The height of an NBA player is a common question, so we thought that we should cover the subject in depth for our loyal readers.
Professional ballers have been getting taller. While it’s not impossible to be an NBA player and not reach the exalted height of six foot, it’s usually the case that being taller is helpful. Some players are even 7 feet or taller. That’s rarer than you would think in the United States where there’s believed to only be around 70 men alive who are under forty years old and at an age to still play ball who are over 7 feet tall.
Not unsurprisingly, taller people tend to gravitate to basketball as a sport with currently 20 U.S. NBA players who are 7 feet or taller. Giants! So, when you see someone walking down the street who is towering over you, the likelihood is pretty good that he likes playing hoops. He’s also probably pretty good too!
For this piece, we examine what’s the typical height for a playing in the NBA. We look at this from the perspective of different playing positions. Also, we consider whether the average height has altered over the years in the professional association too.
So, let’s do this…
What’s the Typical Height of the NBA Player?
For the average basketball player, playing in the NBA in the 2017-2018 season, they were 6 foot 7 inches tall (about 200cm). To provide a comparison, the average U.S. male is 5 foot 9 ½ inches tall. So, they’re no slouch in the height department.
Height has changed over time with better nutrition at a younger age. This has seen the sport evolve with players getting taller. There are also more outliers where they’re even taller than the average which seems to occur more frequently now than ever too.
For average NBA height from the 1952 era, they were around 6 foot 4 inches in height across the teams playing at that time. However, the height increased through to 1987 where the average height topped out at the current 6 foot 7 inches tall or so.
Effectively, the health and nutritional improvements when it comes to human growth had their natural limit across a population and ballers too. Admittedly, this average height does bounce around a tiny bit from year to year, but it mostly holds steady.
Has the Average Weight Changed with Professional Ballers?
What has changed is the average weight of the players.
This isn’t from the perspective of being obese, but from body growth overall including a greater focus on muscle mass. As the need for talented NBA players that excelled as athletes as good as any other professional sporting athlete grew, their weight increased right up to 2011 when it topped out at 221 pounds.
However, the style of play has changed in recent years where being slight and nibbler has become preferable over pure mass and power. This has seen the top weight of NBA players drop down from their peak to reflect this change in playing style.
If you only consider the height as a single statistical measurement – as many people make the mistake of doing – it only paints part of the picture.
For instance, it’s common to see guards who play just fine at a 6-foot height. However, if you wish to play in the center, then the height variance is wider with some ballers standing around the average of 6 feet 7 inches tall and others getting up to 7 feet.
The picture is a mixed one. Certainly, some positions are better suited to taller (or shorter) players. So do not despair if you’re not as tall as some. That doesn’t entirely rule you out for the NBA if you aspire to greatness.
The data does show that currently NBA players were most common at 6 foot 8 inches tall. They also had a total playing time covering 12.2% on recorded game time. There are always extremes or outliers though. Just 20 NBA players were below 6 feet tall and they only had 4% of time on court compared to other ballers. There’s been a total of 45 people standing over 7 feet tall and they had at least double the playing time.
What’s typical to see are basketball players that are between 6 foot 6 inches and 6 foot 10 inches. They have the lion’s share of the minutes on the court getting a 51% share. Essentially, they’re the most likely to get their start whereas taller or shorter players have less positions where they’re best utilized and so get far less court time.
What’s the Right Height to Play in the NBA?
Do you wish to play in the NBA eventually? Maybe you’re still at school and are planning your future?
While it certainly will require considerable game skills, there’s no escaping the fact is that you need to be quite tall to get a good chance for this to happen. While the average American is under six feet tall, professional basketball players are considerably taller. Around 10 to 12 inches taller than the rest of the U.S. population.
What are the Averages for the NBA Players?
For the recent 2017-2018 season, the average player was 217 pounds and stood at 6 feet 7 inches.
Some 523 ballers were taller than 6 feet. Indeed, 15 players were measured as being six feet tall but got under 4% of the time on court. Just 5 ballers were below six feet tall and got less than 1 percent of the minutes on the court. It clearly pays to be taller.
Breaking Down Players by Basketball Position Played
There’s considerable variance from position to position with players of different heights. We’ll now examine this further:
- Point Guard
Point Guards stood the shortest in 1952 at the start of that season where they were around 6 feet on average. They’ve since gotten taller to a reach 6 foot 3 inches by 1987 where the height gains leveled off and sometimes decline slightly. There have been outliers such as Magic Johnson standing at 6 foot 9 inches though.
With the case of the Point Guard responsibilities, changes in how the game is played and the individual talent of a baller is often what determines success over the question of height. While the latest season saw a return of Point Guards being 6 foot 3 inches on average, there are other players who were far taller than the NBA player average such as Isaiah Thomas or Ben Simmons.
- Shooting Guards
Shooting Guards have gotten significantly taller over the years and their peak height is more noticeable too. The height growth reached a peak at 6 foot 5 inches by 2000, but we still see taller players now in the Shooting Guard position.
The height range is not as wide either with players usually being between 6 foot 3 inches and 6 foot 7 inches. Indeed, some men who play as a Shooting Guard get classified as a Small Forward when they’re taller. But they’re an anomaly.
- Small Forwards
The Small Forwards is really an oxymoron. They’re some of the tallest of all basketball players!
Even back in 1952, small forwards were 6 foot 4 inches, typically. This grew over time to max out at 6 foot 8 inches as an average in the 2015-2016 season. What tracked very well is that the Small Forwards were around 2.5 inches taller than the Shooting Guards over time. Attendants at a game may have noticed this with the men running on either wing being noticeably bigger guys.
There is also a tight grouping on average heights for the Small Forward position too. Most players fit neatly into the 6 foot 6 inches to 6-foot 9 inches range.
- Power Forwards
The evolution of the Power Forward position has been significant over time.
Previously, they were seen as dogged players that were substantial and powerful who took advantage of post-ups to increase the score and charged forward for rebounds too. Currently, Power Forwards are far more proactive scoring 3 pointers and starting plays that other ballers complete.
Curiously, the game style hasn’t been dictated by a height change. Indeed, the average height of a Power Forward of 6 foot 9 inches in 1987 hasn’t seen much volatility year over year. What has changed in 2018 is the weight level with players being around 10 pounds lighter on their feet reflecting the need to be spryer on the court.
Centers aren’t that different to Power Forwards when it comes to height changes over time.
The average height hit a maximum of 7 feet tall in 1996. However, the weight kept increasing to 2014 when it hit a peak of 255 pounds. The range of height differences with Centers isn’t considerable – it’s usually from 6 feet 11 inches to around 7 feet tall.
Where’s the Data Come From?
Basketballreference.com is the source for the height, weight, position played, and other data used as the basis for this article.
It’s worth bearing in mind that often players covered different positions through a given season making positional data a little inaccurate due to the variability of real life. A player may even have their assigned position changed mid-game too.
The information about a player’s height and weight is only captured once. While the height is likely to remain the same, their weight can fluctuate considerably through the years or just a single season. Also, while it might have been noted that 3 players were active across 3 seasons, that could mean the same player played in all 3 seasons and is being counted 3 times. Therefore, the 3 players could relate to 3 individuals or one person who played all three seasons. They’re not separately counted.