I calculate the force Zion Williamson’s vertical jump generates. This showcases his ungodly athletic gift at 6’6″ tall, weighing 285 pounds!
Despite his massive size, he remains insanely agile and fast. Imagine Michael Jordan trapped inside the body of the largest NFL tight-end player.
Zion Williamson is in a league of his own
Zion’s combination of size, strength, and leaping ability separates him from his peers. The closest comparison is Lebron James. Lebron stands 6’9” tall and weighs between 250 to 260 pounds. Even at his heaviest when playing for the Miami Heat, Lebron didn’t reach 285 pounds.
The below graph shows 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 100 pounds more!
This further showcases the uniqueness of Zion’s body’s physics. He’s able to make a second jump, as his opponents still recover from their first.
So, let’s find out how much force Zion Williamson’s vertical jump generates. Because if it wasn’t clear already, you’ll see how he’s able to bully grown men in the NBA as a teen.
Measuring Zion Williamson’s vertical jump
We’ll rewind to his days at Duke, to find his peak jumping height.
Zion Williamson’s vertical jump at Duke’s combine showed he cleared a vertical leap mark of 40-inches. In this measurement, he took a couple of steps before his jump.
For an exact figure in our analysis, we’ll go with what his Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, said. Coach Krzyzewski said Zion Williamson’s max vertical jump topped a whopping 45-inches!
I’ve seen Zion’s head above the rim on a few occasions. Consider the basketball rim is 120-inches off the ground, and 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.
Vertical jump of Zion Williamson compared to Michael Jordan
For 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 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. Then around the same time in the 1984 NBA draft, Michael Jordan measured in at 6’6” tall in shoes. While weighing a slim yet athletic 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 hardwood when he jumps.
To grasp the difference in weight, go to the supermarket and pick up 5 pounds of beef. Then imagine walking around with the 5 pounds of beef glued onto you.
In short, Michael Jordan has a greater vertical jump than Zion Williamson. But, given Zion’s NFL body frame, I find his jumping ability more impressive.
The total calculated force generated by Zion Williamson’s vertical jump
I’m making several assumptions in my calculations, given the limited data I have on Zion. I’ll list each of them with every calculation step.
The assumptions will also simplify the calculations, without losing much accuracy.
Step #1: Calculate Zion’s velocity when he leaves the floor
When Zion jumps leaving the floor, think of him as a projectile. In return, we’ll use a kinematic equation to calculate his upward velocity.
A kinematic equation is the study of motion, without considering motion-causing forces. 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: Zion jumps 45-inches, or 1.143 meters, off the floor. This is according to his college coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
The acceleration due to gravity acts in the opposite direction of Zion’s jump. So, we assume a negative value for ‘a’ or gravity, ‘g’. Where .
Step #2: Calculate Zion’s acceleration while he straightens his legs
Here we calculate Zion’s acceleration right before he leaves the floor in his jump. For this calculation, we need to know how low Zion squats before his jump.
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 second screenshot shows him at the apex of his jump. These screenshots together will show how low Zion squats before pushing off the floor.
Screenshot #1: Zion’s body is completely stretched out
At the apex of his jump, Zion’s body completely stretches out. And from his Duke measurements, Zion’s standing reach is 8’7″ or 2.616 meters. So in the screenshot, I assumed Zion from his feet to the top of his fingers measures 2.616 meters.
In my own unitless measurement, I convert the 2.616 meters to 100.
Screenshot #2: Zion’s body squatted at the lowest point
Using my unitless measurement of 100 as a guide, Zion squatted down measures to 62.38. I made this measurement using simple digital measuring software. This was possible because both screenshots have the same fixed camera angle.
Now, we convert this unitless 62.38 measurement to meters.
Since Zion stands 6’7″ tall in shoes or 2.007 meters, we can calculate how far he lowers his body.
meters or 14.8 inches.
Finally, we calculate Zion’s acceleration as he straightens his legs. Going from his squat position to right before he leaves the floor.
We reuse Zion’s calculated initial velocity from Step #1 when he leaves the floor. This value now becomes Zion’s final velocity before he leaves the floor.
So, . Also, because initially, Zion isn’t in motion.
Now, reusing the same kinematic equation we used before, we have the following:
Step #3: Calculate the force Zion exerts on the ground in his jump
Zion weighs 285 pounds or 129.274 kilograms, and the net force equation is .
Using our gathered information, we now calculate the force Zion exerts in his jump. We do this using Newton’s Third Law of motion. This law states for every action, we’ll have an equal and opposite reaction.
With Zion, the force applied to the floor must equal the sum of the net upward force he generates. This includes his downward body weight, which pulls him down.
Zion’s generated force now calculates to the following:
Visualizing the force generated by Zion Williamson’s vertical jump
Zion exerts an unworldly force of 5,134.25 newtons against the floor when jumping his highest. To appreciate this figure, we need to better visualize the newton unit.
A newton measures how much force you apply to something. The following are two examples to help you visualize:
- 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. This requires a force of 5,000 newtons.
Can Zion Williamson generate even greater force when jumping?
Zion already creates more force in his jump than I think we’ve ever seen in an NBA player. All as a teenager too. As a professional now, Zion will fine-tune his body in the following ways:
- Weight training
- Physical conditioning
- Jumping technique
In the end, though, it comes down to basic physics. I’ll go over 2 possible scenarios of how Zion can increase his vertical jump.
Scenario #1: squatting lower before jumping
If Zion can crouch a little lower, he can possibly create even more force in his jump. Think of a spring. The more you compress a spring, the higher it’ll bounce. The same applies to humans to a certain extent.
Going back to Zion’s squatting screenshot from Step #2, he can possibly squat lower. This lower squat position with his ability to contract his leg muscles fast may do the trick. Of course, the involvement of his arms and core is critical in his jump too.
Scenario #2: losing body fat
If Zion loses body fat and becomes a chiseled 260 pounds, he can possibly jump even higher. He’ll have less weight to carry off the ground. Imagine a 260-pound Zion, elevating nearly 50 inches.
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 is according to his trainer Tim Grover.
To point out, Tim was selling his Michael Jordan book at the time of this claim. So maybe, a slight exaggeration…
Can Zion Williamson’s body handle the force he generates?
The big question around Zion’s career is if his body can handle the force he generates. Not only does he jump high and land hard, but he slashes through the lane at 100 mph!
Zion’s superhuman abilities don’t come without risk. His body is built from the same flesh as you and I. Some concerning points are the following:
- 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 extra strain on the knees, especially the ACL.
This all becomes an even bigger concern if his athleticism continues to improve.
Zion’s body withstanding his unworldly power
Some bodies genetically can’t handle high physical activity. Not every player can have a long injury-free career like Lebron James. Lebron is in his 17th season with little to no injuries on his record.
For Zion to have a long and healthy career, he needs to do the following:
- Eat healthy to keep his body weight down and reduce internal inflammation
- Constantly exercise to stay in shape
- Improve his jumping technique
- Reduce unnecessary high-impact actions on the court
Primarily, he needs to keep his body weight in check. The higher his body weight climbs, the greater force he’ll place on his joints and tendons. The human body didn’t evolve for constant explosive jumping and slashing.
Zion Williamson taking the NBA by storm
The NBA roster list in 2018-19 included only 494 total players. These are the best of the best playing in the NBA. Yet, Zion still physically and athletically sticks out like a sore thumb.
Zion is a once-in-a-generation athlete. His physical attributes make him the center of attraction on any NBA court. And as an avid NBA fan, 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 increasing? Do you foresee any injuries for Zion with the way he plays?
Featured Image Photo Credit: Keenan (image cropped)
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 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 15 years 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, our history and future, sports, and fitness.