10 feet above the ground. The usual additional reach required to dunk is 6 inches.
Expected standing reach: 7-foot-5.4
Touch rim jump: 30 inches
Dunk jump: 36 inches
Verdict: A dunk jump of 36 inches is impressive even for professional players making it difficult, but possible, to dunk at 5 feet 7 inches in height.
Expected standing reach: 7-foot-9.4
Touch rim jump: 25 inches
Dunk jump: 31 inches
Verdict: A 31-inch dunk jump might be challenging to achieve, meaning 5-foot-10 players need extra training to dunk.
Expected standing reach: 8-foot-4.1
Touch rim jump: 19 inches
Dunk jump: 25 inches
Verdict: If you are athletic, you should have an easy time dunking at 6-foot-3 height.
Conclusion: How Tall to Dunk
Being tall has some advantages when it comes to dunking, but it isn't everything.
From our analysis, you will notice the taller you are, the easier it should be to dunk without any serious training. However, you can drastically improve your ability to dunk through regular training and practice.
It might be as easy as buying the right pair of shoes or as difficult as hours of practice. But one thing is for sure: dunking is not all about height.
Related: Could the Shortest NBA Player Dunk?