Does height affect performance in basketball?

When I was younger I used to play a lot of basketball with my friends and I realized one day that whoever was the smallest kid playing seemed to always get picked last regardless of his ability. This brings me to the question whether height impacts performance in basketball. Across the NBA there are obviously more tall players than short guys so that gives many of us the illusion that tall basketball players are better and more dominant but that might not actually be all that true. In the history of the National Basketball Association there has been a player as tall as 7 foot 7 and a player as short as 5 foot 3 so maybe its not about height as much as we all think……..

Being Tall

In basketball according to Dr. Steven Halls, “Male basketball players tend to be 9 inches taller than the average male” this just shows how size in this sport really is a trend. There are many obvious reasons why being tall in a sport like basketball helps, for example the rim is set at 10 feet tall and the closer you are to it the easier it is to get the ball in the basket. A common phrase you hear in basketball is “You cant teach size” meaning that a player who may not be that great he already has size which in itself some people see as a benefit and a way to make the player better easier. Stuart Kim who is a professor and scientist of genetics at the University of Stanford agrees with many sports analysts and physicians that height has a direct correlation with more injuries and being more injury prone which is a disadvantage in basketball especially when paying these athletes so much money.

Being Short

Many people who watch basketball always think that being short is always a disadvantage, believe it or not being smaller in a big mans game may also have many benefits. Scientist David Robson, in sports especially basketball the shorter player has the upper hand; he has the quicker first step and is faster because it takes less time for nerve impulses to travel from the limbs to the brain. Players like Allen Iverson and Nate Robinson both being under 6 foot tall have silenced all doubters and have given shorter athletes so much confidence, Robinson at 5 foot 9 has won 3 slam dunk contests and Iverson who is arguably one of the best NBA players of all time at 5 foot 11. The speed and quickness as well as the ability to to shoot better than big men is all advantages mixed in there are the obvious disadvantages of  being a shorter player such as further from the basket shorter arm span and cant play “Above the rim”.

graph above

Height in the NBA from the image above is on a steady incline which means 1 thing for sure; height does seem to be a superior factor and strategy for teams in the league.

The top 10 scoring leaders in the most recent NBA season had 7 players above the height of 6 foot 7 and 3 below that and for rebounds all 10 were above 6 foot 8. These simple stats show that the null hypothesis for the most recent season would be rejected and that height does affect performance in basketball. These are just examples of how in basketball especially the NBA, height is a necessity, numbers do not lie and for many consecutive seasons for statistics the gifted taller players dominate in major categories.!?Season=2015-16&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&StatCategory=REB

7 thoughts on “Does height affect performance in basketball?

  1. Gulianna E Garry

    I found this blog very interesting to read! My mom was a basketball player all throughout high school. Although she was only 5’3 she became the starting point guard and captain in her freshman year. So, she proves that being short in a primarily tall sport has its advantages. Here is an article about what sports there could be an advantage at being either tall or short.

  2. Dylan Huberman

    This post was very interesting! The trend in height continues today with the height of previous scoring champions in the past decade, with Kevin Durant’s height standing out at 6’10. I agree that height is a very valuable trait in basketball. Athleticism is also highly valuable, as players such as Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry don’t rely on their height, as they all stand at 6’3. However, I believe that the best basketball players are those that are elite on both ends of the floor. LeBron James isn’t only a dominant scorer but also a world-class rim protector, as shown with his block at the end of last year’s NBA Finals. Kawhi Leonard is arguably the best defender in all of basketball and his increased scoring potential over the last few seasons vaulted him into the Most Valuable Player discussion. Carmelo Anthony and James Harden may be premier scorers, which you do applaud, due to a combination of their athleticism and height. However, they lack defensive prowess, and as a result, neither one of them has won a MVP award or an NBA championship in their careers. To back it up, look at this link below to see Carmelo’s terrible defense.

    1. Dana Corinne Pirrotta

      I am not very tall either, and not very good at basketball. Coinkidink? I personally believe that having some height is a great athletic advantage.

  3. Nicole Paniccia

    I found this article interesting since I played basketball all through middle school and high school and am only 5’1. There are some advantages and to being shorter but felt the game came more naturally to my taller friends that played. There are a lot of struggles for a shorter basketball player. It was hard for me to guard someone who was 5’7 when they had six inches on me. Regardless of height, the more an individual practices the better he/she will be.

  4. Melissa Fraistat

    I found this article very interesting due to the fact that growing up, I played basketball for years, so naturally, my height changed. When I was younger, I was definitely one of the taller people in my grade, and as I got older, my height hit a plateau, while everyone else seemed to be growing taller than me. Due to this, when I first started playing basketball I was one of the taller players, and as I got older, I become one of the shorter players. Although both heights had their advantages and disadvantages, such as when I was taller I could get rebounds easily and I was closer to the basket, and when I was shorter I was quicker, I can definitely agree that the advantages of being taller outweigh the advantages of being shorter.

  5. Michael David Kresovich

    Awesome article. It was very intersting to read about the correlation. In my own thoughts I believe that height helps alot, but it is not the only thing. I think alot of people can agree that Allen Iverson was a better basketball player than Yao Ming was. Height in basketball is great when you can utilize it, I know of many quick small guards who are better than the 7 footers. The other end, many tall players have the advantage. KD for example, the man is a beast due to his wingspan and ability to jump and shoot. Great article over all, check this out.

  6. tmv5147

    Obviously you want height on the floor, the rim is 10 feet in the air, but is ideal to stack the floor with height. I agree with both doctors, how the big man is able to get rebounds but moves a lot slower and is more injury prone and the smaller player has a quicker first step, sometimes more explosive and most of the time can shoot better. Today the game has changed in a lot of ways, it’s faster, more physical and overall a lot more intense. If you look around the NBA you rarely see the best player be the tallest guy on the floor, in today’s game, size is still a factor but not the main one. The league is so athletic is becoming hard for these 7 feet and taller players to keep up running up and down the floor. “Small ball” has been a term introduced to the league in the past few seasons that teams really rally around. Now “small” in the NBA is a lot different from how everyone else throws it around. When you take your 7’2 center out of the game with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter and substitute with a 6’7 forward, your team is not smaller, height wise, but now they are more athletic and have a better chance in transition since their more athletic. You look at players around the league like Lebron, Westbrook, Draymond Green, and James Harden who have it all, they can handle the ball, shoot, rebound, dish dimes, and play D. It has always been said that the best athletes play basketball and your starting to see that in the league today, its evolving, build your “big three” and you have a shot at a title. It’s said that if you have three superstars and two players who can contribute and a bench as your backbone then you have a shot to make a run to the championship.

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