How Tall Do You Have to be to Dunk?

Key Takeaway: Dunking in basketball is an iconic and inspiring moment, with height playing a significant role but not the sole determinant in the ability to dunk. Practice, timing, and skill development are crucial in mastering the art of dunking, transcending the natural advantage of height.

There are many singular motions that take hold as staples in a sport. The slap shot goal in hockey, a wide-open end zone pass in football, and an out of the park in baseball.

These iconic motions truly define so many aspects that make these sports great but, none of them hold the wow factor that our subject of discussion today.

That iconic and inspiring moment is the dunk or slam dunk in basketball. Not saying a three pointer isn’t impressive, but the absolute attitude and statement that comes with a dunk is unparalleled.

In this article we are going to go over dunking and if height comes as a factor in the ability to do so. For many an average sized man, dunking a basketball is merely a dream.

History of the dunk

There are many stories of where the first basketball slam dunk came from. Many say it came from Bob Kurland who invented the iconic move. Kurland was credited with the college basketballs first dunk, and the first dunk in organized basketball was credited to Joe Fortenberry.

He started dunking the ball during practice for the 1936 Olympics that were in Berlin. Dunking became a staple in the game during the 1960s with greats like Wilt Chamberlin making the term synonymous with the sport.

While the move was never banned in NBA basketball, it was banned in the NCAA for a pretty significant amount of time. During the 1967-68 season, the NCAA banned dunking for a plethora of reasons. One reason was the lack of skill that it takes to perform it, citing just natural advantage.

The other reason was a pretty substantial number of injuries around the backboard. Some also found the move pretty offensive. The ban only lasted for 10 seasons and was allowed back in college basketball after the 1975-76 season.

How tall do you need to be to dunk?

Well, that is a pretty complicated question that can take you down multiple routes of thought. The basketball hoop sits 10 feet in the air, or three meters for you non-American readers.

So, if you think about it, the taller you are, the easier it is to dunk. Even back when I was playing competitive hockey, I could not dunk, and I am 5 foot 9.

There are arguments to be said that you need to be somewhere around 6 foot 3 or 4 to be able to do it, and that you should have a vertical around 34-36 inches. That isn’t actually true, as in the NBA and NCAA over the years many people under these requirements have dunked the ball.

When it comes to your ability to dunk the ball it really only comes down to your standing reach and vertical jump, both of mine are absolutely terrible so, I am not a good baseline. That is because I am about 7 inches shorter than the NBA average.

The average height in the NBA is 6 foot 4.7

How to improve your vertical jump?

Natural-born height, while important, isn’t the most important factor on whether or not you can absolutely project dominance against your opponent and dunk the ball. You just need to practice two types of jumping.

That being your standing and maximum dunks. The standing jump is when you are standing still and jump, pretty basic. The maximum jump is when you are moving, running, and gaining some speed to increase your height in a jump. The easier one to work on is your maximum, it is also the most fun as it is typically how most players dunk.

There is not much standing still, if at all, in basketball. So, some find it impractical to practice the vertical jumps. Honestly, you should be focused on being a well-rounded player, so don’t be lazy and do both.

There are a few workouts that can really help your vertical to dunk such as: calf raises, running, biking, hiking or just an elliptical machine. Actually, practicing it helps the best though, it is all in the leg strength, obviously. Diet also plays a major factor, but I am far from a dietician.

How much does height actually player a factor in dunking?

Honestly? Your height plays a big factor in your ability to dunk a basketball. The shorter you are, the harder it is to physically reach the net. That being said, you should not be dissuaded from practicing and being able to do so.

If you are below 6 feet tall, it is going to be very hard to get that 4 feet back up the net standing still, but it is possible while in motion, your arm length will certainly help.

The more over 6 feet tall, the better for just natural ability to dunk the ball. So, it makes sense to state that if you are over 6 foot 5 it will be significantly easier to dunk the ball without much practice. But even someone above 6 feet will barely be able to touch the rim.

Practice makes perfect

The natural boost of being almost a giant can only take you so far in your ability to dunk a basketball. The theme of this piece has been that practicing is the best way to improve your abilities. Even professional athletes, in the top of their sport, practice almost every single day.

When it comes to your maximum jump, your timing and leap must be perfect, regardless of your height, to sink that ball. You could go twenty attempts and still not get it, but if you keep practicing, honing your skill, when you finally piece it all together, it will be glorious.


In conclusion, to wrap this all nice together with a bow, the natural gift of being a borderline giant definitely makes it understandably easier to dunk a ball, but that isn’t everything.

It takes hours upon hours of practice to fully master the ability to do so. Height is not everything, it’s a balancing act of numerous factors that lead to the perfect dunk. The ability to assert major dominance over your competition, all comes from practice.

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