How Dressel’s Vertical Leap Stacks Up Against The NBA’s Best

The average vertical leap for an NCAA basketball player is 30 inches. Olympic champion and former NCAA swimming-star, Caeleb Dressel, tops out at 41 inches. See how he compares to famous basketball players known for their vertical leaps.

  • Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets – 33.5
  • Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers – 35
  • Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers – 40
  • Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (retired) – 42
  • Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (retired) – 46

Per this article, Jordan’s 46-inch vertical is tied for the best in NBA history with Zach LeVine and James White, while Dressel’s 41 would rank in a tie for 12th with Isaiah Rider and O.J. Mayo.

Check out this video of a few times Dressel has shown off his insane vertical prior to racing via ZHL Swimming on YouTube:

This ability has helped Dressel develop the most explosive start in the world, instantly giving him a lead over his competitors.

Particularly crucial in short course swimming, Dressel’s start has helped him set NCAA, U.S. Open and American Records in the SCY 50 and 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke (which has since been broken), 100 butterfly and 200 IM, not to mention the world record in the SCM 50 free.

In long course, he owns the world record in the 100 fly, while also holding the distinction of being the fastest swimmer of all-time in a textile suit in both the 50 and 100 free.

To read more about Dressel and why his start is so lethal, read Olivier Poirier-Leroy‘s story from October of 2018 here.

Part of this story appeared in the 2017 College edition of SwimSwam Magazine.

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Xman
1 year ago

I remember 41 inches from a few years ago, I’m sure it has improved.

How does this compare to say a track field athlete?

remel can do anything
Reply to  Xman
1 year ago

his mom mentioned, about 42 or 43 now.

MTK
Reply to  Xman
1 year ago

Not sure what the verts of a 100/200m type guy in track would be, but from what I’ve heard, football players (specifically WR and CB) have even higher verts than most NBA guys because the aerobic demands of their sport are much lower and therefore they are more powerful.

No way dude
Reply to  MTK
1 year ago

Doubt it. The Vertical is way more applicable for NBA players. You probably have a higher average vertical in the NFL if you just measured skill players. But I think NBA players focus on improving that way more

Dudeman
Reply to  No way dude
1 year ago

It might be more applicable but when you’re 7ft tall you don’t really need to be able to jump that high to do most things in basketball. The average player height in the NBA is 6’7 so most players can dunk with around a 24 inch vertical when their arms are above their head. The average NFL height is around 6’1 and since they’re more focused on developing power it would make sense their vertical jumps could be higher on average

lol
Reply to  No way dude
3 months ago

confidently incorrect

sven
Reply to  MTK
1 year ago

I think this is part of it. the other thing is that I think there’s more of a need for a high vertical in football. In basketball, basically all of them can dunk at 60% effort or less. Sure, there are advantages to being able to jump higher than the guy guarding you, but in general there’s not a huge need to be in the 40s if you can easily dunk and I don’t think vertical is one of the gatekeeper stats when trying to get drafted in the NBA. In football, even the best QB is gonna overthrow sometimes, so a receiver has got to be able to get there (or if you’re on defense you’ve got to be… Read more »

Alum14
Reply to  sven
1 year ago

The nba just doesn’t rely as heavily on numbers. Kevin Durant couldn’t bench press 135 at his combine, but if you can ball, you can ball. it’s definitely not because they don’t need a high vertical in basketball.

Most players on a basketball court are jumping at full power on most possessions at some point.

sscommenter
Reply to  Alum14
1 year ago

I think it was 185, and he got no reps. I remember talking to the Boston Celtics training staff years ago when Al Jefferson was drafted (6’10 250) out of high school and he could barely do 185, a year later he could rep out 225 and i think maxed out around 300. Most of the guys above 6’7 don’t really hit weights till they stop growing. I know growing up (I’m only 6’5) people always said starting to early will stunt your growth (they also said the same about drinking coffee)

Admin
Reply to  sscommenter
1 year ago

sscommenter is correct – 0 reps at 185 pounds.

Jmoe
Reply to  sscommenter
1 year ago

I don’t think it was because of stunting your growth now though. I think it has to do with the body growing. I wish I didn’t start drinking coffee so early on in life. I want to be taller!

lol
Reply to  Alum14
3 months ago

185 and he was a 19 yr old 7 footer. FYI bench press is significantly harder the longer your arms are

Gator
1 year ago

46 by MJ is crazy. No wonder he was best ever.

lol
Reply to  Gator
3 months ago

46 for Zach Lavine is crazy. no wonder hes … a good dunker

Ernie and Bert
1 year ago

Swim Swam just walked into the obligation of a swimmer dunk contest.

ElvisVB
Reply to  Ernie and Bert
1 year ago

I have a 41 inch vert as well. But I can’t dunk. Short arms 🙁

MTK
Reply to  ElvisVB
1 year ago

Unless you’re like 5’2, you should be able to dunk with a 40” vert.

GA Boy
Reply to  MTK
1 year ago

More like 4’8”

sven
Reply to  GA Boy
1 year ago

I’m picturing Matt Grevers grabbing Elvis around the waist and lifting him to the rim like a little kid so he can dunk.

Butch McFadden
Reply to  ElvisVB
1 year ago

Way to come on here and make it about you, Elvis…

O. Wilson
Reply to  Ernie and Bert
1 year ago

This is a swimmer: https://youtu.be/rnIdzfpQvdM

2Fat4Speed
Reply to  O. Wilson
1 year ago

Who?

Admin
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 year ago

Mason Norman. Swam at Wingate, currently the head coach at Ohio.

sscommenter
Reply to  Ernie and Bert
1 year ago

I swam d3 (just for the sake of context, we didn’t have NBA caliber athletes) and could out dunk anyone on the basketball team. windmill, reverses, double pumps/clutches -can’t turn off an athlete

Swimfan01
1 year ago

Need to update NBA player list to include current teams.
Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets
Dwight Howard – Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers

Eugene
1 year ago

1. Any official evidence or video of Dressel’s 41 inch vertical?
2. What he does before the race is not vertical jump. It’s more like a box jump without a box. Most active young males can box jump over 40” with little practice. That doesn’t translate into as high vertical jump.

No doubt Dressel is one of the most explosive swimming dudes but we need to see that 41.

Jjhh
Reply to  Eugene
1 year ago

100% he is explosive for sure. But I have not seen any evidence of 41 inch vertical… Box jump is different..

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Eugene
1 year ago

Really surprising there isn’t one in the IG, Twitter, YouTube era. How ’bout SwimSwam just straight up ask him how high his vertical jump is and if he had any videos of him jumping or dunking?

DrSwimPhil
Reply to  Eugene
1 year ago

FWIW, Matt Delancy was on the SwimmerJoe show a couple weeks ago, and said Dressel came in as a freshman with a 33′ vert and left as a senior with a 41′ vert.

PACFAN
Reply to  DrSwimPhil
1 year ago

Matt Delancey is the best swim S&C coach in the world. He knows what the difference between a box jumps and vertical is.

Entgegen
Reply to  PACFAN
1 year ago

I’m sure there are a lot of other S&C coaches out there that also know that difference.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Eugene
1 year ago

I box jump 53″ and am not a world class athlete… no way is thos 41″ talking about a box jump.

Dee
Reply to  JP input is too short
1 year ago

Yeah, not a chance that’s a box jump number. Ato Boldon was box jumping 60in in retirement, and I believe a British sprinter called Dwain Chambers box jumped almost 70in a few years ago. Anybody healthy and active with a bit of teaching could box jump 41 inches.

JCO
1 year ago

Another great swimmer with an insane vertical leap/strength is Carsten Vissering. I think his vertical is over 40″ as well

Rev
1 year ago

I believe David Thompson had a 48 inch vertical leap

VA Steve
Reply to  Rev
1 year ago

As did Darrell Griffith. 5′ 7″ Spud Webb jumped 42 and dunked at the age of 47. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk-t2HnXfy4

DCC Parent
Reply to  VA Steve
1 year ago

LOL. I’m 50 years old and could dunk today with the trampoline Spud uses in that video.

That doesn’t distract from the fact Spud’s hops were amazing back in the day. The show he put on in dunk contests in the mid 80s was jaw dropping.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  VA Steve
1 year ago

The Spud Web video was a spoof. He jumped off something to finish that dunk.

SwimReason
1 year ago

It’d be really interesting to see a proper analysis and breakdown of Caleb’s start-underwater-breakout. I might be completely wrong, but I get the impression his biggest advantage isn’t off the blocks but the underwater as there are so many races where he’s equal to the others just as they hit the water, but the first four to five meters he just slips a yard ahead of them.

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  SwimReason
1 year ago

He’s hitting the water much more momentum than other swimmers. The arm recovering over (like Brad Tandy) is great because it carries his momentum forward. Swimmers who stop their arms and bring them forward under there body are negating some of that kinetic energy. He takes his time on the block to build that momentum which is why he isn’t the first into the water but that speed combined with a monster DK make him come up a body length ahead.

DrSwimPhil
Reply to  SwimReason
1 year ago

Actually, he’s better than everyone else in hitting the perfect line instantly after full submersion, therefore being able to transfer the energy from the blocks to the pool (or more accurately, losing less energy) than everyone else.

BKP
Reply to  DrSwimPhil
1 year ago

The jumping ability seems to be translating to his start since it appears that he is entering the water further than his competitors as well

DrSwimPhil
Reply to  BKP
1 year ago

Not accurate. I have video showing him entering at a point about 6 inches shorter than Cullen Jones (50Fr Semifinal at 2016 OTs). By the frame that they both were fully submerged, Dressel was already ahead of Jones.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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