We’ve all seen them make highlight reels and plays that make our jaws drop. But who was the highest vertical jump in the NBA that we’ve seen?
Is it Michael Jordan, Zach Lavine, LeBron James?
Well, if you want to be technical about it then you can refer to the NBA Draft Combine’s top jumpers where you have D.J. Stephens and Kenny Gregory leading the list. But the thing is not all NBA players went to the combine and the combine wasn’t always around so there are a number of high flying NBA dunkers that
Here are the top leapers that have graced our TV screens and awed us over the years. Towards the end, we included some other notable NBA dunkers just to know he high they go up.
Who Has The Highest Vertical Jump in NBA History?
Here’s a list of who has the highest vertical jump in NBA history including past retired players and current one.
1. Wilt Chamberlain – 48″
Wilt ‘the Stilt’ Chamberlain owns the highest vertical jump in NBA history. Wilt 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.
If you can find it, there’s an old footage on YouTube of Chamberlain jumping up in a game to block a shot where it looks like his hand reaches the top of the backboard to do so.
2. Darrell Griffith – 48″
Darrel Griffith comes in at #2 in our list of highest vertical jump in NBA retired and current players.
They called him Dr. Dunkenstein because of his amazing leaping ability.
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 jump in NBA club is 6’5” Zach Lavine who won the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
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 watch any of Minnesota’s games you’ve probably seen his wow the crowd with some great dunks.
5. Jason Richardson – 46″
6. James White – 46″
7. Spud Webb – 46″
At 5’7” Anthony ‘Spud’ Webb is one of the shortest players with the highest vertical jump in NBA history.
He 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 (who’s down this list too).
He is joined in this NBA high vertical jump group by fellow 5-foot-plus player Muggsy Bogues who’s at #9, with a 44 inch vertical. Bogues is even shorter at 5’3”.
8. Shannon Brown – 44.5″
9. Muggsy Bogues – 44.3″
10. David Thompson – 44″
One of the pioneers of the slam dunk movement is the original ‘Skywalker’ David Thompson. Along with Dr. J (Julius Erving), they made the game exciting to watch by incorporating acrobatic dunks no one had seen before back in the 1970’s.
Armed with a 44 inch vertical jump, David Thompson was rumored to be able to pick off a coin from the backboard. He did however dispel those rumors saying that couldn’t do that and that he’s never seen anyone do it. At least not yet.
While David Thompson could jump higher than Dr. J, Julius Erving was more creative and flamboyant when he went up in the air. He also had more ‘hang time’ which made him look more graceful and more fun to watch.
11. Andrew Wiggins – 44″
At our #11 spot, is the 2014 no. 1 overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Andrew Wiggins enters our list of highest vertical jump in NBA players coming in with a 44 inch vertical which he’s displayed in a number of in-game dunks.
His 44” vertical jump was publicized all over the web right around before the draft. The image shows him tapping the flags of the vertical jump test device. Because of the lack of information there, only those in attendance can say whether the jump was made from a standstill position or with a running start.
Nevertheless, his 44 inch vertical is very impressive and ranks him among the best vertical jumpers in the NBA.
12. Harold Miner – 44″
13. Dee Brown – 44″
14. Deshawn Stevenson – 44″
15. LeBron James – 44″
As much as we’d want to say we’re certain about the 44 inch vertical of LeBron James, we can’t. This information was gathered from as much data sources as we could analyze, but we’re not certain still.
One this we do know is that LeBron James does have a vertical that’s over 40 inches.
‘King James’ as he’s known was the most sought after high school player in history. Making news way before he graduated high school. He’s been known for spectacular dunks, though most of them while he was still in his high school days and early NBA career.
One of the unfortunate things for the fans though is that we’ve never got to see James compete in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Unlike the days of past when the best dunkers like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins would year-in and year-out compete to give the fans the best possible entertainment, many stars today opt not to include themselves in the NBA Slam Dunk competition anymore.
16. Nate Robinson – 43.5″
Together with Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues, Nate Robinson is among the shortest of the group. Robinson stands 5’9” tall and is the best dunker among the 3 ‘small guys’, as we’ve seen him do great in-game dunks and follow-up slams over bigger players.
Robinson’s 43.5 inch vertical also helped him win the NBA Slam Dunk trophy 3 times, something that only he has done. Four other players, including Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Harold Miner have each won the contest twice.
A lot of Nate Robinson’s vertical can be attributed to his muscle and strength as he is very conscious about his fitness and strength training. This is very visible in his physique.
17. Julius Erving (Dr. J) – 43″
18. Vince Carter – 43″
Known for his 360-dunks and between-the-legs dunks, Vince Carter was called ‘half-man-half-amazing’ thanks to the dunks he was able to perform.
Vince Carter is blessed with a 43 inch vertical leap that looks even more than what the measurements say. Surprisingly Carter has only won the Slam Dunk once. That’s because he’s so talented at it we thought he did win more than once. Well I guess that’s because he only chose to participate once.
One of Carter’s best and most memorable dunks was during the 2000 Olympics when he jump jumped over 7’2” Frederic Weis. Ah, good times. For us, not Weis.
19. Jamario Moon – 43″
20. Clyde Drexler – 43″
21. Tracy McGrady – 43″
22. Steve Francis – 43″
23. Speedy Claxton – 42.5″
24. Dominique Wilkins – 42″
25. Fred Jones – 42″
26. Shawn Kemp – 41″
27. Derrick Rose – 40″
Starting here, we’ve decided to skip through some of the lesser known players and include some of the well known jumpers and dunkers the NBA has seen.
We start off with Derrick Rose who has a vertical leap of 40 inches. Rose is one of the fastest and most explosive players off the dribble and in jumping. His high vertical jumping ability has allowed him to get through defenders to make shots in the lane.
Unfortunately, he’s suffered a number of injuries over the years and we hope to see him back in full fighting form soon with no more injuries. The good news is that he reported that the rehab from his previous injury allowed him to increase his vertical.
Hopefully he comes back at full strength from this latest setback since he’s great to watch on the floor.
28. Gerald Green – 39″
Known for his high leaping ability ever since his high school days, Green is a slam dunk machine that is well known for getting up in the air.
Gerald Green comes in with a vertical of 39 inches, which is surprisingly not as high as we thought. This figure came from the 2005 Draft Combine results where he posted a 39” max vertical and a 31.5” standing vertical.
While compiling the list we’ve seen a few players that were a bit baffling, where some didn’t seem like they could jump high but actually did, and others who seemed like they owned the vertical jump but really went up lower. Gerald Green falls under the latter. However, that’s never stopped him from making very few people in the world can make.
Green is one of the few individuals who can get their head above the rim as seen in a previous photo.
29. Kobe Bryant – 38″
Kobe Bryant may have lost a step in terms of quickness and leaping ability. But, in his younger days, he competed in numerous slam dunk contests back in the day.
And, in 1997, he won the All-Star Saturday contest to become NBA Slam Dunk Champion that year. All at the tender age of 19.
Kobe Bryant has a vertical leap of 38 inches that allows him to jump over opponents. And, become one of the few people able to copy Michael Jordan’s patented fade away, which requires a lot of jumping ability to separate yourself from defenders, especially those with long arms.
I still remember back in the day when Kobe would perform in-game 360s. That’s not something you can do without at least a 35 inch vertical.
30. Russell Westbrook – 36.5″
One of the best rebounding guards around, and all-around great player, Russell Westbrook uses his 36.5” vertical leap to drive and dunk over opponents. He also uses it along with his long wingspan to grab more than 7 rebounds a game so far in this 2014-2015 NBA season.
While Westbrook plays sidekick to Kevin Durant most of the time, he has shown that he’s an MVP candidate in his own right averaging close to 28 points a game, along with over 7 rebounds, and close to 9 assists per content in the 2014-2015 season when Durant’s been out.
31. Blake Griffin – 35.5″
We see him posterizing big men all the time with his thunderous dunks. Blake Griffin comes in with a vertical of 35.5 inches according the records of the Draft Combine.
The one notable thing about Griffin is that his standing vertical, where he doesn’t take any steps before jumping is 32” and his maximum vertical is 35.5”. Having this type of small difference is great for a big man since it allows them to jump high during post up situations, rebounds and shot blocking.
This is one thing that allows him to jump higher than others in the lane when there’s traffic since he doesn’t need to take any steps to get momentum.
32. Kevin Durant – 33.5″
One of the best scorers around, Kevin Durant owns a vertical of 33.5 inches. Durant is one example that’s opposite of Blake Griffin. In Durant’s case, having a running start gives him big advantage when he jumps.
According the Draft Combine report, from a standstill position Durant goes up 26” but adds a full 7.5” when he gets a running start. This is advantageous for him because he’s a wing player and his jumps come in when he’s driving, hence with a running start.