Every NBA team cares about a player’s height and weight. Those are two key measurements and the first aspects organizations look at when evaluating athletic talent. However, as analytics become more and more popular, wingspan now gets a lot of attention too.
This guide looks into the past by breaking down Michael Jordan’s wingspan (which is 6’11, 211cm). It shows how his long arms informed his game and why wide wingspans have always been extremely important in professional basketball.
Arms Over Legs
An athlete is the sum of their parts. Someone might have a special aspect or two, but it’s how all of their physical traits work together that makes them unique. Wingspan is a huge part of that. So much so that it can make up for other faults.
A wide reach is an advantage in the NBA because it offers a lot of versatility and skill without slowing players down. While height and weight both might make someone a bit more sluggish or not as reactive, long arms are only an advantage.
It doesn’t matter how small an NBA player is, if they can reach up to contest a shot or snag a tricky rebound they can play against athletes many times their size. That’s key when evaluating wingspan and reflects how so many smaller guards close the gap.
It’s also where Jordan excelled.
Reaching Above His Grade
There are two key traits to look at when breaking down a player’s reach: their actual wingspan and their wingspan compared against their height. Jordan’s arms were great in each area.
First, the Bulls superstar’s reach measured an impressive 6’11. For reference, that’s a reach you see on many forwards. As Jordan was a shooting guard, it enabled him to overpower or simply go above most of his smaller defenders. It allowed him to block big men as well.
Jordan’s offense gets a lot of press, but he was a defensive phenom too. Though his quickness was a big reason for that power, his arms helped as well. They gave him the ability to contest shots, but allowed him to reach in and get plenty of steals.
That, combined with the ability to shoot higher, helped create the superstar we know today.
Wingspan vs Height
Jordan’s 6’11 wingspan stands out on its own, but it’s also impressive when measured against his 6’6 frame. Most NBA players, especially shooting guards, have wingspans that are roughly three inches longer than their body. Jordan’s five-inch difference made him an outlier.
Longer arms are always useful, but they matter more for guards because it allows them to simply play bigger.
No matter how far a center or forward can reach, they will likely never be able to match the quickness of guards or wings. In contrast, guards who play up have the quickness to play on the outside as well as the arms to match up against big men. It’s the best of both worlds.
That’s the space Jordan occupied, and it’s where he excelled. He mostly took on smaller players and used his skill/reach to get around them. However, there were plenty of times where he bodied up a big man. His arms helped immensely on that front.
Jordan is the greatest player to ever step on an NBA court. His raw scoring ability, mixed with his tenacious defense and strong hustle, enabled him to operate in ways few players ever could. His wingspan played a big role as well.
Though it’s unlikely he wouldn’t have been great without his reach, it’s undeniable that it helped him on both sides of the ball. He was much more than long arms, but that’s not to say they didn’t help.