Mythbusters: Wilt, the Incredible Stilt!

  • wiltsjump3.jpg

    In another thread on here the discussion turned to Wilt. The idea came up that Wilt may have enjoyed a 50" vertical jump.

    I don’t know about Wilt’s 50 inch vertical. Wilt was the subject of numerous urban myths. One thing is for sure… Wilt was an athlete and deserved that title as much as being titled a basketball player.

    “Instead, he was an avid track and field athlete: as a youth, he high jumped 6 feet, 6 inches, ran the 440 yards in 49.0 seconds and the 880 yards in 1:58.3, put the shot 53 feet, 4 inches, and broad jumped 22 feet.”

    ~ Wikipedia


    One urban legend (or myth) is that Wilt would often take a quarter off the top of the backboard. This story grew largely because Wilt made it a claim. But if it was true, why didn’t Will prove it on camera? He was constantly attacked and discredited by racist people and groups finding him to be a real threat to a white world.

    But, for argument’s sake, let’s say Wilt DID remove a quarter from the backboard. How high would he have to jump to do that?

    Wilt’s standing reach in high school was 9’ 3" and some change. The top of the backboard at that time was 13’. Round Wilt’s reach down to 9’3". The difference is 3’9", or 45". Then decide how many extra inches he would need to corral a quarter off the top. Let’s say, 3". That gets him to 48". Then consider that his standing reach was on the ground, not in floating water. He must have given up a couple of inches in his feet planted on the ground (when measuring his standing reach). That knocks him down to 46".

    So even considering the urban myth as true, he didn’t make it to 50".

    Here is an excellent video on Wilt and his athleticism -

    After giving this more thought, I felt like I needed some kind of comparison to put Wilt’s jumping ability into perspective. I then visited Guinness Book of World Records -

    Highest Standing Jump

    I knew there had to be a recording of this to hold up to the scrutiny of Guinness… and sure enough, there is (along with other high leaper info) -

    Highest Vertical Jump Ever Recorded – With Video!

    Evan Ungar 63.5″ Box Jump World Record (May 13, 2016)

    Now I’m thinking… Wilt probably did jump 50" or more!


    But wait…

    Watch the Evan Ungar jump again. Note that they call it a “box jump.” In reality, we should call it what it is, a vertical jump measured from the bottom. His clearance of 63.5" is measured from below. Then I’m wondering… why don’t we just count the record high jump?

    2.45 m (8 ft 0.45 in) Javier Sotomayor (Cuba) Salamanca, Spain 27 July 1993

    96.45"… WOW!

    Okay… a standing jump is not the same as a running jump. a 33" difference clearly illustrates this.

    This fact alone, that standing jumps differ from running jumps, made me question other factors that must make a huge difference in results.


    There is a huge difference between these two techniques. Measuring from the bottom is completely inaccurate and gives jumpers all those extra inches by just bending their knees and waist. Let’s say Evan Ungar is 6’ tall and his standing reach 7’6". Does anyone in here really think Evan could leap up and touch something 153.5" above the earth? That is 12’9.5"… almost able to remove a quarter off the backboard and only being 6’ tall!

    There are also distortions with measuring leaps from the top. Jumpers are able to add just a bit of extra reach on their extensions when in motion (versus reaching while standing on the ground). However… measuring from the top is the closest current measuring method to what is accurate when using the generic term “highest jump” or “highest standing jump” (if done from the standing position).

    I believe the only method to accurately measure jumping height is to use my very own “3-point system.” Have your jumper stand upright and place 3 measuring points from the top of his/her chest, in the mid section, and then down just above the pelvic bone. Use sensors and computers to calculate the position on jumps, and use mathematical formulas to slightly tweak the results, based on the jumpers body angle at the highest point of the jump.

    Using my technique… go back and watch the Evan Ungar jump again. Realistically, he can jump perhaps around 45" vertically. Maybe a bit higher. When you standardize and legitimize the technique used I think you will find that most super leapers “peak out” around 45". Yes… there are some that go higher. I tend to recall seeing someone go 48" on a “measuring from the top” leap.

    Now loaded with this information, I don’t believe Wilt reached the 50" vertical leap. At best, I see him around 45", which is still an outrageous athletic feat by anyone, and especially for a man standing 7’1"!


  • I enjoyed your thought process through this one. That still is amazing! Are there any comps for a 40+ vertical on a 7 footer?

  • Wonder what Dwight Howard’s was when he raised the backboard for that dunk contest

  • Here we go… if your theory holds true, Wilt would have destroyed Howard’s best:

  • @drgnslayr

    Recall how much Andrea Hudy improved Marcus and Markieff Morri’s verticals between freshman and sophomore seasons?

    How much she has improved so many players verticals?

    I forget how many inches she added to their verticals. Anyone recall?

    Imagine if Dr. Hudy had gotten to train Wilt his freshman season, or any season before he began climbing above 275.

    Imagine how high he would have jumped with modern training.

    Let’s take your studied estimate of 45 inches.

    Even on Hudy’s worst results she can add 3 inches to players verticals.

    That would be 48 inches.

    But lets recall that Wilt was a super driven type of athlete and a fantastic physical specimen; that even before the age of sophisticated weight training that he was able to add 25 to 40 pounds of pure muscle all by himself.

    What would Hudy have likely done for Wilt’s vertical, given the kind of flipping beast he was?

    I don’t think 50 inches would have been at all beyond his reach.

    Next, watch the tapes of Wilt at 300 plus pounds VERY late in his career going up for Kareem’s sky hook.

    In watching a number of youtube feeds, it is clear that my memory is correct and that he often could not block Kareem.


    The fact is Wilt blocked Kareem’s sky hook a number of times after a long career of incredibly high mpg and weighing by then something like 315.

    Let’s imagine Wilt in his first five seasons getting to work with Andrea Hudy and adding 5 inches to his already awesome vertical leap.

    Now watch those you tube feeds of Kareem shooting the sky hook over Wilt. Focus carefully on all the ones Wilt missed the block on. Ask yourself: how many of those missed blocks would have been clean blocks withanother 5 inches of vertical? I would say 2/3s for near certain? But at least half.

    I am not using Kareem to knock him here. I am using Kareem to put what Wilt could have done in the modern game, especially the last couple of seasons of runt ball in the NBA.

    We can go through the same thought experiment with Kareem facing the modern players. Hudy could have added 3-5 inches to Kareem’s vertical and its arguable if any current NBA player would have EVER blocked a SINGLE skyhook by Kareem. Imagine how much higher his shooting percentage would have been in today’s game, if he had never had to worry about his sky hook being blocked EVER!!!

    There is a very good case that Wilt AND Kareem would have been unstoppable in today’s game, except when they faced each other. And frankly, if Wilt had been able to charge and walk, it is doubtful that Kareem could ever have stopped Wilt.

  • et al,

    There just are these human beings that come along that are radical outliers among even the most extremely gifted.

    They are once in a century types, or once in a couple of centuries types.

    In literature, there really and truly has not been another dramatist as monstrously gifted as Shakespeare, another poet as gifted as Dante.

    In music, every composer is in an extreme match up disadvantage when it comes to Beethoven and Mozart.

    Michaelangelo just towers above most other painter/sculptors.

    I have never understood why anyone doubts that Wilt is just a towering athletic freak.

    Like Michael Jordan, Picasso was a virtuoso–a great, great figure of his chosen field, but Picasso is a pipsqueak next to Michaelangelo, because, well, because what ever Michaelangelo touched seemed to wreak of his towering genius. He painted brilliantly. he sculpted brilliantly, he even architected brilliantly.

    Michaelangelo was a three sport sport star in art–a triathlete.

    That Michaelangelo was this towering artistic freak in no way diminishes Picasso.

    That Wilt was this towering athletic freak in no way diminishes Bill Russell, or Kareem, or Michael Jordan, or Lebron.

    Its just how it is.

    I really wish folks could just sit back and enjoy it.

    But I understand there are persons that struggle with it.

  • Who Has The Highest Vertical Jump in NBA History?

    1. Wilt Chamberlain – 48″

    Wilt ChamberlainWilt ‘the Stilt’ Chamberlain was one of the most dominant forces in NBA history. He is the only man to have scored 100 points in a single game. Standing at 7’1” you wouldn’t think someone of that size had a vertical jump of 48 inches.

    It isn’t just his jumping prowess that was great he was an exceptional all-around athlete running the 100 yard dash in 10.9 seconds, doing a triple jump of over 50 feet, throwing a shot put over 56 feet and winning the high jump 3 consecutive years in the Big Eight conference in the NCAAs.

    If you can find it, there’s an old footage on YouTube of Chamberlain jumping up in a game to block a shot where it looks like his hand reaches the top of the backboard to do so.

    1. Darrell Griffith – 48″

    2. Michael Jordan – 46″

  • @drgnslayr

    You are actually talking about two different types of jumps that measure two different things. The first and better known measures how high you can reach, the second measures how much height you can clear.

    In the first type the taller, athletic players, particularly those with long legs have the advantage since the legs act as springs and the longer the springs, the higher the jump. The second type depends not only on how high you can propel yourself up but also how much you can compress your legs; in this type of jump being shorter (less body to compress) would have the advantage, this is why good jumper that are not too tall have the advantage.

    The equipment to measure high reach is very simply and yet very effective and essentially every gym has it. You simply measure the standing reach and then the player jumps either from a standing position or with a few running steps and moves the slats on the device which measure the very top of the fingers. Really simple, really effective.

    Earl “the goat” Manigault, a legend of the New York playgrounds, particularly Rucker Park where he played with the likes of Lew Alcindor, who called him the the best ever, Connie Hawkins and Ear Monroe, was said to be able to jump and leave quarters on top of the blackboard and then jump again and retrieve them. He was only 6’-1". I have no doubt Wilt could have done that.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I like your build-up of support for Wilt jumping 50 inches. I’m just skeptical because those last inches become harder and harder, just like in other records, like track times in the 100 meters.


    The rare video you are talking about is in the video above. Wilt goes high… but he still looks to be about 4 inches short of the top of the backboard.

    Thanks for the mention of Griffith reaching 48". The second I read that, I recalled it, too.

    I’m forgetting someone from today. I believe he is a NFL player with a freakish vertical. Anyone know?

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Yep… I’ve seen that measuring equipment. It measures total height of a jump. That can closely determine vertical but players extend further during a jump and in mid-air as they stretch their bodies between their mid-section and their finger tips. I know I am talking about tiny increments, but if we want to be as exact as possible, everything should be considered. Plus there is, at least, one more factor I mention below.

    For me, two things stand out as important to capture this magic number. First, measuring the jump distance from a player’s mid-section from on the ground to at the peak of the jump. Second, to extend their feet on tiptoes while getting that base measurement because I don’t count the inches from just stretching the feet. And with big guys, this is several inches.

    My ultimate goal is to measure how high an athlete can take his body off the ground, and when I say body, I mean mid-section. The only reason why I’m a stickler with this is because we are comparing and competing with other jumpers. For example, Wilt was 7’1". If we want to compare his jump with Spud Webb at 5’7" then Wilt will get at least a couple of inches advantage just from extending his feet.

    I’m just not sold by stories. So many players boasted about these things, especially with leaping high. I’m pretty certain that if any of these super stories were true, there would be photo or video evidence left behind to document it.

    Some of the best evidence around concerning vertical leaping relates to high jumping, probably because of it being an Olympic medal event. I read that using his (Wilt’s) style of jump and reaching 6’6" would require a minimum of a 39" vertical jump. The techniques today require less vertical to go higher. I’m pretty sure if these “freak jumpers” (guys going 50"+) are out there one or more of them would be recruited into high jumping.

    I’m open to thinking different about this, but I need solid evidence.

  • @drgnslayr nice!

  • Kenny Gregory had around a 48" vert which was more than enough to jump completely over me! I believe he held the NBA combine record for vertical leap until recently.

  • @drgnslayr

    I agree. But that would really have only applied to the last 2 inches, same as was probably the case for the Morri. And Wilt was vastly more gifted, more driven, and more disciplined than the Morri. Right?

    So let’s say Wilt would 99% probably have reached 48 inches in today’s game and about 75% likely have reached 50 inches.

  • @drgnslayr

    You said:

    "That can closely determine vertical but players extend further during a jump and in mid-air as they stretch their bodies between their mid-section and their finger tips."

    …and this is exactly what the device measures…we must be talking about a different device; there are several variation of it. This is the one I am talking about…


  • @drgnslayr said:

    I’m forgetting someone from today. I believe he is a NFL player with a freakish vertical. Anyone know?

    I recall JJ Watt having a 61-inch vertical box jump. Perhaps that is who you are thinking of?

  • Box verts are cheating. They bend their legs up to their chests.

    This is the most impressive leader I’ve seen in person: Kenny Gregory per Wikipedia—

    Despite a very large wingspan for a guard of 6’11" (2.11 m) and some very impressive athletic scores at the 2001 NBA pre-draft camp, such as recording the highest no-step vertical jump (40") and the highest maximum vertical jump (46") that have ever been measured at the camp, Gregory went undrafted in the 2001 NBA Draft.[1]

  • @dylans

    I am not sure I would call it cheating. Box jumping is just a different type of measurement and one that is really not applicable to Basketball.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    We are talking about the same device.

    It measures total jumping height.

    Look at your own photo posted. Look at his extension. You can’t reproduce that extension with him standing on the ground and you need that to determine his vertical leap.

    His vertical leap is the actual inches he can lift his body off the ground. At least, that is how I define it.

    The device you are talking about is the total jump height. Two very different numbers.

    The reason your device can’t give me an accurate measurement for vertical leap (my definition) is that players vary how much they stretch out and reach during their jumps. We need a way to account for that, and the discrepancies can be quite large when considering someone like 7’1" Wilt.

  • @drgnslayr

    With that device you have to take two measurements, the first is standing on the ground with the arms fully extended and then you take a measurement on the maximum elevation reached by moving the vanes at the top of the jump, either from a standing position or with a running start; the difference is the vertical elevation. This is how it is measured in the NBA combine. The picture is Wiggins at the combine.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Except that misses the stretch, from the feet and of the body. That difference can be 5 or 6 inches of distortion.

  • and regardless of what type of measuring device you use - Wilt was going to block your shot, grab the rebound, beat you down the court and dunk the ball.

  • @drgnslayr

    Not really,. The device measures the difference between the two high points, all the “stretching is below the second high point. If you look at the picture the tip of his toes are well below 46” but the difference between the two high points is indeed 46". In basketball they want to know how high you can stretch your finger tips to rebound, dunk or block a shot and it does not make a difference how high your feet are off the ground; this is what block jumping does not apply to basketball…if does if you are trying to jump over a car though. You can have a 5’ players that jumps 36" and he will barely get to the reach of a of a 7’ player standing.

    I could draw a few pictures that illustrate the process but is it really worth it? We see it somewhat differently and it does not really matter whether either one is correct…heck, we could both be wrong, it really is not a big deal. Like @nuleafjhawk said, let’s agree that…Wilt was going to block your shot, grab the rebound, beat you down the court and dunk the ball.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Ah… I didn’t know that!

    Thanks for the valuable info!

    Yes… I never doubted Wilt’s outrageous athleticism. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like to be on the same court with him. You needed two eyes… one on what you are doing and one to know where Wilt was.

  • @drgnslayr

    I was only able to see Wilt’s games toward the end of his career. Most of what I know about Wilt I learned only after I moved to Lawrence, Kansas in the mid 70s and became a Jayhawk fan. The more I read about him, the more I am convinced that he was the most gifted athlete of my generation and perhaps of all time. Kareem and Bird were always my favorites, in part because I followed their careers from beginning to end, but Wilt might overtake them some day.

  • @drgnslayr Nice! Nice work man. Thats great stuff.

  • @drgnslayr

    I am sorry for bumping this old thread but I found it while doing a Google search and wanted to add something here. I clipped this photo from a YouTube video that asks this very question. People talk about players who were able to take a quarter from the top of a backboard, but the number of players who could actually do it can be counted on one hand. In this photo, Wilt’s hand is clearly about a foot above the top of the backboard and almost his entire head is above the rim. Wilt’s thumb is above the letter K in “backboard” and his fingers extend to the edge of the frame at the top. This is completely and utterly ridiculous. My guess is that when you combine his height, his reach, and his vertical jump, nobody in history could reach an object higher off the ground than he could.

    alt text

  • @Traces-of-Texas

    Okay, I was able to snag a couple of other shots without the letters. In the second photo, his head is even higher than in the first but he has already blocked the shot and his arm is beginning to come down. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the rim is at about the same height as Wilt’s adam’s apple. I apologize for the lack of clarity, but that’s what I had to work with.

    alt text

    alt text

  • The last screenshot. My gods.

  • @Traces-of-Texas wowow! Nice shots!

  • Wilt was a good student. He listened to everything I told him and made it his mission in all competition to DESTROY the opponent, not just defeat them. In my opinion, he was the greatest all around athlete there ever was. Or will be.

  • @approxinfinity

    Thanks. In my opinion, it pretty definitively answers the question re: whether he could ever reach the top of the backboard. My guess is that when he was at Kansas he probably could have jumped high enough to take a quarter off the backboard but that after he went to the Globies and then into the NBA and added 20-30 pounds he could no longer do it, which is why we don’t have photos of him doing it. But he remembered that at one point he COULD do it so he would say that he could do it because, you know, Wilt being Wilt and all.

    BTW here’s the video. Judge for yourself.

  • @Traces-of-Texas

    I really appreciate your posts! Thanks!

  • One thing to remember when comparing Wilt to current or more recent nba players on any ability, Wilt did not have the advantage of modern nutrition and training when he accomplished what he did. His numbers on everything would be better if he did. He had a hand timed 4.6 in the 40, at 7’1". He beat the great Jim Brown in a foot race. Twice. Barefoot. He is without a doubt the most accomplished athlete ever in pro sports and in my opinion, easily the GOAT in the NBA. Also he not only is in two different halls of fame, basketball and volleyball, but is always in the conversation when discussing who is the greatest in both sports.

  • I just laugh at people who argue MJ or Lebron for the GOAT. When you see the 4 best scoring averages in a season were his, 6 of the top 7 rebounding seasons were his, and how much above the other competition his stats were, well, it’s clear. He averaged almost 46 minutes a game. Imagine his ppg had he been better than a 51% FT shooter!

  • @drgnslayr I’ve read enough books and articles about Wilt that I truly believe he could have donned a red cape with a giant “S” (or W, or KU) on it and he could have, from a standing start, jumped onto the top of the backboard.

    He was a freak athlete. Like you said, not just basketball player - but athlete.

  • @wissox He didn’t win is the problem. That dominant and only won 2 championships while another dominant big man of that same era won 11. So Chamberlain really isn’t in the conversion even though he’s a top 3 player in my book.


    Here’s what waters down that argument. Bill Russell played on some stacked teams compared to Wilt. All those guys had the benefit of a shorter playoff than the modern NBA though when comparing to modern greats.

    And the argument Russell isn’t the best ever - 11 championships 0 finals mvps.

  • @wissox I didn’t google it right now, but the last time we talked about Wilt, I looked and LeBron had something like twelve 50 point games in 16 years (?). MJ had 31.


    That’s more than the next top five 50 point scorers combines.

    (Yeah, I went back and googled it…)

  • @nuleafjhawk He averaged 50 points a game one season! Incredible!

    @dylans I know he didn’t win. I wasn’t around then, so I couldn’t argue this point, but Wilt it’s been said didn’t have much around him during his NBA career.

  • @dylans said in Mythbusters: Wilt, the Incredible Stilt!:

    And the argument Russell isn’t the best ever - 11 championships 0 finals mvps.

    Best cherry-picked argument ever, since they didn’t award it until 1969 and it is an award named after him! 😉

  • @mayjay duh my bad. Played with too many hof players. He was more of a supporting guy imho. A damn good one, but a supporting guy none the less.

  • @mayjay so who do you have?

  • @dylans I put the smiley on my post because I thought you were intending to be ironic. Go ahead, claim it!

    I think Russell was the greatest winner of all time in any team sport, Bo Jackson the most amazing athlete I ever saw, and Wilt the best scorer of all time. I would give Wilt the best individual athlete of all time, but I think he was not as good a team player as Russell. Wilt’s stats are amazing, and it seems he could do anything he wanted, but I think he was too focused on stat-chasing (and chasing other things, too). The Lakers title showed what he could do when he didn’t need to be the primary scorer.

  • @dylans Who’s talking about championships? We’re talking about who was the best athlete/player.

    KU has had plenty of great players who have never won a championship - that doesn’t diminish their ability. In fact - you could probably argue that there are a lot of championship teams (in every sport) who don’t even have one great player. Just a lot of good ones that happen to be on top when the pieces fell just right.

    Wilt was the best.

  • There’s a great account of Wilt in Kareem’s autobiography, “Giant Steps.” It was the sometime in the mid 1960s and Kareem was an up-and-coming wunderkind basketball player. One night he went out to play in a Rucker League game in New York City. Wilt was there as were a bunch of other NBA players as well as quite a few nice-looking lady spectators. Somebody ----- Earl Monroe, maybe ----- made the mistake of dunking on Wilt and then doing some sort of minor celebration. Bad move. According to Kareem, Wilt got mad. Kareem says something like “so then Wilt had to block every shot and score every point, which he did.”

  • @Traces-of-Texas nice find!

  • Awesome post, never really thought that much about Wilt’s vertical. From what I’ve read in this article Kenny Gregory holds the highest officially recorded vertical jump (from the NBA Combine) at 45.5". I think you should have included Kenny Gregory’s 45.5" vertical jump since I think that he was technically an outlier to the 45" vertical jump average.

    Also, I’m unsure as to whether or not Kenny Gregory has a higher vertical than Wilt, so I’m assuming Wilt’s vertical has to be at least 46".

  • @Raymond0197182 Kenny Gregory! Wow. I had no idea. High flying Kansas boys.

    Welcome to the board!

  • I have a 46 millimeter vertical jump

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