Jumping as high as you can isn’t an Olympic event like the 100-meter sprint and there aren’t any world competitions that pit the world’s best jumpers against each other. As a result there aren’t any records from sports federations or committees.
BUT, we can look to the NFL Combine and NBA draft to get a ballpark figure. After all, these include some of the most talented athletes in the world.
We’re going to compare records for the standing vertical jump (from standstill), running jump (with a runup) and the platform jump (explained later).
1. Standing Vertical: 46″ (NFL) 38″ (NBA)
This is the most important jump statistic used by the NBA and NFL. If you’re working on developing your own jump, this is what you should be measuring to track progress – you can find out how to do it at home here. In simple terms, it’s where you stand in a spot and reach as high as you can, and compare that figure to your standing reach.
Here’s Bryon Jones showing off his 44.5 inch standing vert in the 2015 NFL Combine. He’s considered the best jumper in NFL Combine history, but because of his 147″ broad jump and not his vertical.
NFL Combine Records
All-time: 46.0″ – Gerald Sensabaugh (2005)
Recent: 45.0″ – Chris Conley (2015), Donald Washington (2009)
NBA Draft Records
All-time: 38.0″ – Dwayne Mitchell (2012), Justin Anderson (2015)
Recent: 37.5″ – Joel Bolomboy (2016), Demetrius Jackson (2016)
Why NFL Players Jump Higher
Surprised? Basketball and dunking is all about those crazy hops, right? Then why are NFL combine participants jumping some 8 inches higher than those from the NBA?
- Basketball players don’t need to jump that high: The rim is always 10 foot high. With a 33-34 inch standing vert you could dunk from standstill at 6 foot tall. Most dunks have a runup, which means you jump higher anyway. Finally, tall players don’t stand to gain as much from a incredible jump.
- Football players train for explosiveness. Basketball players endure 4 quarters of 12-minute, intense play, so they need to train for endurance. By contrast, the focus for football players is on bursts of explosive activity. ‘Explosive’ statistics like the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle vert jump are therefore crucial for a NFL player.
2. Running Vertical: 44.5″ (NBA) ??? (NFL)
While the standing jump is a measure of pure explosiveness, a running jump is more important during an actual basketball or football game. A running jump involves a run up before the jump, which will add energy to produce an even greater leap. The better your running jump technique, the more energy you can add to your jump during the approach.
The NFL Combine does not measure the running vert. It’s safe to bet they’d be a lot more impressive than the NBA draft, since their highest standing leap is better than the NBA draft’s highest running leap!
NBA Draft Records
All-time: 44.5″ – Kenny Gregory (2001)
Most recent: 44.0″ – Pat Connaughton (2015)
Note that the ‘run up’ is limited to a few steps. The players can jump even higher if they are performing a half-court run up like the crazy dunks you see on TV. Here’s a video showing the running (aka Max) vertical leap test:
When we look at the NBA combine we find a player’s running vert is typically between 4-9 inches higher than their standing vert. Given the best NFL players has a standing vertical of 46″, 50-54″ is within the realms of possibility.
Platform Vertical Jump: 60″ (Justin Bethel)
In this jump the person has to jump onto a platform from a standing position. The goal here isn’t to get your hand as high up in the air as possible, but maximize the distance between the surface and your feet.
Justin Bethel set the official highest vertical jump Guiness World Record at 60 inches. Justin Bethel set this record in 2012.
However, the Guinness book of records doesn’t always hold the actual record since they have to go out and see it for themselves. Some people have set higher unofficial records. Here’s Kevin Bania clearing 65″:
The explosiveness here is incredible, and it’d be interesting to see how these guys fare in standing and running leaps.
What about Kadour Ziani?
Kadour Ziani is a 5’11 Slam Nation dunker who many people believe has the highest jump in the world at 60 inches. However, this has not been officially verified, so it’s fairer to give Justin Bethel the ‘official’ record and Kevin Bania the ‘unofficial’ record at 65″.
- It’s difficult to identify the world record holder as there are different types of vertical jump and no official competitions outside of the NBA and NFL Combines and Guiness World Records (which is not up to date).
- Contrary to popular belief, NBA players aren’t the best in the business. In fact, NFL players can leap much higher than them due to the explosive nature of their training.
Lets not get too concerned about who holds what record. From all the data out there, we can get a rough idea of what is humanly possible.
- Standing Vertical: NFL players are among the most genetically gifted people on earth, but they don’t train exclusively for their vertical leap. So a standing vert of 47-48″ is not completely unrealistic.
- Running Vertical: When we look at the NBA combine we find a player’s running vert is anywhere between 4-9 inches higher than their standing vert. Given the best NFL players have a standing vertical of 45-46″, I can easily see them getting around 50-52″ with a run up.
- Platform Jump: We’ve seen people do 60-65″ and these people are pretty serious about jumping, so that is very close to the theoretical limit.
Obviously, us mere mortals are probably never going to see such heights. However, it’s completely unnecessary. I have a comparatively pathetic running vertical of 34″ and it doesn’t stop me from dunking at 6-foot!