How Tall Do You Have to Be to Dunk?

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Every basketball fan dreams of being able to dunk. One of the reasons why basketball rose to fame is because of dunking. Basketball players like Michael Jordan and Vince Carter took dunking even further with their aerial gymnastics. Is dunking limited only to tall people?  How tall do you have to be to dunk?

How Tall Do You Have to Be to Dunk? 

You don’t need to be tall in order to dunk a basketball. However, being tall may also impact your success on a dunk attempt. In order to dunk, you have to have the right combination of physical features and athleticism. 

Some NBA players even have a hard time dunking and they can vary in height from six feet to a towering seven feet. There is one thing that NBA players have that the average person doesn’t and that is rigorous physical training that will help condition your body to dunk. 

Player dunking a basketball

Therefore, if you are lacking in height, you still might be able to dunk. You have to compensate for your lack of height with some athleticism and jumping power. We’ll discuss the different factors that affect whether you can make a dunk or not. 

Factors Affecting Your Success to Dunk

While certainly height helps, there are also other factors that can help you make a dunk. Some people like Boban Marjanović can dunk the ball with their height alone. However, they are a rare case. If you put in the effort you may be able to dunk the basketball with ease. 


Your height still plays an important role for dunking. The taller you are, the less you need to be athletic. At most you need to be around 6’4  to dunk without exerting much effort, that is if you’re athletic already. Below is a list of height range and how difficult you expect to dunk.

  • Below 5 feet 10 inches – extremely hard to dunk unless you can jump very high
  • 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet – challenging and will need great effort and training
  • 6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 3 inches – if you’re athletic already, you can dunk with ease without seriously training
  • 6 feet and 4 inches above – can dunk with ease as long as you are athletic even without training. 

Tall basketball players like Shaquille O’Neal can still dunk the ball even in their 50’s. That’s because Shaq is 7’1”. Despite the declined athleticism with age, the height of Shaq still makes up for it to be able to dunk. 

Hence, while not necessary to dunk, your height will be an important factor if you want to dunk for a long time and without much effort. However, height is also determined by genetics. If you are from a family of short people, it’s better to train your body early if you want to dunk or follow a diet and supplements for height growth. 

Close up shot of a ball passing through the rim

Vertical Leap

NBA PlayersVertical Leap Height
Michael Jordan48 inches
Kobe Bryant38 inches
Shaquille O’Neal32 inches
Larry Bird28 inches

Vertical leap is a skill that you can get through training. Although rare, there are certain people who are naturally gifted athletically like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. With training, you can probably achieve what they can jump. 

You can measure your vertical leap and compare it to the average. Below is the average for vertical leap compared to the NBA standards. 

  • < 12 inches : very poor vertical leap
  • 12 inches – 16 inches : below the average person 
  • 16 inches – 20 inches : average person’s vertical leap, you can dunk if you have the right height and arm length.
  • 20 inches – 24 inches : above average and can probably dunk with the right height
  • 24 inches – 28 inches : can be considered the average for athletes and can dunk with less height
  • 28 inches  – 32 inches : you belong to some of the best athletes in the college level (NCAA D-1 basketball)
  • 32 inches – 38 inches : NBA level vertical leap and can dunk with ease even with short height.
  • 38 inches : you belong to some of the legendary dunking athletes that ever lived when it comes to vertical leap.  

Wing Span

Wing span or the total length of your arms outstretched is also a great factor to dunk easily. The longer your arms are, the less vertical and height you will need to dunk. Rare physical human specimens like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant are some of the NBA players with extremely long arms. 

The longer your reach, the easier for you to be able to reach the rim of the hoop and make a dunk. Since wingspan is mostly genetic, there’s nothing you can control about it. 

Player jumping high to dunk a ball inside a hoop


Athleticism isn’t just about your vertical jump. It’s a combination of all your physical conditions. That means even if you are gifted naturally with a high leaping ability, it may be enough, however, you may sustain some injuries because you’re not landing properly. 

Hence, it’s still important to train and get your body used to it. You don’t want to sustain a serious injury that could end your basketball career or stop you from playing at all. There is also science to help you analyze your dunk action if it’s safe or not. 

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about dunking in basketball.

Can a 5’2 Person Dunk?

Yes, a 5’2 person can dunk if they are well-trained. Despite their lack of height, they can dunk if they have a great vertical jump. A good example is William Easton, a 5’2” tall man, who is regarded as one of the shortest people to dunk.

Can 13-Year-Olds Dunk?

It depends. Most 13-year-olds are not tall enough to dunk yet, however, some might have great vertical jumps. On top of that, some have genetics that makes them really tall at a young age, allowing them to dunk. Therefore, it depends on their training and their genetics. 

How Tall Is an NBA Rim?

The standard NBA rim is 10 feet tall. However, this is different for kids and teenagers. The NBA rim height for 7-year-olds is 8 feet, while the height for 11-year-olds is 9 feet tall. The height is adjusted in other to make it easier for kids to practice and score.


Although being tall contributes a lot to your ability to dunk, it’s not the only deciding factor. So if you’re not tall, you can still work on your vertical leap and you may even get to dunk if you put in the effort. 

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.