How tall do you need to be to dunk

In basketball, dunking is one of the hardest moves to pull off in-game because it requires power, explosiveness, timing, technique, and most importantly, height. In this article, we will discuss the ideal height to comfortably elevate and attack the rim.

Dunking is the act of putting the ball directly into the hoop. Generally, dunking is done with a lot of force which is why it has a lot of creative names like a ‘jam’, ‘throw-down’, ‘slam dunk’, or a ‘stuff’.

With the standard basketball hoop being 10 feet tall (3.048m), you have to cover a significant vertical area to touch the rim, let alone jump high enough to jam a ball in and hang on the rim. This is more commonly called the ‘vertical jump’ among athletes. The vertical jump is measured in inches and we will use this later to measure how high you have to jump given your height and standing reach.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Well, here’s the thing, as anticlimactic as it sounds, we can’t really tell how tall you have to be exactly since height isn’t the only factor in the dunking equation. Athletes differ in body composition, leg power, core strength, and many more, which makes it hard for us to bring it down to an exact science. Take this instance as an example: a man can be 6’6 ½ (2 m) in height but 500lbs (227kg) in weight which can hinder the factors I stated prior. And on the other hand, a man can be 5’9 (1.75m) and 180 lbs (86kg) but can dunk easily because he has a well-balanced body composition and above-average body power.

But here’s what we can tell you. You can easily measure how far up you have to jump to reach the rim. Naturally, taller people have a longer arm reach which is a helpful addition so that you won’t have to fully rely on your vertical reach. To see how high you have to jump, you can measure your standing reach with your arms up. After that, you can subtract this by 10 feet (3.048 m). Example: Joe is 5’9” (1.75m) but he reaches a standing reach of 7’6 (2.29 m). If you subtract 7’6 to 10 feet, he needs to cover 30” (.76m) of a vertical jump to reach the rim.

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In retrospect, without considering the other factors, here’s the bottom line: the taller you are, the less vertical area you have to jump to reach the rim. Consequently, the shorter you are, the much harder it gets. Here’s a simple breakdown:

HeightAverage standing reachVertical jump needed
5’7” to 5’9” (1.70-1.75 m)~7’7” (2.29 m)~30-35” (.74-.89 m)
5’10” to 6’ (1.78-1.83 m)~8’1” (2.46 m)~25-30” (.64 – .76 m)
6’1” to 6’3” (1.84-1.91 m)~8’5” (2.57 m)~20-25” (.51 – .64 m)

Now, you might argue that there are short athletes who can dish out flashy dunks like Muggsey Bogues (5’3”/1.6m) and Nate Robinson (5’8”/1.75m) but like what I said earlier, height isn’t the only factor in dunking but it’s the only factor that we can easily look into objectively.

Tips on how to increase your vertical jump

Height is only one of the many factors in the dunking equation, and you still have power, explosiveness, timing, and technique that you can work on to increase your vertical jump. Here are a few tips:

  1. Hit the gym – Compound exercises alongside muscle-targeted exercises will help tone your body and increase your power as you jump. Don’t forget that core muscles play a big role as well in increasing your vertical jump. An example of compound exercise is squats while an example of muscle-targeted exercises is a hamstring curl.
  2. Stretch before you jump – Stretching eases muscle tension and frees up your movement more. Make sure you stretch your whole body, specifically your legs before you attempt your dunks.
  3. Eat healthy – Body composition can be maintained at a healthy level with a proper diet. Exercising isn’t enough to make your body more fit.
  4. Watch your progress  – Record your progress every week to see how your body reacts with different workout routines and diet plans.
  5. Wear the right gear – Take the time to figure out what type of shoe fits you best. Also, experiment if basketball accessories like knee pads help you jump higher.
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With a consistent practice schedule and proper diet, you’ll definitely see a significant improvement in your vertical jump. But if you still can’t finish hard on the rim, don’t be discouraged! Dunking is only one of the many things that you can do to make a positive impact on your team on the basketball court. Figure out your strengths and capitalize on them. Identify your weaknesses and improve on them.

Types of basketball dunks

There are a lot of types of dunks which differ in difficulty and skill required to pull off. Some dunks use both hands, while some only require one. There are dunks that you have to put the ball under your legs while midair, while there are dunks that you have to spin in the air first before punching it down the rim. Here are a few dunks to name and their basic description:

  1. One-handed dunk – The ‘easiest’ dunk type. The player will rise up and dunk the ball with one hand.
  2. Two-handed dunk – This dunk has the same concept as the one-handed dunk but incorporates both hands for better grip with the ball.
  3. Alley-oop dunk – Requires another player to throw the ball to you midair, then you have to catch it and slam the ball.
  4. Windmill dunk – Just like a windmill, the player has to circle the ball (usually starting at the bottom going up, counterclockwise) before dunking it. Can be done with one or two hands.
  5. Tomahawk dunk – A type of dunk that requires the player to bring the ball back behind the head before slamming the ball. Can be done with one or two hands.
  6. Reverse dunk – This dunk is performed by facing the opposite end of the hoop. Usually done with two hands.
  7. Between the legs dunk – The player will transfer the ball to the other hand but between the legs midair. Another variation of this was done by Aaron Gordon where he transferred the ball to the other hand midair, but under his whole body as if he was sitting in the air.
  8. 360 dunk – This dunk requires the player to spin 360 degrees midair before dunking the ball.
  9. Off the backboard dunk – This dunk is performed by throwing or lobbing the ball off the backboard as the player jumps and catches the ball midair for the dunk. This can also be called a ‘self alley-oop’.
  10. Double clutch dunk – Having the same idea as a tomahawk dunk, the double clutch dunk requires you to cock the ball twice, usually behind your head first, followed by bringing it under your body before jamming the ball. 
  11. 540 dunk – A much harder variation of the 360 dunk, this maneuver requires the player to spin one and half times in the air before dunking the ball.
  12. Elbow hang dunk – This dunk requires slamming the ball with the player’s arms included as the forearm is used to hang on the rim. This was popularized by Vince Carter in the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest.
  13. Rock the cradle dunk – Similar to the windmill dunk, this dunk uses a player’s palm and wrist more as the ball is cradled like a baby and swung around before dunking the ball.
  14. Free Throw dunk – Sensationalized by Michael Jordan himself, this dunk requires the player to jump from the freethrow line before dunking the ball. This dunk resulted into the world-famous Jumpman logo that we all see today.
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Dunking is an incredible feat that every basketball player wants to achieve, it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re from, dunking is every player’s dream.

All of the tips mentioned above are just a general overview of how height affects a person’s ability to dunk. There might still be specific factors for some people depending on their situation. We hope that this article helped determine how tall you have to be to dunk a basketball. 

We hope to see you in our next posts!