Unfortunately, jumping as high as you can isn’t an Olympic sport 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’s no ‘official’ record holder.
While us vertical jump fanatics won’t have our own Usain Bolt to cheer, there are enough records out there to get an idea of what is humanly possible.
We’re going to look at records for three different ways the vertical jump is often measured.
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:
Bryon Jones is considered the best jumper in NFL Combine history. His standing vertical isn’t the highest, but he has a crazy 147″ broad jump (not important for Basketball).
NFL Combine Records
All-time: 46.0″ – Gerald Sensabaugh (2005)
Most recent: 45.0″ – Chris Conley (2015), Donald Washington (2015)
NBA Draft Records
All-time: 38.0″ – Dwayne Mitchell (2012), Justin Anderson (2015)
Most recent: 38.0″ – Justin Anderson (2015)
Comparing the NBA and NFL results
The results might surprise you. Basketball and dunking is all about those crazy hops, right? Then why are the NFL combine participants completely outclassing those in the NBA draft?
There are a couple of reasons. First, to be an effective dunker you don’t need to be getting your head above the backboard – that’s overkill. Imagine you’re a ‘short’ Basketball player at 6 foot – you could be dunking from standstill if your standing vert is around 33-34 inches. For the record I can dunk the ball at 6-feet tall, but I need a few steps (my ‘running’ vert is around 34 inches).
Second, football players are more explosive than basketball players. Basketball players must endure 4 quarters of 12-minute, almost non-stop intense play, so they need to train for endurance. Football players on the other hand, only require a few short bursts of activity during the whole match. That’s why ‘explosive’ statistics like the 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle are so important for them.
2. Running Vertical: 44.5″ (NBA)(NFL Unknown)
While the standing jump is a fancy measure of pure explosiveness, a running jump is what matters during the 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 more like taking a few steps. The players can definitely jump 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 vertical leap test:
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 (crazy to see so much variation, I know). Given the best NFL players has a standing vertical of 46″, I can easily see them getting around 50-52″ with a run up.
Platform Vertical Jump: 60″ (Justin Bethel)
In this jump the person has to jump onto a platform from a standing position.
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 almost 65″:
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!