Is he really that tall?
January 1, 2007 11:34 AM   Subscribe

How accurate are player's listed heights in college football and pro basketball? And are they measured with shoes on?

These are the sports I'm most interested in but I'd be interested to hear about other sports as well.

Regarding college football I go to games at a big football college frequently. The players generally seem to be listed an 1in, maybe a 1.5in above their actual height. If they're listed height includes shoes, that'd be more accurate. I'm 6ft 3in, and the guys listed at 6ft 4, even 6ft 5 often don't look any taller than me.

Never been to a pro basketball game but I watch a good amount on TV. Here, to me, there's a split. The shorter guys, say Steve Nash & Allen Iverson, don't look like they are as tall as listed. The taller players, say Dirk Nowitski & Amare Stoudemire, seem to be taller than listed. That might just be my own perception though.
posted by aerotive to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
don't make it to many sports events here in the oregon boonies, but way back in the day i used to play in pickup beach volleyball games in west los angeles, and i can personally attest that when wilt chamberlain went up in the air to spike it at me from 8-10 feet away, he looked like the biggest, baddest thing in the galaxy.
posted by bruce at 11:51 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think toying with player height and weight is a thing done in all sports, or at least sports where those numbers mean something. This is routinely done in the NFL, where you see linemen listed at 397 when they are over 400 pounds. Basketball's all about height, and so I'm sure that's also exaggerated. Perhaps it's a kind of gamesmanship of publicity.
posted by xmutex at 11:57 AM on January 1, 2007

I work in the Intercollegiate Athletics Dept. at my school, and have friends on the football team. They told me that the heights reported are accurate, and they measure them without their shoes on (so says my friend who is 6'9"). But other schools might do it differently.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:57 AM on January 1, 2007

The most accurate height estimates you can find will be the heights of prospective draftees at the NBA draft camp. There they are measured with just socks on, and you'll often notice a 2"-3" difference.

Heights are played with because they can often make or break a pro career. In the NFL, 6'4" is considered ideal, and qb's that are 6'2" are considered too short, so they often fudge to be 6'3". I think this happens more often in basketball. Shooting guards that are 6'2"-6'3" get stuck with the dreaded 'tweener' label when they jump to the pros, so they often fudge their heights to be 6'4", 6'5". While they'll obviously be found out at the draft camp, they avoid getting stuck with a label throughout their four years of college.

As far as guys going down in height, this is also done for similiar reasons. I know that Dirk is a legit 7'2", but when he initially came to the nba, he wanted to play SF, so he didn't want to seem too tall and too slow for the position. Another example is Tim Duncan. When Robinson was there, they wanted to market the whole twin towers aspect, so they listed both heights as 7'0". Last year Duncan requested that the San Antonio media guide list his true height at 6'11"
posted by unexpected at 12:06 PM on January 1, 2007

I am 6'1" and stood significantly taller than the point guard at my school (who is now playing in the NBA), and he was listed at 6' even. Guys like Iverson and Nash probably ask to be listed as 6 feet because it seems like some magical height a guard should meet.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:06 PM on January 1, 2007

Former sportswriter here ... ALL unverifiable stats and figures (height, weight, etc ... not scoring averages, number of points, etc) provided by sports information departments (college) and public relations departments (pro) are padded to a certain degree. An inch here or there, a few pounds added or subtracted. Happens with EVERY team.

This is why the NFL has a combine, and why pro teams have private workouts for prospective draftees. You can't believe anything the college tells you, so you have to actually get the kid onto a scale and measure him yourself.

There are various reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to the player padding his own stats ("Yeah, I'm 6-foot-5") for his reasons, or the college adding numbers for their reasons ("Our front line averages 300 pounds"). Also, a lie keeps getting repeated out of sheer laziness (a guy gets listed once at 300 pounds, and it never changes, even after several years).
posted by frogan at 12:12 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

The shorter guys, say Steve Nash & Allen Iverson, don't look like they are as tall as listed. The taller players, say Dirk Nowitski & Amare Stoudemire, seem to be taller than listed.

One other thing ... as a person gets taller, there's a natural tendency for him to look strange to you, because he's so far out of the realm of your normal expectations. A seven-footer might appear to be outrageously huge to you, if you're not used to seeing them walking around.

Also, consider that these guys are bigger in every dimension, not just height. Shaquille O'Neal is absolutely freakish looking in person.

One other thing to consider, especially for basketball, is that most of the coaches and referees are former players themselves -- they're taller and bigger than "normal," too. George Karl and Pat Riley are big guys, too, so you can't use them as yardsticks to measure the players against.
posted by frogan at 12:17 PM on January 1, 2007

Likewise, to augment frogan's points, judging someone's height against yours, especially if the two are close can be misleading—my mother is about an inch or an inch and a half taller than I am, but when I am looking at her, she seems shorter. To other people, it is clear she is not, but to me, her eyes seem lower, etc.
posted by dame at 12:58 PM on January 1, 2007

Can't speak to others, but in Philly, Iverson's 6 foot "official" height is cited with a wink by everyone, news/sportscasters included.
posted by desuetude at 1:08 PM on January 1, 2007

I think your intuition is on target, aerotive.

frogan seems to have the best informed response as to how this all comes about. It's not a league-sanctioned, official thing. Teams put out the info, so it can be expected to contain a level of puffery.

Along with Duncan, Kevin Garnett asked to be listed at 6'11" instead of 7'0", not wanting to be typecast as a pure center. The announcers in the BC-Navy game the other day made a huge deal of pointing out that Navy's RB was really 5'4", not the 5'7" or whatever he was listed at.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:19 PM on January 1, 2007

It's a long running joke that Hakeem Olajuwon is nowhere near (like 2-3 inches away from) the 7 feet he is listed at by the NBA. I've head numerous play-by-play and color guys comment on this on the air.
posted by JPowers at 3:23 PM on January 1, 2007

players do get measured when they go from college to get drafted by the NBA. There was a famous case of a player "shrinking" by four inches or so- I believe it was Byron Houston.

His college claimed he was 6'8", but he turned out to be more like 6'4".
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:15 PM on January 1, 2007

JPowers: It's a long running joke that Hakeem Olajuwon is nowhere near (like 2-3 inches away from) the 7 feet he is listed at by the NBA. I've head numerous play-by-play and color guys comment on this on the air.
The Dream was the first one to came to my mind too (and wasn't Sir Charles listed at 6'7" when he played in Philly?). Back when I used to live and breathe sports, I took any published heights and weights with a huge grain of salt (even more so for 40m dash times), and only marginally accurate.

The cause? I think unexpected put it best -- it's probably mostly a marketing thing. It's pretty tough to market a recruit/draftee that's 6'10" as a center; a 6-footer as a QB, etc.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:02 PM on January 1, 2007

A talented friend who walked on to a major big ten school's squad as a wideout had his height boosted and weight boosted in the team program. Don't believe the numbers.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 PM on January 1, 2007

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