As the National Basketball Association (NBA) continues to evolve, the physical attributes of its players have also experienced noticeable shifts. One of the most intriguing topics in this context is the average height of NBA players. This investigative article will explore the historical changes in player heights, average heights by player position, and comparisons of NBA player heights with players in other professional sports.
What is the average height of an NBA player?
As the 2022-23 season commenced, the average height for an NBA player was 6 feet 6.74 inches (200cm) tall, with an average weight of 217.62 pounds (98.7kg).
This is the average taken across all players in the league, including two-way players. Prior years in modern basketball have averages that are typically somewhere between 6 feet 6 inches (198 centimeters) and 6 feet 7 inches (201 centimeters) tall.
Historical Shifts in Player Heights
The average height of an NBA player has seen a significant increase since the league’s inception in 1946. In the early days, players averaged around 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 meters), with the tallest player being George Mikan at 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 meters). Today, the average NBA player’s height is closer to 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 meters).
This growth can be attributed to various factors, including advancements in sports science, training, and nutrition, as well as the increased global reach of the NBA, which has allowed teams to recruit taller players from around the world.
Despite the dramatic increase in player height since the league’s inception, note that this is not a steady increase. The average player height stopped increasing in the late 1980s and has hovered between 6-ft-6 and 6-ft-7 ever since.
Average Heights by Player Position
The average height of an NBA player varies greatly by position. Here is a breakdown based on data from the 2020-2021 season:
- Point Guard (PG): 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 meters)
- Shooting Guard (SG): 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 meters)
- Small Forward (SF): 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 meters)
- Power Forward (PF): 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 meters)
- Center (C): 6 feet 11 inches (2.11 meters)
These averages are subject to change as basketball continues to evolve, with a growing emphasis on positionless basketball and versatile players capable of filling multiple roles on the court.
Are Player Heights Measured With Shoes On?
Accurately measuring player heights is important not only for record-keeping purposes but also for fans and analysts to better understand the physical attributes of NBA players.
Traditionally, player heights were often reported with their shoes on, which could add an inch or more to their actual height. This practice led to inconsistencies and discrepancies, as shoe designs and sole thicknesses varied across players and brands.
However, in 2019, the NBA implemented a new policy to standardize height measurements across the league. Under the new guidelines, teams are required to report each player’s height without shoes on, measured by a certified athletic trainer or team doctor. Players must stand with their feet flat on the ground and their heels together, looking straight ahead. A T-Square or stadiometer is typically used to ensure accurate measurements.
Extremes of Player Heights in NBA History
In addition to understanding the average heights of NBA players, it’s also fascinating to explore the outliers – those players who represent the tallest and shortest extremes in recent league history.
- Gheorghe Muresan: Standing at an impressive 7 feet 7 inches (2.31 meters), Gheorghe Muresan holds the record for the tallest player in NBA history. The Romanian center played in the league from 1993 to 2000, spending time with the Washington Bullets/Wizards and the New Jersey Nets.
- Manute Bol: Another towering figure in NBA history is Sudanese-born Manute Bol, who measured 7 feet 7 inches (2.31 meters) tall. Bol played in the NBA from 1985 to 1995, starting for teams such as the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat. Bol is also known for his extraordinary shot-blocking ability, ranking among the all-time leaders in this category.
- Muggsy Bogues: At the other end of the height spectrum, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues holds the title of the shortest player in NBA history, standing at just 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 meters) tall. Despite his height, Bogues enjoyed a successful career spanning from 1987 to 2001, playing for the Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, and Toronto Raptors. Bogues’ agility, speed, and ball-handling skills allowed him to excel as a point guard in the league.
- Earl Boykins: Another notably short player in recent NBA history is Earl Boykins, who measured 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 meters) tall. Boykins played in the NBA from 1998 to 2012, making appearances for numerous teams, including the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, and Houston Rockets. Boykins was known for his scoring ability and quickness on the court.
Success Stories of Shorter NBA Players
While height is often considered a significant advantage in the NBA, there are many players in recent years who have defied the norm by achieving notable success despite standing well below the league’s average height.
- Allen Iverson: Standing at 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall, Allen Iverson was an 11-time NBA All-Star, 4-time scoring champion, and the 2001 NBA MVP. Despite his below-average height, Iverson was an unstoppable scoring force, averaging 26.7 points per game over his career.
- Chris Paul: At 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall, Chris Paul is an exceptional point guard who has made a significant impact on the league. A 12-time NBA All-Star, Paul has consistently been recognized as one of the best playmakers and defenders at his position throughout his career.
- Isaiah Thomas: Listed at 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall but claiming 5 feet 8 inches, Isaiah Thomas carved out a place for himself in the NBA as an explosive guard. Thomas reached his peak with the Boston Celtics during the 2016-2017 season, averaging 28.9 points per game and earning an All-Star selection.
- Kyle Lowry: Measuring 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall, Kyle Lowry has consistently been a top-tier point guard in the NBA. A 6-time All-Star and 2019 NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, Lowry has been praised for his tenacity, defense, and playmaking abilities.
- Kemba Walker: Another player who has thrived in the NBA despite standing at 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall is Kemba Walker. A 4-time All-Star, Walker has been a dynamic scoring guard with a knack for clutch performances.
Comparisons with Other Professional Sports
In comparison to other professional sports, NBA players understandably tend to be taller.
For instance, the average height in the National Football League (NFL) is 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 meters), while the average height in Major League Baseball (MLB) is around 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 meters). Soccer players in Europe’s top leagues typically stand at an average height of 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 meters).