When you look at basketball players like LeBron James and Michael Jordan, it’s hard not to wonder, why are basketball players so tall? The fact is that the players’ tallness has become such a key feature over the years.
Whether tall people gravitate to the sport or athletes push to reach their optimum height for a chance to be on a team, we’re going to look at the real reasons why basketball players are so tall. Keep reading if you want to not only know why, but discover how players reach these heights.
How Tall Are Basketball Players?
Before we get into why basketball players are so tall, we should look at what kind of height we’re talking about. The National Basketball Association (NBA) players are at least 6 foot 5 inches tall. This used to be the average player height for NBA players, but now that average is 6 foot 7 inches.
While this is the average, it has been recorded that the tallest NBA player in NBA history is Gheorghe Muresan. He reaches dizzying heights standing at 7 foot 7 inches tall.
Reasons Why Tallness Is Preferred
Being tall has become a defining quality for success in basketball and can be one of the first things scouts consider when recruiting for a team. But that still leaves us wondering, why are basketball players so tall?
Certain positions in the team require certain heights — for example, the average height of a player in center position is between 6 foot 9 inches to 7 feet tall.
This means that the average height requirement can change for each player. Their strengths in the game will mean they are suited to specific positions.
Okay, this is all good to know, but what advantage do tall basketball players have?
The basket is 10 feet off the ground. While many elements of basketball have evolved over the years, something seen across many sports, the height of the hoop has always been consistent. This tradition actually dates way back to nearly 130 years ago when Dr. James Naismith first invented the sport.
What Makes Basketball Players So Tall?
It’s simply a fact that taller players are preferred to play in the big league. If you’re reading this as a fellow tall person, chances are that your parents are tall too. Height is often embedded into our genes, meaning we have little choice over how many feet and inches we reach. Or do we have some choice?
Scientists suggest that 80% of our tallness is due to genetics, leaving 20% to environmental factors. This is good news for athletic players who dream of shooting hoops.
Some reasons that contribute to their height include consuming growth supplements, encouraging growth hormones through diet, and maintaining consistent training programs and regular exercise.
Let’s talk through each step to understand why basketball players are so tall.
To maintain a high level of performance, regular exercise will always be a key part of a routine for any professional basketball player.
Of course, this means that professional basketball players follow a workout schedule to keep their bodies agile and fit. Here’s an example of a week of basketball exercises for a point guard:
Monday: Upper Body Lift and Conditioning
Tuesday: Agilities and Lower Body Lift
Thursday: Upper Body Lift and Conditioning
Friday: Agilities and Lower Body Lift
We know this keeps them fit and able to do their jobs, but how does this have anything to do with tallness?
Exercising is important for muscle growth and bone health, which can support growth. However, some exercises specifically help with tallness.
Exercise that encourages a lot of stretching helps players lengthen their bodies and promote good posture.
Basketball players do various types of exercises to help them grow taller, including:
- Swimming is a healthy way to stretch. When you swim, you move your entire body because your hands must reach out in front, and your legs stretch out behind. Swimming is an excellent way to work out and condition the body, so it must be a regular activity for those looking to grow.
- Yoga is a great all-around exercise for players looking to increase their height or better their posture. Yoga comes in many styles, some more relaxing, while others are super energizing. But no matter which style is preferred, yoga is suitable for even the largest basketball players. Yoga can also help players mentally, profoundly impacting their performance, extra muscle strength, and whole-body awareness.
A healthy diet is important for everyone, not just elite athletes. But, paying attention to what is put inside your body as a basketball player is equally as important as the exercise.
If we want to grow as tall as possible, we need to ensure our bodies receive adequate minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Basketball players are no exception, so they must follow a strict diet to maintain their ideal weight and reach their optimum height.
Some foods are excellent for supporting healthy growth, and some even encourage stimulation of our growth hormones. This is great news for those looking to add a couple more inches to their height.
Some examples of foods that help growth include:
- Whole grains
- Feta cheese
- Animal protein such as chicken
- Plant protein such as edamame and almonds
General exercise is important for anyone, including a professional basketball player. While swimming, yoga, and certain workouts help stretch out the body, players need to train in the gym with a professional coach. Gym training is more focused on the game’s techniques and working areas that need strength.
The aim of turning up to the gym every day is to achieve hypertrophy, which increases muscle size.
In order to achieve this, professional players will have highly specialized and personalized training programs that start long before the season begins.
Types of training will include:
So why does this help us understand why basketball players are so tall? Gym training is an important element because it focuses on muscle growth, which contributes to overall height.
Supplements are a useful way to ensure you’re getting all your essential vitamins and minerals.
While supplements are commonly known to support the body with nutrients, professional athletes may consume growth supplements. These supplements synthesize growth hormones and help increase a player’s height, giving them the better advantage of reaching that hoop and scoring.
If a basketball player feels like they could benefit from a growth supplement, they’ll reach out to their coach, who will devise a plan.
Other kinds of supplements won’t directly make you grow taller, but they ensure you’re giving your body what it needs to reach its optimum.
There are also supplements like protein powder and mass gainers, which are common for sporty people. They are a good way to feed your body with the food it needs to repair and grow muscle, ultimately leading to a bigger, and sometimes taller, physique.
While we know that environmental factors can influence how tall we are, we must also remember that our height is still 80% made up by our genetics. This means that any qualities in our family are passed down to us through genes, and tallness is definitely one of them.
Children grow about 2 inches in height each year from being born through to puberty. Beyond puberty, that rate is around 4 inches per year. Puberty is a time for crazy growth spurts, and while girls see their height increase at a steady rate over the years, boys may notice it more later down the line.
If you happen to be a naturally tall person, you might find Michael Jordan to be your role model as he, like many other basketball players, represents something you can aspire to. This suggests that some tall people will gravitate towards the sport.
It’s clear that basketball isn’t a sport for the average person — you need to be pretty tall. But why are basketball players so tall? There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, that’s for sure.
From what the player can control, many elements need careful attention if they want to stand as tall as possible. First and foremost, exercise is key. Professional basketball players have to train for the sport and should partake in swimming or yoga to help stretch them out.
Diet is another big factor. Aspiring players should note that to be as tall as possible, make sure you’re eating lean and green.
These are all things that can be controlled. However, tallness is 80% determined by genetics. See all those players shooting hoops? They may be devoted to the sport, but they probably had tall parents too.