We all know that basketball players tend to be some of the tallest athletes out there. Some professional basketball players stand well over 7 feet tall. But you may be wondering: are your favorite basketball players really as tall as their measurements indicate? How, exactly, are their measurements taken?
In the NBA, players are measured with their shoes off. Each player must be officially measured by a team doctor, and these measurements are subsequently reported to the NBA. It is unclear if WNBA players are measured with or without shoes. NCAA players are typically measured with their shoes on.
Read on to learn more about how basketball players are measured and what outside factors may affect these measurements. We’ll also take a look at some related questions, including:
- How tall are basketball players when they’re barefoot?
- How tall is the average NBA, WNBA, and NCAA basketball player?
- Who are the tallest basketball players on record?
- Do basketball players have to wear shoes?
- What are some of the biggest shoe sizes of basketball players?
Are you ready to get started?
How Are Basketball Players Measured?
Depending on their league and level of play, basketball players may be measured with their shoes either on or off, and the measurements may or may not be considered “official.” For these reasons, it can be difficult to know for sure if a player’s listed height is accurate or not.
The surprising exception to this rule is the NBA, as we’ll see throughout this article. Let’s take a closer look at how players are measured in the NBA, the WNBA, and the NCAA.
The NBA requires teams to present an accurate height measurement for each player. These measurements are generally taken sometime during the first week of training camp and reported to the NBA by the end of the week.
To get an accurate measurement, each player is officially measured by a team doctor. They must have their shoes off during the measurement. All numbers are rounded to the nearest inch. For example, a player measuring 6’3 ¾” would be reported as 6’4”. A player measuring 6”3 ¼“ would be reported as 6’3”.
Because the measurements are done officially and not reported by the players themselves, there is little room for exaggerating the numbers. And because they are measured with their shoes off, they give an accurate indication of how tall a player actually is.
In the WNBA, there is little to no information on how player’s heights are measured. There’s also confusion as to whether measurements are taken officially or simply reported by players.
There is some speculation that the numbers are not entirely accurate, which would suggest that either teams or individual players are fudging their height measurements to make the players appear taller or, in some cases, shorter.
This fudging of the numbers is a common practice in sports overall, so if WNBA players or teams do, in fact, report inaccurate measurements, they certainly aren’t alone. Even the NBA used to be a major offender in this way. But more on that in a bit.
In the NCAA, players are generally measured with their shoes on. This is evidenced by the fact that some pro NBA players, including Kemba Walker and Zion Williamson, actually measure one to two inches shorter than their college measurements.
Whether NCAA players are officially measured or self report their measurements is unclear. However, there is a fair amount of evidence that NCAA measurements are not accurate across the board, as newly drafted players in a number of different sports often measure smaller than their college numbers would indicate.
Recent Measurement Changes in the NBA
The NBA hasn’t always been so strict about reporting accurate player measurements. Until 2019, players were measured with their shoes on, and any in-between numbers were rounded up. And even then, these numbers weren’t always reported accurately, as they didn’t have to be verified by a team doctor.
As you might expect, players and teams embellished their numbers–a lot. Most players were listed as taller than their actual heights. For example, J.J. Barea was previously listed as 6’0”, but his actual height is 5’10”.
Some players, including Kevin Durant, actually reported smaller numbers than their actual height. In these cases, players would undersell their height because they wanted to play a particular position or didn’t want to be perceived as “big and slow.”
This has gone on for most of the NBA’s history, but in 2019, the league decided to put a stop to the false reporting. The NBA began tightening their standards in regards to how player height gets reported. Several changes were made in an effort to enforce accurate measurements, including:
- Players have to be barefoot and could no longer be measured with their shoes on.
- Measurements have to be taken by a medical doctor before or during the first week of training camp.
- Players’ official heights must be reported by each team to the NBA within a week of training camp beginning.
- Official numbers must be reported accurately on team websites, game programs, and other official NBA media.
Because of these changes, player height listings have become much more accurate in the past couple of years. Some players may still attempt to unofficially fudge their own numbers when talking to fans or reporters, but the accuracy of their claims can easily be checked on the team’s website.
But, you might be wondering, why bother making these changes? If no one else, including some of the NBA’s own players, seems to care about reporting accurate measurements, why should the NBA care?
That’s a great question, and there’s no definitive answer.
Perhaps the NBA decided it was time to put a stop to a ridiculous and unnecessary habit that is pervasive throughout all sports and levels of competition. Maybe they wanted to hold their teams and players to higher standards of professionalism. Or perhaps they determined that there is some benefit to knowing the exact height of each player.
Whatever the reason for the changes, they seem to have been for the better–at least for those who are curious about finding out accurate height measurements of their favorite players.
Does Shoe Size Affect Basketball Player Measurements?
So here’s an obscure question: does a player’s shoe size have anything to do with their height? And what other factors may play a role in the accuracy of a player’s measurements?
At first glance, the shoe size a basketball player wears doesn’t appear to have much effect on how tall they measure. Obviously, any player wearing shoes is going to measure taller than a player without shoes. But the size of the shoes shouldn’t affect how much height is added to a player–should it?
Well, it depends.
Generally, taller players wear larger shoes, but this is not because the shoes themselves make the players taller. Larger shoes may have thicker soles, which may increase a player’s height by a very small amount.
The more influential factor would be not the shoe’s size, but its design.
Two pairs of size 12 Nike’s could have completely different designs, with one having a much thicker sole than the other. One might add an inch to a player’s height, while the other would add two inches. This is another reason why measuring with shoes on is an inaccurate way to gauge a player’s actual height.
Other factors, unrelated to shoes, that may play a role in the accuracy of a player’s height measurement include:
- Head angle. Some players may attempt to hold their chin up and stretch their neck to appear a little bit taller. While these efforts may not affect the overall height very much, they can still lead to inaccurate numbers.
In fact, players who hold their chin level are able to improve their measurements, as it keeps the crown of their head a little higher than raising the chin would do.
- Posture. Of course, standing tall but relaxed is important in any height measurement. Some players who want to appear shorter may slouch their shoulders or hang their heads. Those trying to appear taller may arch their back and puff out their chest.
Players who manipulate their posture are more likely to end up with inaccurate height readings. Players who stand in a relaxed, natural posture, without slouching, generally lead to the most accurate readings.
- Standing on toes. As you might imagine, this is one of the oldest tricks in the books. It is easy to tell when a player is standing on their toes while being measured, but in many cases, those doing the measuring don’t care enough to ask the player to stand flat footed.
In the NBA, players are required to stand flat on their bare feet, so the numbers you see are more likely to be accurate measurements of the players’ heights. But at other levels of basketball and other sports in general, players may find it easy to improve their height by standing on their toes.
- Bending knees. This may not be such a common practice as standing on toes, but for players attempting to appear shorter than they are, bending the knees is an easy way to get rid of a couple of inches.
Again, this is less likely to happen in the NBA with its strict rules about how players are measured. It’s also less likely to be seen at other levels of play since basketball players most commonly want to appear taller than they are, not shorter.
- Hairstyles. Some creative athletes may even attempt to use long hair to add a few inches to their stature. Man buns, messy buns, and simple coiled buns all enable players to pile their hair on top of their heads. The longer and thicker the hair, the better the effect.
Of course, in most cases, the doctor or nurse doing the measuring won’t measure the hair as part of a player’s height. But a player measuring him or herself could easily do so.
Because of all of these factors, you can see why it’s important for teams to obtain accurate measurements from team doctors and not simply take the word of players who self-report their own height.
Do Basketball Players Have to Wear Shoes?
As you might imagine, the simple answer to this question is “yes.” Anyone who plays basketball at a competitive level is expected to wear shoes throughout the game.
There are some obvious reasons for this: players who didn’t wear shoes would be at risk of having their feet stepped on and sustaining serious injuries. Bare feet would not give a player the necessary traction to run, stop suddenly, and change directions quickly.
So, not only is it required, but it just makes good sense to wear shoes during a basketball game. Considering shoes typically add an inch or two to a player’s height, and players have to wear them during games, it’s no wonder that a lot of leagues and players report their measurements with shoes on.
Which begs the question: is the NBA being overly fussy by requiring players to be measured with their shoes off? Does it actually make more sense to measure players with their shoes on?
In this case, the simple answer is “it depends.”
Fans are generally more interested in a player’s actual height. They want to know exactly how tall a player is, and they don’t want some exaggerated measurement that includes rounded numbers and extra inches from shoes. So, for the purpose of posting player information on websites and game programs, it’s best to post the accurate, “shoes off” numbers.
On the other hand, coaches and recruiters may prefer to know a player’s height with shoes on, as this will be the number that applies when a player is out on the court.
What Are Some Players with the Biggest Shoe Sizes in the NBA?
Considering some NBA players are near or above seven feet tall, you might expect these players to have pretty large feet. And you would be correct. As mentioned earlier, shoe size can have a small impact on a player’s measurements, as larger shoe sizes may add a little bit extra to a player’s height than a comparable pair of shoes in a smaller size.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at which players have had some of the biggest feet in the NBA, as determined by their shoe sizes.
- Shaquille O’Neal. Often regarded as one of the greatest NBA players of all time, Shaq is known for his large size as well as his larger than life personality. During his 19-year career, he played center for six different teams.
His official height is listed as 7’1”, but it’s unclear whether that is with or without shoes. His shoe size is 22, which is a tie for the record for largest shoe size in the NBA.
- Bob Lanier. Bob Lanier was known for having big feet throughout his career. In fact, after his retirement, one of his shoes was put on display at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Like Shaqille O’Neal, his shoe size was 22, though he was a bit shorter than Shaq, standing about 6’11”.
- Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is still active and currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets. He is considered by some to be the best basketball player anywhere. He is officially listed as 6’10” and wears size 18 shoes.
- DeAndre Jordan. One of Kevin Durant’s teammates, DeAndre Jordan also plays for the Brooklyn Nets and wears size 18 shoes. He is a bit taller than KD, officially measuring in at 6’11”.
- Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers. He is 6’9” and wears a shoe size of 18.
Those are some large feet!
How Tall Are Basketball Players When They Are Barefoot?
As mentioned above, shoes generally add about 1 to 2 inches to a basketball player’s height; therefore, barefoot players may measure an inch or two shorter than if they were measured while wearing shoes.
To get an idea of how tall some basketball players are without shoes on, let’s take a closer look at the NBA, the WNBA, and the NCAA, respectively.
Since NBA players are now officially measured while not wearing shoes, it’s safe to assume that their listed measurements are pretty accurate. In some cases, we can also compare their current official height with previous height measurements to show the difference between measurements done with and without shoes.
Here’s a list of some players whose height “changed” after the new measuring requirements of 2019.
- Tacko Fall. This big man for the Boston Celtics is officially listed at 7’5”, despite his claims that he’s “7’6 without shoes.” When he played college basketball at the University of Central Florida, he was listed as 7’7”.
- Bradley Beal. Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards was previously listed at 6’5”, but after being officially measured without shoes, his height “shrunk” to 6’3”.
- Draymond Green. Fans expected Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors to measure quite a bit smaller than his previous 6’7” listing, but he only “shrank” about an inch, to 6’6”.
As you can see, it’s fairly consistent that players measured with shoes tend to be a little taller than when they’re measured without shoes.
As mentioned above, it isn’t clear whether the WNBA measures players with or without shoes, so it’s more difficult to tell whether you’re getting an accurate measurement when discussing player heights.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some players whose listed height is fairly typical of WNBA players in general.
- Sylvia Fowles, 6’6”, center, Minnesota Lynx
- Natasha Howard, 6’2”, forward, New York Liberty
- Chelsea Gray, 5’11”, guard, Las Vegas Aces
As expected, WNBA players are generally a bit shorter than NBA players, whether they’re being measured with or without their shoes on.
As it would appear that NCAA players are typically measured with their shoes on, then it’s easy to suspect that most college player height listings are a bit inflated. So, to determine how tall these players are barefoot, you will likely need to take an inch or two off of their listed measurement.
Here’s a list of some top NCAA basketball players and their stated height.
- Hunter Dickinson, 7’1”, center, University of Michigan
- E.J. Liddell, 6’7”, forward, Ohio State University
- Aari McDonald, 5’6”, guard, University of Arizona
- Rhyne Howard, 6’2”, guard, University of Kentucky
Again, these numbers may or may not refer to players’ actual heights without shoes on.
How Tall is the Average Basketball Player?
So we’ve looked at the measurements of a few actual players at the NCAA, NBA, and WNBA levels. But maybe you’re curious about more generalized numbers. What are the average heights of basketball players by position?
Of course, positional height averages will vary from league to league; for example, the NBA will generally have higher averages than the WNBA, and both professional leagues boast higher averages than the NCAA.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the average player heights for each basketball position in the NBA, the WNBA, and the NCAA.
The average heights for NBA players are as follows, depending on the position:
- Center: 6’11”
- Small Forward: 6’7”
- Power Forward: 6’9”
- Point Guard: 6’3”
- Shooting Guard: 6’5”
At all levels of play, centers are generally the tallest players on the court, while point guards are generally the shortest. As you can see by the averages above, the NBA is no exception to that rule.
The average height by position for WNBA players can be found below:
- Center: 6’5”
- Forward: 6’2”
- Guard: 5’8”
Some players in the WNBA play multiple positions, such as center/ forwards and forward/ guards. These players may have slightly different average heights than the ones listed above.
Here are the average heights for NCAA basketball players by position:
- Center: 6’9”
- Small Forward: 6’5”
- Power Forward: 6’7”
- Point Guard: 6’2”
- Shooting Guard: 6’3”
- Center: 6’2”
- Small Forward: 5’11”
- Power Forward: 6’0”
- Point Guard: 5’8”
- Shooting Guard: 5’10”
Again, these averages are smaller than the averages for both the NBA and the WNBA, and it is unclear whether these averages refer to players measured with their shoes on or off.
Who Are the Tallest Basketball Players on Record?
With all this talk of player heights and averages, you may be wondering about the tallest basketball players. Which player holds the record for tallest male or female basketball player in the world? Who are currently the tallest players in the NBA and the WNBA? Who are some other notably tall players?
Let’s take a look:
- Tallest Male Basketball Player: This distinction is held by Suleiman Ali Nashnush, a Libyan basketball player who stood 8’0.5”. Nashnush, who lived from 1943 to 1991, had a short stint playing for the Libyan National Team in 1962 but didn’t build a career in basketball despite his record-setting height.
- Tallest Female Basketball Player: The tallest female basketball player was Małgorzata “Margo” Dydek, who towered over most of her teammates at 7’2”. Dydek, who was from Poland, spent several years in the WNBA as well as on various European teams. She died in 2011 at the age of 37 following a cardiac arrest.
- Other Tall Players:
- Alexander Sizonenko was a professional basketball player from the Ukraine who lived from 1959 to 2012. He was active for much of the 1970s and 1980s. He was 7’10”.
- Sun Mingming, a Chinese basketball player, was considered the tallest active player in the world throughout his career. He stood 7’9” and played professionally for the Hamamatsu Phoenix and Beijing Ducks between 2006 and 2014.
- Tacko Fall, as mentioned earlier, is officially listed 7’5” and is currently the tallest player in the NBA. He plays for the Boston Celtics.
- Brittney Griner is the current tallest player in the WNBA. She stands 6’9” and plays center for the Phoenix Mercury.
There’s no doubt about it: these players stand and stood tall, whether they were measured with or without wearing shoes!
You would think the question would have a straightforward answer: are basketball players measured with shoes on? But as we’ve seen, the answer really depends on what league and level of play we’re talking about.
NBA players are now measured without shoes, leading to more accurate and dependable numbers on team websites and programs. NCAA players are generally measured with shoes on, which can lead to the appearance that they “shrank” when they entered the pro leagues. There is no information as to whether WNBA players are measured with or without shoes.
But whether or not your favorite players were measured with shoes on, chances are they stand at least a head or two above the general population. Basketball players are tall, and though they need their shoes to play, they don’t need shoes to make them appear tall.