Michael Jordan’s athletic gifts allowed him to become one of the best ever to play basketball. One of those gifts is his insane jumping ability. In basketball, jumping ability is sometimes referred to as “vertical,” short for “vertical leap.” Jordan’s vertical allowed him to hang in the hair and go for double or triple pump finishes over multiple defenders. How high was Jordan’s vertical leap, and does Michael Jordan have the highest vertical? If you want to know the answer, read on.
What is Michael Jordan’s Vertical Leap?
Jordan was nicknamed “His Airness” and “Air Jordan” for a reason. His vertical leap is historically one of the best the league has ever seen. The thing is, no one could verify the validity of any of these claims, although they can be estimated based on the physical evidence. The fact that the NBA did not have a draft combine in 1984 doesn’t help either.
For instance, many websites list Michael Jordan’s vertical leap at 48 inches, the highest vertical jump in the NBA. However, there is no official record of this aside from mere estimates. Jordan’s vertical is sure up in the 40s, but the nearest official measurement of his vertical jump back in college was 45.5 inches. He tested at 42 inches at the Sargent jump test, a popular method used in fitness training.
Whatever the case, Jordan’s explosive jumping ability allowed him to be the aerial artist that he was. Even though the NBA is home to the world’s best and most explosive athletes, the average NBA vertical jump is “only” 28 inches. Jordan’s 46-inch leap, or the unofficial 48-inch jump, is still among the highest NBA verticals.
How Did Michael Jordan Improve His Vertical?
Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to win the genetic lottery. Some individuals are just wired that way. For Jordan, it’s a combination of being a natural and improving those tools with hard work.
How can we be sure? His father, James Jordan, Sr., said Michael “worked” at his jumping ability by playing with his older brothers. Therefore, it did sound like the elder Jordan meant Michael mastered jumping by simply playing basketball and hustling around with the bigger kids, including his brothers. Besides, athleticism does seem to run in the Jordan family. Michael’s brother, Larry, can pull off double-pump dunks and other contest-worthy stuff at only 5-foot-8.
But then again, when he became a professional, Jordan took his training to another level. From simply coasting through natural abilities, Jordan hired Tim Grover in hopes of improving his God-given tools. At that point in his career, “His Airness” was coming up short in the playoffs and had a serious foot injury that caused him to miss all but 12 games of the season.
He and Grover worked hard to compile a list of various types of plyometric workouts and weight exercises that Michael did to improve his vertical jump. Grover introduced single-leg split squats, squat leaps, weighted jumps, and alternating leg jumps to strengthen Jordan’s lower extremity exercise regimen.
As a result, Grover was building a foundation of strength for Jordan. The result was an increase, not only in his vertical jump but also in his overall core. A stronger core ultimately led to extended hang-time, increased distance covered, and more body control in mid-air.
Does MJ Still Hold the Record for the Highest Vertical?
The highest vertical jump on record for Michael Jordan was 46 inches (rounded off), but it’s not far from the realm of possibility that he might have reached 48 inches on a good day. He, at least, should jump 42 inches just to get his head level to the rim. There are lots of video evidence that he did have his head way above the rim on some occasions.
Here is another reason why it’s possible for Jordan to have a 48-inch vertical. It is generally believed that jumping with a basketball is different from jumping without one. Jumping with a basketball lowers your vertical to some degree because you need to have a grip or control over it. Now, imagine this. If Jordan could jump with his head four inches above the rim on some basketball plays, he could easily add a couple more to that if he jumps on a Vertec device.
But does MJ still own the highest vertical jump in the NBA? Based on the latest record, no he doesn’t. Shaedon Sharpe, the 7th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, tested 49 inches on a Vertec device. Unlike MJ, though, the former Kentucky Wildcat has not yet played a single NBA game.
What Exercise Increases Vertical Jump Most?
If you want to try to increase your vertical jump, you can try simple exercises to make it possible. These include plyometric exercises aimed at increasing speed, power, and explosiveness. When an athlete improves the strength of their tendons, they are less likely to suffer from an injury while also becoming more explosive.
Jumping Jacks look like child’s play but don’t underestimate the advantages it brings. This plyometric workout can help you leap higher by strengthening your lower body. They also raise your heart rate while moving your body out of its normal plane of movement. This routine might also help you improve your performance in activities that require agility.
Single Leg Bounds
Single leg bounds help basketball players and all athletes improve leg strength, power, explosive coordination, and sprinting speed. Make sure the athlete focuses on maximal power and minimal ground contact time on each repeat. That’s the secret to unlocking all the benefits of the single-leg bound exercise.
This routine is exactly as it sounds. You start by doing a squat, but at the end of each repetition, you must execute a vertical jump from the squat position. Squat jumps strengthen your torso, hips, and legs, allowing you to jump explosively. Once you’ve mastered squat jumps, you can progress to weighted variations by utilizing a barbell, trap bar, or a set of dumbbells.
Tuck jumps are more advanced than squat jumps. As its name suggests, it involved tucking the knees into the abdominal area to strengthen the hip flexor, another key in increasing vertical jumps. It then enhances your quad’s explosive power, hip extension muscles, and core strength.
9 NBA Players with the Highest Vertical Record
Aside from Michael Jordan, a handful of NBA players could jump right out of the gym with him. Did you know that 40-inch verts, even in the NBA, are an outlier? It is estimated that less than 10% of all NBA players boast superhuman jumping ability. To prove that point, of 1,045 players who joined the NBA combine, only 79 recorded 40 inches or higher vertical jumps. That’s just roughly 8%.
That percentage goes even way down if we consider all NBA players, not just the ones who joined the Combine. Even ridiculously athletic players fall short of this yardstick. For example, the listed Kobe Bryant vertical is only 38 inches. Dwight Howard’s maximum record vertical jump was only 39.5 inches, and Dwyane Wade was at 36 inches. That’s insane if you think about it!
So who are the NBA players who have the highest vertical records?
- Darrell Griffith
Griffith was the only one who could jump inch by inch with Jordan. Records put his vertical leap at also 48 inches like MJ.
- Derrick Jones, Jr.
If you are nicknamed “Flight,” then you better back it up. Back it up he did! Jones, Jr. had a max recorded vertical of 46 inches, but he said he could actually go 48. Either way, that’s absolutely bonkers!
- Spud Webb
Webb, the shortest NBA Slam Dunk champion, has an unbelievable 46-inch vertical. It is rare for anyone at 5-foot-7 to play in the NBA, much less jump almost four feet into the air.
- Zach Lavine
The listed Zach Lavine vertical jump of 46 inches makes him one of the most athletic players in the NBA today. He’s already a two-time Slam Dunk champion, but the most amazing thing is how he makes everything look so easy.
- Jason Richardson
J-Rich was probably one of the best players never to make an All-Star team. He was a 20+ PPG scorer in his prime while being supremely athletic. Richardson was one of only six men to win at least two Slam Dunk titles. His 46-inch vertical allowed him to do practically everything he wanted in the air.
- LeBron James
LeBron James is what happens when you mess around and combine athleticism and basketball IQ. James had a 44-inch vertical, although that should now be off a couple of inches because of age.
- Nate Robinson
Krypto-Nate is the only man to win the Slam Dunk championship thrice, and that’s at 5-foot-9! The listed Nate Robinson vertical is 43.5 inches, but that could still be up a few inches on a good day. Still, that’s an athletic feat by any standards.
- Vince Carter
Most people think Carter must be on the top of the list, but he actually has a lower vertical than you think. The listed Vince Carter vertical jump is 43 inches. That is still very high by any standards, and he is probably the best dunker of all time, but the all-time vertical “title” does not have Carter’s name on it.
- Dominique Wilkins
It’s ‘Nique or T-Mac in here, but Wilkins got the Slam Dunk hardware so the nod goes to him. He was nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” and reportedly has a 42-inch vertical. At 6-foot-8, that’s more than enough to make a poster out of anybody who dares meet him at the rim.
Wrapping Things Up: Does Michael Jordan Have the Highest Vertical?
Michel Jordan was known for many things in basketball. One of those attributes was his superhuman jumping ability. His gracefulness as he glides into the air was the origin of the phrase “hang time.”
At 48 inches, does Michael Jordan have the highest vertical? Based on official records, no, he does not. Shaedon Sharpe, a rookie out of Kentucky, actually record a 49-nine-inch vertical at the Combine using the Vertec test. Still, that should not diminish the legacy of Jordan’s mythical ability to fly into the air. After all, Sharpe has not played a single NBA game yet, and Jordan is still talked about almost 20 years into his retirement.
If you’re interested in learning Michael Jordan’s story, check out this basketball biography book.
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