While not recognized as an event like the 100-meter sprint or the long jump, the vertical jump is one of the most important moves in basketball. There might not be a singular competition that pits the best jumper in the world against one another, but basketball might help fill that gap.
Unfortunately, not having one centralized competition makes it hard to look at records as sports federations and committees don’t record the vertical jump record in one place. The NFL Combine and the NBA draft both do have some records so we can use them to get a ballpark. While they might not be worldwide but both leagues do contain some of the most talented athletes in the world so we can trust that they’re probably relatively accurate.
To get an accurate figure we’ve compared the records for the vertical jump from a standstill, a running jump which allows for a small run-up and a platform jump. A platform jump is where the player has to jump onto a platform from a standstill. This jump is measured by the maximum amount of distance between the surface and your feet, so it’s often higher than the other two because you tuck your feet in.
Let’s dive right in:
1. Standing Vertical Jump Record
First up we have the Standing Vertical, which as we explained before is where you reach as high as you can as you jump. This figure is then compared to your standing reach, or the highest spot you can reach without jumping. The standing vertical is one of the most important figures used by both the NBA and the NFL and is one of the jump statistics used to measure the best players. Looking at how the pros do it is a great way to improve your own jump.
If you’re looking to develop your standing vertical, it’s pretty easy to do. Simply find a spot where you can mark your standing reach and see how far you can get above it jumping. If you practice every day you’ll be surprised by how much you improve and how high you can go.
The top Standing Vertical in the NFL is 46″, while the NBA is slightly lower at 38″. Check out the records below from both leagues to get an idea of how high the top professionals can get, and see how much you measure up!
NFL Combine Record
All-time: 46.0″ – Gerald Sensabaugh (2005)
Recent: 45.0″ – Chris Conley (2015), Donald Washington (2009)
NBA Draft Records
All-time: 38.0″ – Dwayne Mitchell (2012), Justin Anderson (2015)
Recent: 37.5″ – Joel Bolomboy (2016), Demetrius Jackson (2016)
Why Do NFL Players Jump Higher?
Many people are surprised when they find out that football players in the NFL can jump higher than players in the NBA. After all, basketball surely relies on height to make those dunks and you need a great jump to do that, so why are some NFL players managing to beat NBA players by up to 8 inches. The answer is simpler than you think.
- First, contrary to what your brain tells you about the NBA players don’t actually have to jump all that high. The rim is always going to be set at 10 feet off the ground. A 33-34 standing vertical jump means that at 6-foot-tall you can easily dunk, and most dunks have a runup anyway meaning your momentum pushes your jump up anyway.
- Secondly, many players in the NBA are much taller than 6 feet, which is often considered small for a basketball player, so there’s not much to gain by having a crazy high standing vertical.
Football players don’t need the endurance that a basketball player needs. Football players rely on explosive bursts of activity like for the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle whereas ballplayers have 4 quarters of 12 minutes intense endurance. The vertical jump is crucial for an NFL player as a measurement of their explosiveness in a way that the NBA player just doesn’t need.
So there you have it: NFL players train for the vertical by actively trying to maximize their vertical in a way the NBA just doesn’t require from their players.
2. Running Vertical
The next statistic we’re looking at is the Running Vertical. This is a more important statistic for measuring performance actually in a game, whereas the standing vertical is really a measure of explosiveness and power and isn’t too much use especially in basketball. Taking a run-up before jumping can add energy and momentum to your jump resulting in a greater leap. The better your technique is in the run-up, the more energy you’ll add to the jump itself.
The aim of this one is all about adding momentum to the jump through the run-up. It’s a little harder to compare this one because the NFL doesn’t take it as a single measurement. We can assume that it’s going to be higher than the NBA draft records though because even their standing vertical is recorded higher than the running vertical from the NBA.
If you’re looking to improve your own running jump than considering that there is a limit on the number of steps you can take before jumping in an official measurement. You’ll see players taking a half-court run up and making some inhuman leaps for the dunk, and it’s worth remembering that their official measurements don’t allow for that sort of run-up. Working on your technique in the run-up can exponentially improve your jump, so don’t rush it.
If you’re wondering how we can be so certain that the NFL running vertical would beat the NBA than take a look at the records from the NBA draft below:
NBA Draft Records
All-time: 44.5″ – Kenny Gregory (2001)
Most recent: 44.0″ – Pat Connaughton (2015)
Even the top players improve on their standing vert by between 4-9 inches with a run-up, so when you consider that the best NFL players have a standing vertical of 46’’, it’s not crazy to assume that they might be reaching the mid-50s with a runup. This isn’t to take away from the skill of the NBA, and no NBA player would have a hope of beating an NBA player in a game of basketball, but it does give you some idea of the heights ballplayers can reach.
3. Platform Vertical Jump
Platform Vertical Jump: 63.5″ - Evan Ungar (2016)
Our last statistic is the Platform Vertical Jump and this record goes to the Canadian Evan Ungar, which was recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2016. As we explained previously, a Platform Vertical Jump is where a person has to jump onto a platform from a standing position. You’re not looking to get your hand up high this time but tuck your knees in to maximize the distance between your feet and the surface. This is why you might find the record difficult to believe because the measurement is so high even when compared to the explosive power of the NFL players.
You can find the record below, but be warned it’s pretty unbelievable and you’ll struggle to beat it.
Ungar beat the previous record held by Justin Bethel by 3.5 inches, so it’s a pretty amazing step up. If you want to have a go yourself, you’ll find plenty of footage of this amazing feat on YouTube, but be careful, it’s pretty high!
Obviously, we can’t be certain that no one’s ever beaten the record because Guinness will only record the jump if there’s an official from the World Records there. Kevin Bania has set an unofficial record of 65’’, and you can find videos of his incredible jump on YouTube pretty easily.
Unofficial Platform Vertical Record
Kadour Ziani is another contender for the unofficial record as some claim he has the highest jump in the world at 64.5". So really the record for Platform vertical jump could be much higher than it is officially recorded…
In conclusion, there are 3 types of vertical jump: Standing, Running, and Platform. The NFL and the NBA use these statistics to see how their players measure up against each other, and to make sure they’re getting the maximum effort for the very best of their respective sports. It’s hard to see one particular athlete who holds the record for either of these because there isn’t a singular competition that would centralize this data but hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of the sort of heights the professionals could reach if they wanted to.
It may surprise you to have learned that while NBA players do jump and dunk a lot more than their NFL counterparts, the NFL requires an explosiveness from their players that lends itself to high leaping. They may not be required to jump for their sport but NFL players sure can jump high if they need to. At the end of the day, who holds what record doesn’t really matter, and this article really serves to illustrate the sort of heights (literally) that the very best athletes are capable of reaching.
The NFL players train hard for their explosive power and it really lends itself to the sort of energy needed for a high standing vertical. The NBA simply doesn’t train anywhere near as hard for the standing vert because they just don’t need to in their sport, but that doesn’t mean that their scores aren’t insanely high. Have a go yourself and you’ll soon see what we mean.
It’s hard to say how NFL players would stack up in the Running Vertical because the NFL doesn’t need it as a measurement, but extrapolating the data from the NBA combine and found that a player generally adds 4-9 inches to their standing vertical, you can see how a run-up might mean that an NFL player could reach the low to mid-50s.
The Platform Vertical will take a lot to beat that record, and you’ll soon see what we mean if you look up some videos. The people who undertake it train for a long time to reach such heights, so we won’t be holding our breath for a challenger anytime soon.
If you are a ballplayer and you’re a bit concerned about your stats compared to some of these don’t worry. These are some of the top athletes in the world and it would take a lot of skill to be able to compete with them. Working on your own skills on the court is the best way to go if you want to improve your game and remember that even at 6-foot you’re probably going to find dunking relatively easy. Keep practicing and you’ll see improvements by the bucketful!
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