Does Basketball Make You Taller? (It's Complicated)
The average American male will stop growing by around age 16, and if you do continue to grow past 16 it is usually in fractions rather than inches. The average height of a fully grown man is 5'9.25 (175.9cm) tall
This is highly different to players in the NBA, and according to a survey conducted in 2007-8, the average player in the NBA stands at around 6'7" (200.66 cm). It is not surprising that when we think of basketball we often picture extremely tall players and even taller hoops, and only natural to ask the question 'does basketball make you taller?
So, are these guys naturally tall due to their genetic makeup, handcrafted to play basketball, or does the activity of playing ball actively aid an increase in height?
Does Basketball Make You Taller?
Like other physical activities with similar movements, such as jumping, basketball can aid the production of growth hormone - essential to grow. For maximum results, combine playing basketball with a healthy diet and sleep, which will help repair and strengthen the body.
Physical Exercise Releases HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced by your pituitary gland and enables growth. Without it we simply wouldn't grow, and with a large amount of it, we can grow really tall. Genetics make up for around 80% of our final height, but environmental factors also come into play.
Here are some ways that you can increase HGH production naturally:
Physical activity can help reduce stress and tire you out, leading to better sleep quality for a longer duration. Sleep is an essential component of HGH production, and a sleep deficiency can stunt growth significantly.
There is a correlation between HGH production and body fat. One study showed that the amount of abdominal fat you carry can influence your HGH production (1). In other words, more body fat = less HGH production.
HGH also promotes anaerobic exercise capacity (high-intensity exercise). Basketball is a disciplined sport with a high anaerobic component, as explosive power is needed to sprint, jump, and dominate other players when required. (2)
Another study showed that through a basketball preseason as significant improvements in anaerobic capacity correlated with a significant decrease in body fat (3), which also go hand in hand with HGH production.
This suggests that If your growth plates are still open, then some of the key associations with physical activity and HGH make it an asset to aid growth. HGH production seems to go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle, including high-intensity exercise, good sleep, and lower body fat.
EMS (electrical muscle stimulation ) therapy is widely used by athletes to minimize downtime and to recover their bodies quickly. This simulation has shown to increase jump performance and promote stronger muscles, generally allowing athletes to train harder.
EMS also has been shown to significantly increase levels of growth hormone (4). This is interesting, because as many athletes use this to aid their play, so it poses the question of "has this factored into their growth"?
Can Basketball Make You Taller After You Have Stopped Growing?
After your growth plates have fused, then basketball will no longer be able to make your bones grow longer. However, physical activity can increase or maintain bone mass as an adult, and jumping has shown to be one of the most effective methods to do so.
When we jump we stretch our muscles, and also the discs in-between the vertebrae. This enables improved blood flow throughout the discs and entire body. The knock-on of this is improved muscle strength and bone health. Have you ever heard the saying "if you don't use it you lose it" - well basketball can certainly help in using it.
If you are serious about keeping your body healthy and incorporate the correct diet, stretching and exercise routine into your basketball, your muscles will stay active and unless you have other issues affecting your health, you will be able to stay healthy and at your current height for years to come.
7 Basketball Players Who Had Late Growth Spurts
As we have already seen, playing basketball can influence HGH production. We hear of many basketball stars who experienced unusual, late growth spurts after starting to play the sport.
Some of these growth rates are so shocking that it makes you question if playing Basketball might indeed help you to grow taller. One thing is for sure - it won't do you any harm!
Scottie Pippen 6'7" (200.7 cm)
Scottie Pippen - The Chicago Bull's small forward experienced an unusually late growth spurt of 7 inches after starting university. After ending up at 6'7" (200.7 cm). This canceled out all his doubts and enabled him to compete at the highest level and become a hall of Famer!
Dennis Rodman 6'7" (200.7 cm)
Playing the Chicago Bulls amongst other teams during the '90s, the small forward experienced a significant, late growth spurt between the ages of 19 and 20, of 10 inches to 6'7" (200.7 cm)! This enabled him to start his professional basketball career. What could have caused Dennis rodman's growth spurt? He once said that lots of exercise helped him to grow taller - the jury remains open on this one!
Dwight Howard 6'9.5" (207cm)
Standing at 6'9.5" (207cm) today, Philadelphia 76ers center experienced a huge growth spurt during 2 years of high school, propelling him from 5'10" (177.8cm) to 6'9" (205.7cm)! That is almost an entire foot, and saw him moving from the position of point guard to power forward!
Anthony Davis 6'10" (208.3 cm)
The LA Lakers star Grew 8 inches at high school between his sophomore and senior years, propelling his playing to new heights! After he was in the NBA he grew another inch, which really makes you question if basketball had anything to do with it, and stands at 6'10" (208.3 cm) today!
Paul George 6'8 (203.2 cm)
The Los Angeles Clippers power forward gained an additional 1-2 inches to his height at age 21 during the off-season, now standing at 6'8 (203.2 cm), which is a significant gain for his age range.
Russel Westbrook 6'3 (190.5 cm)
The Washington Wizards point guard stood at 5'8" (172.7cm) as a freshman, continuing to grow slowly. Then, before his senior year he had a growth spurt seeing him go from 5'10" (177.8cm) - 6'3 (190.5 cm).
Though still under the average height for an NBA player, this still enabled him to transform himself into one of the most explosive players the league has seen in recent times, earning MVP in the 2016-17 season.
Michael Jordon 6.5.5" (196.9 cm)
The Chicago Bulls shooting guard and widely regarded GOAT (greatest of all time) was 5'11" (180.3cm) during his sophomore days, but had a significant growth spurt of 4 inches to 6'3 (190.5 cm) the following year, and then another 2-3 inches of height to his stature for a final height of 6.5.5" (196.9 cm) tall!
Whether these stars experienced late growth spurts due to the effects of playing basketball at such a high level is yet to be proven.
However, if you took a sample size of regular people, comparing them with the same sample size of NBA stars, it would be interesting to see growth rates of the two groups after age 16.
Would we see NBA players experiencing a higher average growth rate, or are taller people predisposed to late growth spurts due to their unusual genetics?
Is it possible by playing sports that involve jumping and running and generally training your body at a high level propel the release of HGH (human growth hormone) to aid growth?
What Position Suits Shorter Players in Basketball?
For better chances of success in entering the NBA, it is advisable to choose a position that can complement your height, such as Point Guard, which differs from the other 4 positions on the court, with a greater team focus on mentality.
A specialized role, with a less physical approach on the court, Point Guards compensate for a lack of height through intelligent plays and heightened court vision, understanding the game plan (Basketball's version of a quarterback) controlling the pace of the game, and ensuring the ball is enabling scoring opportunities for their team.
There have been players in the position of point guard who achieved NBA success who were far under the average height of a Basketball player, which is 6'7" (200.7 cm), or even the average American man which is 5'9.25 (175.9 cm).
Examples of This Are:
Muggsy Bogues - Position: Point Guard - 5-3" (160cm) (retired)
Spud Webb - Position: Point Guard - 5'7" (170.2 cm) (retired) who won the 1986 dunk competition!
Isaiah Thomas - Position: Point Guard - 5'8.25 (173.4 cm) New Orleans (2021)
To heighten your chances of growing (if your growth plates are still open) then it is good practice to regularly play basketball, and incorporate a balanced and healthy routine into your daily life, such as good sleep, diet, physical activity, all of which promote human growth hormone (HGH). So in short - keep balling!
Tallest 5 Current NBA Stars
The 5 tallest active players in the NBA as of 2022 are:
1. Taco Fall - Position Center for the Boston Celtics - 7'5" (226cm)
2. Boban Marjanovic - Position Center for the Dallas Mavericks - 7'3" (221cm)
3. Kristaps Porzingis - Position Power Forward/Center for the Dallas Mavericks - 7'2" (218.4 cm)
4. Mitchell Robinson - Position Center for the New York Knicks - 7'1" (215.9 cm)
5. Alex Len - Position Power Forward/Center for the Washington Wizards - 7'1" (215.9 cm)
Tallest NBA stars in History
The 5 tallest ever players in the NBA are:
1. Gheorghe Muresan - Position Center - 7'7" (231.1 cm)
2. Manute Bol - Position Center - 7'7" (231.1 cm)
3. Shawn Bradley - Position Center - 7'6" (228.6 cm)
4. Yao Ming - Position Center -7'5.5" (227.3 cm)
5. Slavko Vraneš - Position Center - 7'5" (226cm)
The height data we have in terms of basketball are from professional players, and they are most likely taking great care of their health, such as not eating before sleep, having less belly fat, and frequently performing physical activity by jumping and running for the ball. Many athletes also use electrical muscle stimulation to heighten their productivity and recovery.
So what are Basketball players height secrets? Well, all of the above can influence HGH production, and thus basketball can indirectly aid growth. The flip side is that taller people are more likely to play basketball, and also have unusual genetics possibly leading to irregular growth patterns. It is interesting however how many players have grown significantly after age 16, and it is common for NBA players to shoot up a few inches after they are in the league.
Like other sports with similar movements, basketball can aid the production of HGH and therefore increase chances of growth. But, does basketball increase your chances of making you taller over other professional running and jumping-based sports such as volleyball? The simple answer is probably not.
1: J Clin Endocrinol Metab: J Clin Endocrinol Metab: Novel Relationships of Age, Visceral Adiposity, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF)-I and IGF Binding Protein Concentrations to Growth Hormone (GH) Releasing-Hormone and GH Releasing-Peptide Efficacies in Men during Experimental Hypogonadal Clamp