Asher Price, a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, spent a year of his life trying to find out and chronicled his quest to jam on a regulation hoop in the book The Year of the Dunk, which comes out in May. Price, who played coy about whether he was able to achieve his goal, spoke to Science of Us about what a rec leaguer would need to do to fly like a pro. (Spoiler: lots of squats and alley-oop attempts.)
Three weeks after I received that counsel, on a rare afternoon when I felt fully rested, I dunked a volleyball on a 9' 11" rim. Again, I knew I could never swing my arms while palming a basketball the way I’d swung them while palming that volleyball, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel badass. Thirteen failed attempts later, I did it again. Then two more times, each one an unexpected thunderclap. All of the explosive Olympic lifting I’d been doing was paying off, but my problem wasn’t going anywhere: How could I get my hand and a basketball over the cylinder? A lob to myself off the backboard? A big bounce off the blacktop?
The method described above is the most common and simplest way to measure one's vertical jump, but other more scientifically accurate methods have been devised. A pressure pad can be used to measure the time it takes for an athlete to complete a jump, and then using a kinematics equation (h = g × t2/8), the computer can calculate his or her vertical jump based on the time in the air.