One morning a week later, the gym at the Y was empty. I picked up the same mini-ball and unsuccessfully tried to throw it down. I found the more relad I was, the higher I could jump. So I loosened my shoulders, took a depth breath, and approached the rim. I held the ball for a beat longer this time, and easily popped it over the rim. It felt incredible. I did it a few more times, each easier than the last, pulling down on the rim with unnecessary force for maximum satisfaction. But as exhilarating as it was to dunk again, I was only using a mini-ball—I hadn’t completely reached my goal.
It takes a higher vertical leap to get both hands up to the rim versus just one (and don’t forget, you’ll be holding a basketball as well), so if you’re cutting it close, try for a one-handed jam. Being able to palm the ball will obviously help, but it’s not totally necessary; just make sure you keep the ball in both hands until you leave the floor so you don’t lose it.
The vertical jump is defined as the highest point that the athlete can touch from a standing jump, less the height that the athlete can touch from a standing position. The measurement of the jump is flawed if the athlete is permitted to take one or more steps before jumping, as the athlete will convert some of the energy developed in the step taken into the force of propulsion that generates upward lift. Basketball has numerous legends and other urban myths concerning the seemingly superhuman leaping ability attributed to certain players; one such player, former University of Louisville star Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith, was reputed to possess a 42 in (1 m) vertical leap. It is likely that the average National Basketball Association player 6 ft 6 in (1.97 m) or shorter has a vertical leap of between 25 and 30 in (0.63 and 0.75 m); taller and heavier players will usually not be able to jump as high.
Like Todd and me, Nicholson was a two-foot jumper, and he echoed what Todd had told me was another flaw in my technique: “Your next-to-last step has to be a lot bigger. That big leap forward with your right foot—your penultimate step—that’s what allows you to explode off the ground.” To demonstrate, Nicholson sent me a video of Carter’s performance at the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest, which was a bit like showing a Monet to a finger painting kindergartner and saying, “No, like this.”
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The simplest method to measure an athlete's vertical jump is to get the athlete to reach up against a flat wall, with a flat surface under his/her feet (such as a gym floor or concrete) and record the highest point he/she can reach flat-footed (the height of this point from the ground is referred to as "standing reach"); fingertips powdered with chalk can facilitate the determination of points touched on the wall. The athlete then makes an effort to jump up with the goal of touching the highest point on the wall that he or she can reach; the athlete can perform these jumps as many times as needed. The height of the highest point the athlete touches is recorded. The difference between this height and the standing reach is the athlete's vertical jump.