Michael Jordan’s Vertical Was Really Ballet

michael jordan vertical

“Michael Jordan Statue” by Dorsey Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Michael Jordan’s vertical is reportedly anywhere from 42 inches to 48 inches. Legends and myths of athletic measurements swirl around the greatest athletes of all time. Because like Lamar Jackson’s 40 time, it is often simply more fun to speculate with hyperbole. A couple of inches matter to the most ardent fans; what matters to the game is that “His Airness” left the free throw line on takeoff and glided through the air into pop culture.

Slam Dunk Contest

Michael Jordan’s vertical jump is one of the things that made him such a dominant force in the NBA. His vertical leap relied on innate athletic ability and a powerful show of determination. This fearless combination is why he dominated the annual dunk contest in back to back years.

Of all the great leapers, incredible athletes, and future stars of the league, it is the footage of Jordan’s running leap from the free-throw line that captivates an audience. It is the indelible mark of his early career.

Jordan has never been accused of being anything less than extremely competitive (the phrase “competes like his hair is on fire” has been used more than once). He hated to lose and played with a chip on his shoulder. His desire to prove people wrong is legendary.

Michael Jordan vertical inspired a generation of players

No matter what was at stake, Jordan exemplified a competitive focus on being the best. A fierce competitor who wanted to win every event, every drill, every game.

His work ethic was legendary, but it wasn’t his effort on the court or in the weight room. It was more about how much time he spent studying film, how much time he spent working on his game in practice, and how much time he spent watching other players.

He would spend hours working on his game after practice, whether it meant shooting by himself or playing 1-on-1 with someone else, or working with an assistant coach.

Jordan was a student of the game. And maybe that’s why he became such a great player. He studied the game so intently that he knew what everyone else was going to do before they did it — not because he had some kind of preternatural gift but because he knew all the little nuances that make up a player’s repertoire and tendencies.

As for his athleticism, there are many examples of Jordan’s leaping ability, but this is probably the most memorable.

Vertical leaps capture the imagination and show up in the highlights. So it comes as no surprise that the Jumpman logo is a one-of-a-kind representation of the life and career of Michael Jordan.

In 1988 Nike’s Tinker Hatfield created the original Jumpman logo for a pair of signature shoes. Inspired by a staged photoshoot Jordan did for Life magazine, the design continues Jordan’s basketball legacy after his playing days.

But it’s not actually any specific vertical jumps. The iconic Jumpman logo is a silhouette of Jordan performing a traditional ballet jump known as a grand jeté

Nonetheless, at the end of his entire career, Michael Jordan’s vertical legacy is as a winner. Not of dunk contests, rather the championship-winning shot over Byron Russell. His feet firmly on the ground, follow through extended. Right back at the free-throw line for another moment with history.

Painted basketball courts aren’t the only work of art that Jordan’s vertical inspired.

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