Want to showcase sick moves and smash that hoop to impress the ladies (or guys)? You may be wondering how tall one needs to be to be able to dunk.
Well, shorter than you may be thinking!
Basketball players are generally pretty tall, but your height alone isn’t enough to make the verdict on your dunking ability.
Let me explain!
How Tall Do You Have To Be To Dunk?
So how tall do you have to dunk?
As an answer, I’d say that the question is formulated not quite correctly. Sure, height alone can go a long way in helping you dunk, but there are other parameters to this equation.
Your ability to dunk more depends on your standing reach and your vertical jump. Being really tall will undoubtedly help you reach the hoop, but standing reach and vertical jump height are decisive in this question.
What is standing reach, and why is it important?
Standing reach is how high up you can reach with your arm while standing flat-footed. As you might have already guessed, standing reach depends a lot on height. But aside from height, it also depends on the length of one’s arms.
If you look at the NBA Draft Combine anthropometric stats, you’ll notice that taller players generally have higher standing reach. However, the relationship isn’t one-to-one due to variations in arm’s length.
As an example, let’s take Tyler Bey and Ty-Shon Alexander. Tyler Bey is 6’6” tall (without shoes), whereas Ty-Shon Alexander is 6’2” tall – a difference of 4 inches. However, the difference in their standing reaches isn’t 4 inches – it’s actually 5.5 inches (Bey’s 8’9.50” vs. Alexander’s 8’4”).
Bey is not just taller – he also has longer arms! This is a rather trivial yet effective example for demonstrating that height alone is not very helpful in determining one’s dunking potential.
And interestingly, in some cases, shorter players may have a higher reach. For example, Zeke Nnaji is 6’9.25” without shoes but has the same standing reach as the 6’6” Tyler Bay – 8’9.50”!
With all that in mind, even though basketball players do tend to be really tall, standing reach should also be considered. If you aren’t super-tall, don’t feel hopeless just yet – your standing reach may be able to even things out!
Why is your vertical jump important?
Standing reach may be a saving factor for moderately short people, but those of you under 6 feet probably won’t be able to reach very high. Just have a look at the Draft Combine anthropometric data – shorter players generally have a shorter standing reach across the board.
Still, in case your standing reach doesn’t quite achieve the 9 feet mark, your vertical jump may be able to save you.
What sets the vertical jump apart from standing reach and height is that it can be trained, whereas reach and height are defined on a genetic level. You can’t become taller or extend your arms’ length, but you can work on your vertical jump.
Now, the shorter you are – both in terms of height and reach – the harder you will need to work to dunk. However, for many people out there, bringing their vertical jumps to a dunk-worthy level is possible.
Before we move forward, know that there are two vertical jump measurements – standing and maximum. Standing vertical jump is measured by jumping without a run-up (that is, from a standstill), while the maximum vertical jump does allow a running start.
As far as dunking is concerned, your maximum jump would be a better indicator since you probably won’t be attempting a dunk from a standstill. Read my vertical jump guide to find out how to measure your vertical jump.
Anyway, considering that basketball hoops are generally mounted 10 feet high from the ground, your vertical jump needs to cover the difference between your standing reach and 10 feet, plus around 6 inches to comfortably reach over the hoop to dunk. So the taller you are, the less you will have to jump.
Realistically, how high could you expect yourself to jump? Well, I give some test norms in my vertical jump guide. Though, note that these are given for standing vertical jumps from a static position.
For individuals aged over 20, the average vertical jump ranges from 16.14 to 21.65 inches for males and 12.21 to 17.72 inches for females. Converted to feet for convenience, this would be 1.35 to 1.80 and 1.02 to 1.48, respectively.
If your vertical jump falls in these ranges, you’d need to have a standing reach between 8.7 to 9.15 feet if you are a lad and 9.02 to 9.48 feet if you are a lady. These estimates account for the extra 6 inches you need to jump over the hoop.
These numbers (especially women’s) are pretty ridiculous, but they’re just an example.
How tall would you need to be to have a standing reach in these ranges? Judging by NBA Draft Combine data, about 6’6”.
If you are shorter, don’t forget that you can work to improve your vertical jump! Men in great physical condition can jump over 2 feet. If you can jump 2 feet or higher, your standing reach will only have to be up to 8 feet 6 inches! NBA players with such standing reach are about 6 feet 4-5 inches tall.
By the way, to make all these calculations easier, you could make use of an online dunk calculator like this one.
Am I Tall Enough To Dunk?
Fine, the taller you are, the easier it will be to dunk, but are YOU tall enough for it?
Well, height aside, your main limitation would be your vertical jump.
Michael Jordan owned a 48-inch (4 feet) vertical jump. This probably is fairly close to the limits of human capabilities, though I hope we’ll see even more from NBA players.
With a 48-inch vertical jump, one would only need a standing reach of 6 feet to make a dunk. But let’s be honest, achieving over 40 or even 30 inches is no easy feat, no matter how tall you are.
Being realistic and based on the average vertical jump figures I mentioned earlier, I’d say that 6’6” is the optimal minimal range for dunking. If you are shorter, you will have a heck of a time trying to reach the hoop. On the other hand, taller people aren’t necessarily good jumpers, but they won’t have to jump too high.
To summarize, here is a chart to help you figure out how high you should jump to make a dunk. The vertical jump numbers were calculated via the dunk calculator I mentioned earlier.
From this chart, you’ll notice that height is not very important – all that matters is your standing reach and vertical jump. The taller you are, the higher your standing reach, and the less you will have to jump.
|Required vertical jump with 10 feet rim height (includes 6 inches of extra reach for comfortable dunking)|
|Height||Standing Reach||Required vertical jump|
|5 feet||7’3”||39 inches|
|5 feet 3 inches||7’6”||36 inches|
|5 feet 6 inches||7’9”||33 inches|
|5 feet 9 inches||8’||30 inches|
|6 feet||8’3”||27 inches|
|6 feet 3 inches||8’6”||24 inches|
|6 feet 6 inches||8’9”||21 inches|
|6 feet 9 inches||9’||18 inches|
So there you go! I think if you are taller than 6’6”, you have pretty good chances of mastering the dunk – if you work on your vertical jump.
But even if you are way shorter, work on your vertical jump! I’d say that people at least 6 feet tall won’t struggle too much with jumping high enough.