When we think of athletes that can jump high the sport of basketball instantly comes to mind. They do dunk after all, which is possibly the most exciting action in all of sports. NBA players are unique to say the least, with their combination of size and athleticism it makes for many memorable moments; moments where the athletes are seemingly floating in air.
This got me thinking, who has the highest vertical jump in NBA history?
The highest NBA vertical jump belongs to Michael Jordan with a height of 48 inches. In 1984, Jordan reportedly tested his vertical jump while playing for the U.S. Olympic team. Those in attendance support that Jordan successfully achieved a 48 inch vertical.
No surprise there really, he is known for the jump man logo after all, but there is little proof of many of these all time highest NBA vertical jump performances. Which is why in this article I am going to breakdown and sort through all of the claims floating out there for players past and present.
The Vertical Jump Throughout NBA History
The ability to jump high has become increasingly more important throughout the history of the NBA. This is related to the emergence of the dunk. In the early days of the NBA dunking was considered insulting to the opposing team and was therefore rarely utilized. One can guess then that a player’s vertical jump ability was of little importance. By the early 1960s big men in the league like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain began to incorporate the dunk. Now we start moving the needle a little bit in terms of the vertical jump, but still not much because it was a move largely reserved for the tallest of athletes.
Finally in the 1970s we start to see the creative high flying dunks we all love. Players like Darryl Dawkins and Julius Erving ushered in the modern era of dunking and with it the importance of having a high vertical jump.
Average NBA Vertical Jump
Now before we get into listing some of the highest vertical jumps in NBA history I think it is important to set the foundation. The average NBA vertical jump is 28 inches. This is no small feat by any means, 28 inches is a very good height and would put the average person to shame. However, it is important to know what the majority of players are capable of so that we can truly appreciate the greatness of these verticals.
I mean they are all nearly a full foot and a half higher than the 28 inch NBA average.
Highest Vertical Jumps In The NBA
Here it is! The highest NBA vertical jump list.
I have searched the internet to find and attempt to corroborate the vertical jump accolades of NBA players past and present and this list includes the best of the best. The jumps combined with the height of most of these athletes makes these performance simply freakish.
LeBron James – 44 Inches
The King. LeBron James is one of the best leapers and overall athletes to ever play the game. His abilities are something that we have never seen, a nearly perfect combination of size, strength, speed, and skill that has resulted in one of the all time best careers.
I put him lowest on this list because I couldn’t completely confirm the 44 inch vertical jump. Is he over 40 inches? Yes without a doubt, but 44 seems like a lot for a guy his size. Especially when the only websites that claim he achieved that vertical all spell hoops with a “z”. In either case he is a supreme athlete and one of the best dunkers in league history so I am fine including him as one of the highest vertical jumpers in NBA history.
Andrew Wiggins – 44 Inches
Man poor Andrew just can’t get away from being mentioned close to LeBron.
All jokes aside, Andrew Wiggins is a phenomenal athlete with unbelievable jumping ability. He was selected #1 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, with a lot of the pre-draft hype revolving around his athleticism. His frame is suited for the league and is a major reason why he was so heavily recruited in high school despite playing in Canada.
Andrew Wiggins stands around 6’8″ with a reported 44 inch vertical jump. That is a ridiculous amount of hops and means that at his peak jump height Andrew’s head reaches a full 4 inches above the rim. The 44 inch vertical took place during a private workout in 2014 with ESPN in attendance.
Shannon Brown – 44.5 Inches
Shannon Brown won 2 NBA titles with the LA Lakers while playing alongside Kobe Bryant. He was a mainstay on the Lakers during this time period and served mainly as a direct reserve to Kobe. Brown was made popular by his leaping ability and has a large amount of highlights on the internet for a player that spent the majority of his career on the bench. He was drafted 25th overall in the 2006 draft in large part because of his athletic ability. His vertical jump was recorded at 44.5 inches.
Zion Williamson – 45 Inches
Potentially the most impressive vertical leap on this list belongs to Zion Williamson. The hype surrounding him is something only comparable to LeBron in terms of the near mythical view of his abilities as an athlete. As a sports performance coach myself, I can tell you that Zion has overdelivered on that hype. His athleticism at a height of 6’6″ and a bodyweight of somewhere around 280 lbs is unlike anything I have ever seen. He moves and explodes like the best athlete on the floor, something more commonly seen out of athletes that are nearly 100 lbs less in size.
This athleticism is probably best displayed during his jumping ability. Zion famously broke the vertical jump record at Duke with a 45 inch performance. That is crazy height for a player weighing almost 300 lbs and is only possible with elite levels of strength and power. If you factor in a performance decrease due to testing anxiety, which is common amongst athletes, then Zion may one day be known for having the highest vertical jump in NBA history.
Spud Webb – 46 Inches
Anthony “Spud” Webb is iconic in the NBA and is best known for his 1986 Slam Dunk Contest victory. Spud Webb was one of the shortest players in NBA history which makes his accomplishments even more impressive. His jump height was put on display during his rookie year when he entered into the NBA Dunk Contest.
Spud Webb had a spectacular vertical jump of 46 inches and stood only 5’7″ tall. His nearly 4 foot vertical allowed him to complete an assortment of successful dunks, eventually leading to his victory over NBA legend and teammate Dominique Wilkins. At the peak of his jump Spud’s head was only 5 inches below the rim, a crazy display of athleticism for an athlete his size. He is also one of the few players in league history who could dunk without being able to palm a basketball.
Darrell Griffith – 48 Inches
Dr. Dunkenstein himself, Darrell Griffith is possibly the highest jumper in league history. Most fans probably have never heard of him and he actually never won a Slam Dunk Contest despite having a 4 foot vertical. That’s right! Darrell Griffith had a 48 inch vertical jump, a height that is really hard to fathom.
Griffith earned the nickname of “Dr. Dunkenstein” while playing at Louisville. In the NBA he played his entire career for the Utah Jazz where his athleticism was put on display. He played 11 seasons in the league and later received the honor of having his #35 jersey retired by the Jazz.
Michael Jordan – 48 Inches
The greatest, plain and simple. Michael Jeffrey Jordan is the rightful owner of the highest vertical jump in NBA history. With a nickname like “His Airness” and the inspiration for the jumpman logo it should really not even be a question. Michael Jordan is the best jumper of all time. His explosiveness really has very little comparison in basketball terms.
Michael Jordan tops this list with a vertical jump of 48 inches. His reported hang time was 0.92 seconds.
I understand that technically he tied Darrell Griffith, but come on, the tape doesn’t lie. Jordan had a snap and an effortless nature to how he moved that is so rare even amongst the elite. If that doesn’t end the discussion, then he was 2 inches taller than Griffith which means that his peak elevation would’ve been higher either way.
His most iconic dunk is the now infamous free throw line jump during the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Competition. To put that in perspective, the free throw line is a full 15 feet away from the rim and he was able to easily maintain his vertical height while covering that distance.
Great Dunkers Who Aren’t All Time At The Vertical Jump
I’m sure you were surprised by this list. A lot of the best dunkers in the NBA did not make the cut. Many of the league’s top scorers and superstars were no where to be found on a ranking of the highest NBA vertical jumps. This just goes to show how much of success in sports comes down to skill and intangibles. Athleticism is a game changer but the best are always the most skilled, and I’m a sports performance coach saying that.
Dwayne Wade – 36 Inches
Dwayne Wade was electrifying as a player. His first few seasons took the league by storm and he was able to put together on all time level career. The injuries did pile up early and he lost a bit of explosiveness but like any elite player he adjusted and found new ways to make a difference.
His vertical jump was recorded at a max height of 36 inches. A great score, but when you also factor in his height there isn’t anything that jumps out at you about that number. Regardless, he has some of the best highlights in recent memory and was able to stack up a few posterized moments over his career.
Russell Westbrook – 36.5 Inches
Russell Westbrook has a vertical jump of 36.5 inches. I was shocked by this one because Russell is consistently putting up crazy flying dunks. He is also not the tallest player so I just assumed his vertical had to be amongst the best. Now to be clear 36.5 is great and when you combine that with his elite quickness and speed it makes for a dangerous combination.
His numbers speak for themselves, the guy is impossible to guard.
Kobe Bryant – 38 Inches
One of the greats, Kobe Bryant should be on any list of top NBA anything. The man had a competitive fire that we rarely see in an athlete. He was truly uncommon amongst uncommon men. His scoring ability was the best in the league for an entire era and he racked up some impressive dunks over that time.
His vertical jump was recorded at 38 inches. That’s a great performance and honestly no surprise. I would have guessed Kobe Bryant would end up around there because while always athletic he was never known for being super explosive. He is however an elite athlete with elite skill that to me is one of the best to ever play the game.
NBA Combine Vertical Jump Record: DJ Stephens – 46 Inches
Former University of Memphis standout DJ Stephens is by no means a household name. He went undrafted and played in the NBA’s Summer League before moving on to play oversees. In his time at Memphis he was known for his acrobatic dunks and has some seriously impressive highlights. DJ Stephens also holds the NBA combine vertical jump record, with a 46 inch vertical that he set in 2013. The record was previously held by Kenny Gregory who jumped 45.5 inches back in 2001.
This is the only completely verifiable vertical jump height on this list. It was performed during a testing event held by the NBA itself, most of these other performances are validated stories. I am not confident in calling DJ Stephens’ performance the highest vertical jump in NBA history because, well…have you seen Michael Jordan.
It is important to note that Stephens wasn’t considered for the highest vertical jump in NBA history because he only ever signed a 10 day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, playing in one game for 12 minutes.
The Highest Vertical Jump In NBA History
When we think about the athletes who can jump the highest there is no doubt that an NBA player comes to mind. But, who has been able to jump the highest?
I set out to sort through the information and stories surrounding the amazing feats of athletes past and present to definitively answer that question. In the end, the answer was no surprise. Michael Jordan is a legitimate legend and was known for his ability to fly through the air. The fact that he has the highest vertical jump in NBA history is simply another small note to add to his unmatched list of career accomplishments.
I hope that you found this article fun and entertaining. If you are interested, check out my post on who had the highest vertical jump ever.