Many people are asking that question, “Can basketball make you taller?”, since the majority of basketball players are breathtakingly tall. In the NBA, the average height is 6-foot-7, a whole ten inches taller than the average American male.
Height is obviously an advantage when it comes to basketball, and one way of getting noticed by scouts is to be, well, tall. When their skills are properly honed, tall people are usually the best equipped to play basketball since they can reach the basket easily and can go up higher to collect rebounds or swat shots.
So, we go back to the million-dollar question once again: Can basketball make you taller? In this article, we will examine the facts and the science that determines your height and why people may have had this popular notion backwards all along.
Why Are Basketball Players Taller?
At a glance, that seems like a legitimately good question. After all, 11 per cent of the NBA (or around 40 persons) is 7-feet tall, and most of them are around 6-foot-7. So, really, why are basketball players taller?
While it’s true that stretching exercises and proper nutrition contributes to height, it is genetics that has the biggest say on the matter. According to Genetics Home Reference, 80% of the person’s height is determined by their genes. The DNA sequence variants of these genes are largely unknown, but the fact of the matter is, we don’t have much influence when it comes to our height.
But it doesn’t stop there. Scientific American says protein intake during childhood can be the answer on how to increase height. In addition to protein, minerals such as calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D influence height. That means adequate intake of these vitamins and minerals, especially during puberty, is crucial for determining height.
All these things considered, the question may not be so much about “Why are Basketball Players Taller?” but it could be the fact that basketball players began playing the game because they are already tall, to begin with. And then, they proceeded to implement a strict nutrition regimen to supplement what their genes are already predisposed to do.
To illustrate: A 10-year-old kid who is already 5-foot-10 finds out that he can score more easily than his peers who are around 5-feet. His parents sent him to all the basketball camps they can afford and provided him with the best nutritional supplements. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to think that if this kid reaches 6-foot-8 at 18, he could be an NBA prospect if he worked hard to get better.
Are There Medical Findings that Proves Playing Basketball Makes You Taller?
No, there aren’t. It is a scientific fact that our height varies throughout the day (that’s because of the compressed spinal fluid sacs when you are standing), but there are no scientific studies that prove playing basketball makes you taller. The same can be said of stretching or hanging on a bar. It can make you a little taller, like 1 or 2 centimeters tall, briefly, but it does not have a lasting effect.
The three scientifically-proven factors that determine height are genetics, diet, and age. The first two are already mentioned in the preceding sections while age is a huge factor as well because when you become older (late teens to early ’20s for men and mid-teens to late-teens for women), you simply stop growing.
How Do You Grow Taller In Basketball?
We hate to burst your bubble, but you may have known by now that you don’t grow tall just by playing basketball. However, that should not stop you from playing the game that you love, at all. What’s more, while basketball won’t make you taller, per se, it can help you achieve a stronger, fitter body.
That said, there are a couple of claims as to why basketball can help you grow taller, but they are not backed by real scientific evidence. These are theoretical, or anecdotal, at best so you can take this with a grain of salt.
- One claim is that growth hormones are stimulated with continuous jumping. As jumping increases the electrical current flow from the body to the brain, growth hormones are triggered, which may lead to height increase. This would also enable blood to flow in the growth plates of the spine and legs, which may also make you grow taller.
- HGH, human growth hormone, can become increased if you engage in sports. Because basketball requires you to constantly jump and run, it may lead to the stimulation of HGH. However, you should still need to eat nutritious food to optimize this process.
- This could just be a useless fad, but there have been claims about wearing certain types of insoles that could make you grow taller. This is made possible because the pressure points located on your feet are being stimulated by the insoles.
These do sound like old wives tales, and it is totally up to you to decide. It has been scientifically proven that up to 15 to 20% of a person’s height is determined by factors other than genetics, so it may not be too late, after all. But then again, much has not been known regarding these genetic height determinants so you never really know.
More often than not, rather than increasing your height, basketball lets you improve your physical skills and abilities such as:
- Jumping ability. Jumping is one of the things you always have to do when playing basketball. Obviously, jumping does not have many everyday uses but developing that ability means you are increasing your leg strength and overall power.
- Speed and stamina. Basketball will develop your speed and stamina by running up and down the court.
- Hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is the harmony of the eye movements with the hand or the ability of the vision system to harmonize the information received by sight to control, direct, and guide the hands in order to accomplish a function. Playing basketball will improve your hand-eye coordination with constant motions such as catching, making, passes, and shooting.
What Age Do You Stop Growing?
This has been touched earlier but let’s narrow it down to specifics.
For boys, most will stop growing by 18, but some have grown a couple more inches up until they are 21 years old. This is the exception, rather than the rule. On the other hand, the majority of girls will stop growing inches by the time they are 15. This is the case for girls because they tend to hit puberty a couple of years earlier than the boys.
In any case, the most rapid growth phase for girls and boys is 1 to 2 years after hitting puberty. It will then become slower and stop four to five years from puberty. There are cases that can be out of the ordinary, such as a growth spurt happening in the late teens or even in the early 20s. One such example is that of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman growing 14 inches at 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 at 19 years old. Again, Rodman’s experience is more of an aberration than a normal occurrence.
Here are other examples of late growth spurts that happened to NBA players:
Scottie Pippen grew seven inches from a 6-foot-1 guard to a 6-foot-8 do-it-all forward for the University of Central Arkansas.
David Robinson grew from a 5-foot-9 junior to graduating high school as a lanky 6-foot-7 forward. Then he added six more inches to his height in college to be at 7-foot-1.
CJ McCollum grew from 5-foot-2 at age 14 to 5-foot-11 by the time he graduated high school. In college, he had another growth spurt which propelled him to 6-foot-4.
So if you’re asking: Can basketball help increase your height after 18? The answer is, it can, but it is not likely. You still have hope but don’t you count on it.
How Basketball Players Increase Their Height?
It is true that most professional basketball players have won the genetic lottery, but they seldom leave it at that. Depending on the circumstances, many of them regularly take supplements and the right nutrition to help them grow taller.
If we are talking about supplements and nutrition, probably the most critical of them is what is called essential nutrients, including vitamins. They are called “essential” since you need to obtain them from your diet because the body can’t produce them sufficiently, or it can’t produce them at all.
There are 13 essential vitamins that your body needs, and almost all of them aid in growth and in cell development. Some of these are Vitamin A (healthy bones and teeth), Vitamin E (muscle maintenance), Vitamin B1 (proper nerve function), Vitamin B2 and B3 (important for energy metabolism), and folic acid (helps in the synthesis of amino acids). (The other essential vitamins are vitamin C, D, K, B5, B6, B7, and B12.)
More often than not, basketball players make sure they have enough essential vitamins and nutrients so they can perform at their peak. It is especially critical to stick to a good nutrition plan during the puberty years, at a time when physical growth is at its pinnacle.
Aside from eating right and acquiring proper nutrition, there are also a number of exercises and workouts that they do to help them grow taller. These exercises may not directly put the added inches to their height, but they improve flexibility, muscle strength, muscle stability, and balance.
One of the foremost basketball exercises to become taller is stretching, although some may employ cross-training and unconventional ways such as swimming and yoga. Stretching is particularly important as a warm-up method of some sort, but it may also contribute to increased height. Some say the height boost is temporary, but overall, stretching is a good way to increase flexibility and a greater range of motion for the joints.
Another way that basketball players could do to influence their height is by taking performance-enhancing drugs such as synthetic HGH. That is, of course, illegal since HGH is an anabolic steroid but many claims it is the worst-kept secret in the sporting world, including professional basketball. Whether that claim is accurate or not, it is not advisable taking anabolic steroids such as synthetic GHG considering the plethora of adverse side effects that can happen to your body.
Aside from proper nutrition and stretching exercises, perhaps the most overlooked part about basketball players that may have contributed to their height is all the training they do. Over-exercising, of course, will have the opposite effect, but if done right and in integration with other factors, physical activity could be partly responsible why are basketball players taller.
The Tallest Basketball Players In the NBA– Then and Now
Basketball has evolved a lot as a sport and has been gearing towards a more positionless and skilled game. However, even with these developments, height is always might in basketball. As they say, a good bigger man trumps a good smaller man every single time.
Here are some of the tallest retired NBA players:
Gheorge Muresan. Muresan is of Romanian descent and was once awarded Most Improved Player in the NBA in 1996. He is measured to be 7-feet, 7.5 inches, making him the tallest NBA player of all time.
Manute Bol. When it comes to Manute, we can just blame the genes for how outrageously tall he was at 7-foot-6. Bol is a Dinka tribesman, officially the world’s tallest people with the average height of males at 6-foot-4. For good measure, the average height of Dinka women is 6-feet.
Shawn Bradley. Shawn Bradley has been one of the most prolific shot-blockers during his prime, and his height definitely helped. He was 7-foot-6 and said to have a standing reach of 10-feet, two inches, which means he can reach the hoop without any part of his feet leaving the ground.
Yao Ming. Some say Yao is 7-foot-5, some say he is 7-foot-6, let’s just say he is gigantic, alright? Yao is inarguably the best player here in the group of retired tallest NBA players with five All-NBA selections and eight All-Star appearances across his name. Did I mention he was also a Hall of Famer?
Mark Eaton. There are a couple of retired players that were taller than the 7-foot-4 Eaton, but none came close to his resume. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and currently still holds the record for most blocks in a season and most blocks per game.
Now, who are the tallest players that are currently in the NBA? Let’s take a look:
Tacko Fall. Tacko is currently in a two-way contract for the Boston Celtics, but he is also today’s tallest NBA player at 7-foot-6. Just like Shawn Bradley, Fall’s standing reach is a ridiculous 10-feet and two inches.
Kristaps Porzingis. Probably the best player out of this group, KP is 7-foot-3 with a standing reach of 9-feet, four and a half inches. He made it to the NBA All-Star team in 2018.
Boban Marjanovic. Along with his Mavs teammate Porzingis, Marjanovic made it to the list at 7-foot-3 with a 9-foot-7 standing reach.
Wrapping Things Up: Can Basketball Make You Taller?
It’s never good to burst anyone’s bubble when it comes to this question, but unfortunately, the answer is no. It is usually the other way around– tall people blessed with good genes play basketball, often stick to it, and most likely to be better than their shorter peers.
Now, are they getting help from somewhere else other than winning the genetic lottery? Probably. Only up to 80% of your maximum height is determined by genetics. The rest is influenced by nutrition and other factors. It’s also interesting to note that there are more than 700 height variants in our genes, probably more will be discovered in the future, and more understanding will come to light on how they particularly influence a person’s height. Right now, scientists are generally in the dark when it comes to the function of height variants.
When it comes to nutrition, it is of absolute importance that you consume the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals to optimize your growth. Most of these 13 essential vitamins directly impact the growth and development of the muscles and bones. We cannot control how genetics play out, but we can supervise everything that is going to be put in our bodies. With that being said, the importance of nutrition should not be understated.
In most cases, males often achieve their optimum height at age 18 and females, by the time they are 15. Puberty hits hard and fast, and that’s all the time we all have to grow. Of course, there are documented cases of anomalies about height increase, such as insane late growth spurts, but that is an exception rather than the rule.
To bring this discussion to a close, does basketball make you taller? No, there really is no such activity that can make you taller– not even basketball, which requires jumping and stretching movements. All you can do is hope that genetics plays out favorably while making sure you get the proper nutrition and exercise. Nothing is set in stone, but it could, at least, shift the odds in your favor.
Did you find this helpful? Then also check out other basketball FAQ articles here.