I want to calculate the force Zion Williamson’s vertical jump generates. This will showcase his unworldly athletic gift as he dominates the best of the best.
Also, this way we can better appreciate his jumping ability. How he gets his large body mass so high off the ground.
Zion weighs a massive 285 pounds according to most new’s outlets. Yet, he remains agile and fast like a 200-pound player. This makes him the most unique athlete I’ve ever seen.
Imagine Michael Jordan trapped inside the body of the largest NFL tight end player. What do you get? Zion Williamson!
Even among the best of the best in the NBA, Zion stands out.
Zion Williamson entered the NBA measuring 6’6” tall without shoes. Not very tall given he weighs a solid muscular 285 pounds.
This weight made him the second-heaviest NBA player at only 18 years old. All before even playing one minute in the NBA.
I’ve never seen a body type as his. As Steven A. Smith on ESPN always shouts, you can’t teach 285.
Zion Williamson in His Own League
Zion’s combination of size, strength, and leaping ability separates him from his peers.
I’ve been an NBA fan for as long as I can remember. I can’t recall ever seeing a player like Zion.
Most recently Lebron James compares the best. He stands 6’9” and weighs around 250 to 260 pounds today.
But, Lebron still weighs less at 35 years old and 3 inches taller. Even at his heaviest when playing for the Miami Heat, Lebron didn’t weigh 285 pounds.
Let’s look at the below graph showing the average weight of NBA players throughout the years. Zion weighs 60 plus pounds more than today’s average NBA player.
Then compared to NBA players from the 1950s, Zion weighs an entire 100 pounds more.
This makes Zion an even more special of an athlete. For this reason, I’m utterly fascinated by the physics of his body.
For example, how he instantly gets his heavy body mass so high off the ground. He makes a second jump, as his opponents still recover from their first jump.
So, let’s find out how much force Zion Williamson’s vertical jump generates. This will make it clear how even as a teenager he bullies grown men in the NBA.
Measuring Zion Williamson’s Vertical Jump
Before we breakdown Zion’s Williamson’s vertical jump, we need to analyze his peak jump. We’ll rewind to his days at Duke to gather our data.
Zion Williamson’s vertical jump at Duke’s combine showed he cleared a vertical leap mark of 40-inches. This vertical measurement includes taking a couple of steps before jumping.
To use an exact number in our analysis, we’ll go with what his Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, said. He said Zion Williamson’s max vertical jump topped a whopping 45-inches.
I’ve seen Zion’s head above the rim when he jumps. He does this even without a running head start. Now, did the camera play tricks on me? Let’s do some quick math to find out.
The basketball rim stands 120-inches off the ground. Zion stands 79-inches tall in shoes.
So, to get his head above the rim he needs to jump at least 41-inches off the ground. Very doable!
My eyes didn’t play tricks on me. To that end, even in the elite NBA circle, a 40 plus inch vertical stands out.
Now add to the fact the hulking mass zion carries. It blows your mind. The physics of his jumping ability makes you scratch your head in disbelief.
Comparison to Michael Jordan’s Vertical Jump
As a perspective, let’s review one of the greatest NBA leapers of all time, Michael Jordan. Jordan’s vertical jump with a running head start measured in at 45.76-inches. The University of North Carolina made this measurement in 1983.
At the time of measurement, Michael had just turned 20. So, near Zion’s age.
Around the same time in the 1984 NBA draft, Michael Jordan measured in at 6’6” tall in shoes. He weighed a slim 195 pounds.
In height, both Zion and Michael measure roughly the same. But, Zion weighs a solid 90 more pounds than Michael did.
So, Zion needs to lift an extra 90 pounds off the floor when he jumps.
To illustrate, go to the supermarket and pick up 5 pounds of beef. Then imagine walking around with that 5 pounds of beef glued to you. Not a walk in the park.
Now, Zion Williamson’s vertical jump measures less than Michael Jordan’s vertical. But, given Zion’s NFL body frame, I find his jumping ability much more impressive.
Total Calculated Force Generated by Zion Williamson’s Vertical Jump
To get started with the calculation, we need to first go over some things.
First, I don’t have data over the force Zion’s leaping generates. An official measured generated force exerted on the floor when he jumps doesn’t exist.
So, I’m going to do my best to calculate this force. But, in my calculation, I’m going to make several assumptions.
Without these assumptions, I can’t do my calculations. I have limited data on Zion.
Also, my assumptions will simplify the calculation without much loss in accuracy.
With that out of the way, let’s get started and do some math.
Step #1: Calculate Zion’s Velocity When He Leaves the Floor
When Zion jumps leaving the floor, we can think of him as a projectile. As a result, we can use a kinematic equation to calculate this velocity.
What is a kinematic equation? the study of motion, without considering the forces that cause the motion. So, these equations focus on position, velocity, and acceleration only.
= final velocity (meters/second)
= initial velocity (meters/second)
= acceleration (meters/second2)
= displacement, or in our case how high Zion jumps (meters)
When Zion reaches his max height above the floor, his velocity becomes 0. Here he reaches the apex of his jump, while not moving any higher. So, .
Assumption: I’m assuming Zion jumps 45-inches, or 1.143 meters, off the floor. This according to his college coach who spoke of Zion’s max vertical jump.
Also, the acceleration due to gravity acts in the opposite direction of Zion’s jump. Thus, we assume a negative value for ‘a’ or gravity, ‘g’. So
Step #2: Calculate Zion’s Acceleration While He Straightens His Legs
Now, we calculate Zion’s acceleration before he leaves the floor in his jump.
To calculate this, we need to know how low Zion squats before he jumps. This information I don’t have.
Assumption: I took 2 still screenshots from a Zion Youtube video. The video shows Zion attempting his max vertical jump at Duke.
One screenshot shows Zion at his lowest point squatted down. The next screenshot shows him at the apex of his jump. I’ll use both of these screenshots to measure how low Zion squats before pushing off the floor.
Screenshot #1: Zion Completely Stretched Out
At the apex of his jump, Zion’s body completely stretches out. Also, I know from his Duke measurements, Zion’s standing reach measures 8’7″ or 2.616 meters
Thus, I assumed Zion from his feet to the top of his fingers measures 2.616 meters in this screenshot. I figured this screenshot nearly matches Zion’s measured standing reach.
Next, in my own unitless measurement, I convert the 2.616 meters to 100.
Screenshot #2: Zion Squatted at His Lowest Point
Now, using my unitless measurement, I measure Zion squatted down to 62.38. I made this measurement using simple measuring software.
I knew both screenshots captured Zion from the same fixed camera angle. So, I used my unitless measurement of 100 as my measuring stick in this second screenshot.
With some math, I can convert this unitless 62.38 measurement to meters.
Since Zion stands 6’7″ tall in shoes, or 2.007 meters, I can calculate how far he lowers his body.
meters or 14.8 inches.
Finally, I calculate Zion’s acceleration while he straightens his legs. In other words, I calculate from his squat position to right before he leaves the floor.
As a result, we reuse his calculated initial velocity from Step #1 when he leaves the floor. This value now becomes his final velocity before he leaves the floor.
So, . Also, because initially Zion is not in motion.
Now, I reuse the same kinematic equation.
Step #3: Calculate the Force Zion Exerts on the Ground in His Jump
Zion weighs 285 pounds or 129.274 kilograms.
We know the net force equation .
Using the information I have, I can calculate the force Zion exerts in his jump. Here I’ll use Newton’s Third Law of motion.
This law states that for every action, you’ll have an equal and opposite reaction.
With Zion, the force applied to the ground must equal the sum of the net upward force he generates. Plus, his downward bodyweight pulling him down.
With some math now and plugging in our values, we can calculate.
Visualizing the Force Generated by Zion Williamson’s Vertical Jump
First, we need to understand what a newton is. To put it simply, a newton measures how much force you apply to something.
In Zion’s case, he exerts a force of 5,134.25 newtons against the ground when he jumps his highest. To appreciate this number, we need to better visualize the newton unit.
I’ll paint some examples to help you visualize. Keep in mind, 1 newton equates to roughly 102 grams.
- 1000 newtons of force is the same as a 102 kilogram or 225-pound person standing on top of you.
- Find a 510-kilogram or 1,125-pound weight and lift it. That’ll need a force of 5,000 newtons.
So, this makes you more appreciate Zion Williamson’s vertical jump. He generates an unworldly amount of force in his jump.
That said, Zion will still physically grow and mature as he better learns his body. So, our calculated 5,162.0 Newton value will probably increase in the future.
Can Zion Williamson Generate Even More Force?
Zion already creates more force in his jump than I think we’ve ever seen before in the NBA. All as a teenager.
I can’t imagine how much more powerful Zion can become. I know opposing players don’t want to see him any bigger and stronger. He already plays bully ball with grown men.
That said, his athleticism may improve as he fine-tunes his body. Becoming a professional, his entire lifestyle will now change. Also, the New Orleans Pelicans will teach him better jumping techniques.
As a result, Zion will better leverage his born with strength and speed. As we learned, it all comes down to basic physics.
So, I can see Zion Williamson’s vertical jump increase. To try to visualize this, we’ll go over 2 possible scenarios in how he can do this.
Scenario #1: Squatting Lower Before Jumping
If Zion can crouch a little lower, he can possibly create even more force. Think of a spring.
The more you compress a spring, the higher it’ll bounce. The same applies to humans to a certain extent.
Limitations exist with the human body of course. You can’t compress a body down too much due to physical-biological limitations.
But, let’s look at Zion’s squatting screenshot from Step #2. I can see Zion squatting lower down. Not too much though.
This lower squat position may do the trick. This combined with his ability to contract his leg muscles very quickly.
Now, I’m not going to go into deep detail over the other mechanics of jumping. For example, the involvement of your arms and core.
But, this small tweak in his liftoff technique may give him an added edge.
Scenario #2: Losing Body Fat
If Zion loses body fat and becomes a chiseled 260 pounds. He can then possibly jump even higher. Imagine Zion getting his 260-pound frame near 50 inches off the ground.
As we learned, Michael Jordan had a 45.76-inch vertical jump back in his college days. Later in his career, his vertical jump reached a mind-boggling 48-inches. This according to his trainer Tim Grover.
Keep in mind, Tim was selling his Michael Jordan book at the time of this claim. So maybe he exaggerated a little.
Regardless, with Zion, I can see him jumping higher. By losing his baby fat and becoming cut, he’ll have less mass to lift off from the ground.
In short, by maintaining his muscle mass, his body will perform the same. But, he’ll have less mass to carry with him in his jump.
Can Zion Williamson’s Body Handle the Force He Generates?
The bigger question comes down to if Zion’s body can handle the force he generates. He plays 100 miles per hour every game.
Zion generates a lot of force when he jumps as we calculated. But, he also generates a lot of force as he slashes through the lane to lose defenders.
As well as when he lands after jumping. Especially when he lands on one foot after jumping near 4 feet in the air.
Zion’s insane superhuman abilities don’t come without risk. His body is made from the same flesh like you and me.
Some of the things he does that concern me include:
- His entire weight from 60 plus inches high landing hard on the ground. Imagine Zion curling his body up after a dunk as he swings on the rim. Then he releases and hits the ground hard.
- Landing awkwardly with all his mass on one foot after a dunk.
- Slashing the lane and quickly changing directions at his weight. This type of movement places a lot of strain on knees, especially the ACL.
Keep in mind, his athleticism should continue to improve too. So, I hope his body holds up for his sake and all NBA fans.
Zion’s Body Withstanding His Unworldly Power
Genetically speaking, some bodies can’t handle excess stress. Not every player can have a long injury-free career like Lebron James. Lebron is on his 17th season with little to no injuries on his record.
In short, for Zion to have a long and healthy career he needs to take great care of his body. Zion needs to do the following:
- Eat healthy to keep his body weight down and reduce internal inflammation.
- Constantly exercise to stay in shape. He needs to do cardio to maintain his athleticism and keep his body weight down.
- Improve his jumping technique.
- Reduce high impact actions on the court when not necessary. For example, he doesn’t need to dunk with all his strength with every dunk opportunity.
All in all, he needs to keep his body weight in check. The higher his body weight, the more force he places on his joints and tendons.
The human body did not evolve for constant explosive jumping and slashing.
The Evolution of the Athlete
With sports science leading the way, athletes have become bigger, faster, and stronger. NBA players today physically look different than players from 50 years ago.
The graph below shows the progression of height in the NBA. That said, in recent years, the NBA now plays more small ball.
As a result, the height data doesn’t tell the entire story. Teams today prefer smaller more skilled players. But, taller players today do posses many more skills too.
Moving on, people, in general, have physically advanced. Better genes, improved healthcare, and advanced training and nutrition have revolutionized athletics.
Also, basketball today is a global sport. The pool of athletes to choose from for NBA rosters today runs much deeper than years before.
Not to mention, parents now groom upcoming athletes from day 1 when they come out of the womb. I’ve never seen the competition for athletics this high.
Further, other existing and future factors will heavily impact the athletic world:
- Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED)
- Gene editing
- Bionic humans
Performance Enhancing Drugs
PEDs play a large part in every sport. We can pull the blanket over our eyes, but they’ll still exist. Think of steroids, growth hormone, blood doping, and the list goes on.
The questions that I think of include:
- Will PEDs ever become legal in pro sports?
- What happens when certain PEDs become completely untraceable in the human body? In other words, blood and urine testing won’t detect them.
- Where will we draw the line in classifying PEDs? Will an over the counter pain med like Tylenol become classified as a PED?
Once we can edit genes, I think athletics will forever change. What would competition even mean at that point?
We could create the perfect athlete in the lab. Perfect height, weight, strength, speed, and so on.
The mind may only remain as the last competitive advantage. Think of a fearful person versus fierce competitors like Michael Jordan.
Merging machines with humans. Like gene editing, machines will bypass human evolution.
On the whole, as all types of engineering advance, athletics will improve too. Athletes will one day have the ability to instantly level themselves up.
They can instantly become superior over the top non-modified human specimen. Think of someone like Zion, but without the scare of injuries.
Load management wouldn’t concern players any longer. Also, playing hard every night would become the norm.
Zion Williamson’s Vertical Jump and Force Taking the NBA by Storm
Playing in the NBA comes with a lot of money and fame. So naturally, most everyone in the world would love to play in the NBA.
This creates fierce cut-throat competition to make the league.
That said, every person who can play in the NBA, already plays in the NBA today. It doesn’t matter which corner of the globe you live in. If you can play, the NBA will find you and give you a contract.
With this in mind, the NBA roster list in 2018-19 included only 494 total players.
Now, even with only the best of the best playing in the NBA, Zion still sticks out like a sore thumb. Physically, Zion just looks different even as a teenager.
No different than Shaq, Lebron, and Michael Jordan. Each of these players had a unique set of physical gifts that set them apart.
Zion is a once in a generation athlete whose love for the game is contagious. I not only watch his game for the instant highlights whenever he touches the ball. But also, to see how far the human body can go.
I hope to see Zion Williamson’s vertical jump increase as he stays healthy for many years to come.
Can you see Zion Williamson’s vertical jump increase? Do you foresee any injuries with the way Zion plays?
SUBSCRIBE TO ENGINEER CALCS NEWSLETTER
Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over a decade now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, and our history and future.