What is the world record, absolute highest vertical jump? Should be a simple question, right? Well, that depends on who you ask and how you measure.
As we’ve already seen, there are many ways of measuring vertical jump and results vary quite a bit from one method to another. Also, do you allow a running start? A two-foot or one-foot take off? Are you allowed to swing your arms? Do we count high jumpers who flop over the bar?
Normally, we distinguish high jump from vertical leap. High jump is a fairly simple matter, because it is closely controlled by international track and field rules. Javier Sotomayor set the current men’s high jump record at 2.45 meters (8 ft 0.46 in) way back in 1993.
Vertical leap is another matter, but in general it seems that it’s based on net gain in vertical reach. In other words, standing flat, you reach up and mark how high you can reach. Then you jump as high as you can and mark how high you touched. The difference between the two is net gain in vertical reach.
So what’s the record? Most sources say that Kadour Ziani holds the record at 60 inches. Ziani is a 5’11" Frenchman and is a member of the dunking exhibition team Slam Nation. Though frequently mentioned, I can’t find a date or reliable source. I also see his height given as anything from 5’9" to 5’11". In any case, the French version of Wikipedia says that Ziani has a vertical leap of 145 centimeters, which is to say 57 inches. Absolutely amazing, yes, but not 60 inches. In a December 2006 segment on The Best Damn Sports Show, the Zianimal himself said that he is 5’11" and has a vertical leap of 56 inches. I have no trouble believing that he added an inch to that, but would a 33 year-old professional dunker really have added four inches to his vertical leap since the show? He gives his stats beginning at 1m23s into this
So until I can find a truly reliable source, I accept the world record of 60 inches by Kadour Ziani with qualifications, but am pretty sure that he has jumped at least 56". Sadly, there’s not much on Kadour’s website or his Facebook page. It’s kind of crazy how hard it is to find reliable information about this amazing dunker (and I read French too, so I’m looking in both languages — nothing reliable!).
In any case, Kandour’s vertical jump seems to be a lot more than the 48 inches attributed to Michael Jordan, one of the best vertical jumpers in the history of the NBA.